Tuesday, November 27, 2012

OU and Avondale team up to open a magnet school

Avondale, Oakland University team up to launch magnet school

Avondale School District and Oakland University are in the process of creating an elementary school to teach leadership that will be focused on the well-being of the students and the community.

Avondale Superintendent George Heitsch announced the new partnership this week; and Louis Gallien, dean of the Oakland’s School of Education and Human Services, said he and his faculty and researchers are eager to get started.

Tentatively named the Oakland University/Avondale Magnet Lab School, it is slated to open in fall 2013 with kindergarten through third grade.

It will be an Avondale school of choice, not a charter school, and will gradually add grade levels, possibly to eighth grade.
The location of the school has not been decided. It might have an extended day.

What is a laboratory school?

The goals of the OU/Avondale laboratory school are to use best practices for student learning, student-teacher education, teacher-to-teacher mentoring and attracting families interested in a dynamic learning and teaching center.

Gallien compared the school’s operation to a teaching hospital affiliated with a medical school: Instead of doctors teaching resident physicians, the laboratory school will have Avondale teachers and OU faculty teaching OU students preparing for a career in education.

In addition, OU will provide research on best practices, assistance to teachers and tutoring for students. The faculty will join Avondale teaching staff to build a bridge between educational theory and practice.

“It will be based on teacher leadership,” Heitsch said. “It will be a clinical school for teachers much like medical students in clinicals. They will start early and go all the way through their educational career.”
Further, OU will offer counseling, nursing, social work and the school of medicine services to students and families in the school and districtwide.

The school is expected to look like a community center, with a variety of services, including for those who are unemployed.

The laboratory school will also be an opportunity to learn more about learning disabilities and how to successfully teach students with such issues.

“Just think of how many learning disabilities we have now that have to be diagnosed well and the role of the teacher is so complicated because there are so may forms” of learning disabilities, Gallien said.

Heitsch said Avondale was selected for several reasons, including its location, a history of collaboration with OU including student teacher training, and programs unique to the Avondale District.

Why OU and Avondale?

Gallien said when he joined OU he formed a task force with a goal of founding a laboratory school.

He and the faculty had been considering other districts until they learned that Heitsch was interested in forming a partnership with OU.

Among the Avondale programs that attracted OU, Heitsch said, were, “The award-winning teacher-leader learning lab that uses peer-to-peer teaching methods between Avondale teachers to increase teacher effectiveness and satisfaction; and the Cultures of Thinking/Thinking Routines at R. Grant Graham Elementary and other schools.”

Heitsch said Avondale already has more than 80 OU students in the system this year, and Gallien expects there will be 200 education students, plus those in other fields involved in the new school.
“In the long term, I think the whole system will benefit from this partnership,” Heitsch said. “It will open opportunities for whole community access.

“We anticipate being an experience school where other schools can send their staff to observe and watch what is going on,” Heitsch said.

Gallien said eventually the Avondale model will be used to create similar schools in Detroit and Pontiac.

“The opportunity to create a laboratory school right in Oakland University’s backyard and to join with the highly qualified teaching staff at Avondale presents a learning and teaching environment that has multiple benefits to the district, the community and OU student teachers and faculty,” Gallien said.

“This is a leading approach to education that has few equivalents in Michigan or throughout the country.”

There will be a public forum sometime in December for the Avondale community to learn more about the OU/Avondale Magnet Lab School.

Details of the December meeting will be announced at a later date.

Watch for further information at the district’s website: http://avondale.mi.schoolwebpages.com/education/district/district.php?sectionid=1 (http://bit.ly/WnGcBV).