Saturday, July 6, 2013

MISSION TO MARS VIDEO: Astronaut Buzz Aldrin makes a case for going to the red planet

More than 40 years after setting foot on the moon during the historic Apollo 11 mission, American astronaut Buzz Aldrin makes a passionate, thoughtful case from sending humans to the red planet, Mars, by 2035.

This You Tube video is made available through National Geographic Live.

THE ANNUAL BRAKE: Former colleagues gather each summer

Taylor School District friendships do last forever. Proof positive is the "Annual Brake" reunion of educators in the district, both past and present.

It was held recently, when retirees of the old Brake Middle School (now the Sixth Grade Academy) managed to make it to town to meet with their old peers and others who still teach in the system. 

The get-together is usually held in July, when a retiree currently living in Florida, makes it up to Taylor.

Great to see everyone back in town!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

BLOG: California study shows summer learning programs add significantly to education

You don’t have to stay in the state of Michigan to find good research on the importance of summer learning
Surfing the Internet recently, I came across an interesting blog by Sam Piha, a founder and principal with Temescal Associates, a California consulting dedicated to building the capacity of leaders and organizations in education and youth development who are serious about improving the lives of young people.
Public Profit, an evaluation and technical assistance firm, recently released findings on the benefits that children gain from participating in summer educational programs across California. Children in Michigan are no different from children on the West Coast, so the findings are worth noting:
  • Students ended the summer with vocabulary skills much closer to grade level
  • Parents reported that their children improved their attitude toward reading (68 percent) and reading ability (62)
  • Over 80 percent of parents reported that summer programs gave their children opportunities to develop leadership skills
  • Field trips and community service programs in the summertime gave children new experiences and opportunities
  • Summer programs broadened children’s horizons by exposing them to new adventures and skills
  • Summer programs included a wide variety of activities that engaged many different subjects in fun and engaging ways and helped in skill building
  • Summer programs fostered cooperative learning, healthy habits and lasted at least one month

Learning is a year-around effort
To connect to Sam Piha’s clog, click here.
To find more information on summer camps, click here for a evaluation from Metro Parent Magazine, click here. For the 28 best summer camps, via Hour Detroit Magazine, click here.

TALKING TAYLOR SCHOOLS: Visits go over 21,000 mark

The Talking Taylor School’s blog recently vaulted over the 21,000-visit mark and continues to draw interested in the summer months.
Since the Taylor School District started the blog in late-winter, early spring, we have posted 319 stories. The most popular stories during that duration are the following:
  • Sixth Grade Academy’s first career day
  • Putting dad to work during reading day
  • Kennedy JV girls softball wins tournament
  • Soldier returns to visit brother at Randall
  • Bravo to Taylor Symphonic Band
  • PTO helps Kinyon students visit The Henry Ford
  • Truman principal finds inspiration from choral voices
  • Actor reads “The Cay” at Hoover
  • Doris Plemmons puts nice touch on Blair Moody floor
  • Domonkos becomes first Kennedy student appointed to West Point

The majority of the blog’s traffic is coming through the TSD home Web site page, which other search for it through Google, by name through blogspot, Facebook and The News-Herald Newspapers.
While the majority of the visits come from those in the United States, the blog has had over 600 visits each from Russia and Germany, nearly 400 from France, over 200 from China and over 100 from the UK, Ukraine and Poland.
Most visitors are using Internet Explorer while some use Firefox or Chrome. Nearly 70 percent are using Windows.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

BRIDGING THE GAP: National Summer Learning Association notes students at risk during down time

To succeed in school and life, children and young adults need ongoing opportunities to learn and practice essential skills. This is especially true during the summer months.
The National Summer Learning Association notes the following facts based on research over the years.
Many Americans have a wonderful image of summer as a carefree, happy time when "kids can be kids,” and take for granted the prospect of enriching experiences such as summer camps, time with family, and trips to museums, parks, and libraries.
Unfortunately, some youth face anything but idyllic summer months. When the school doors close, many children struggle to access educational opportunities, as well as basic needs such as healthy meals and adequate adult supervision.
Did you know?
                All young people experience learning losses when they do not engage in educational activities during the summer. Research spanning 100 years shows that students typically score lower on standardized tests at the end of summer vacation than they do on the same tests at the beginning of the summer.
                Most students lose about two months of grade level equivalency in mathematical computation skills over the summer months. Low-income students also lose more than two months in reading achievement, despite the fact that their middle-class peers make slight gains.
                More than half of the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income youth can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities. As a result, low-income youth are less likely to graduate from high school or enter college.
                Children lose more than academic knowledge over the summer. Most children—particularly children at high risk of obesity—gain weight more rapidly when they are out of school during summer break.
                Parents consistently cite summer as the most difficult time to ensure that their children have productive things to do.

The vision of the National Summer Learning Association is for every child to be safe, healthy and engaged in learning during the summer. Its mission is to connect and equip schools, providers, communities and families to deliver high-quality summer learning opportunities and help to close the achievement gap and support healthy development.

For more on the organization, click here.


The Taylor School District Revitalization Task Force for the 21st Century is currently seeking your feedback through a “heartbeat” survey.

The task force of over 60 members represents all stakeholder groups and includes community members, parents, board members, support staff, administrators and teachers at all levels. They have gathered hundreds of ideas and, as a result, have formed 10 action committees.

The task force has posted a “District Heartbeat Survey” that can be viewed by clicking here and then going to the top of the new portion of the page, located on the lower right side of the page.

Areas include categories like quality of education and educational improvement. The survey is posted in a quick, easy-to-do 21-question format. It is done entirely online.
Those committees will meet independently of the larger group to study specific topics, such as reconfiguration, preschool curriculum, special education, technology, etc.

This is an exciting process that is being lead by a group of dynamic and committed people. The work that is being done on behalf of the students of the Taylor School District will lead to new learning opportunities for all.

BACKGROUND: The first meeting of the task force was held Feb. 28. It's mission: To make the community proud of the Taylor School District. At that time, the Board of Education had its deficit plan approved by the State of Michigan and all contracts within the system had been recently approved.

The district's enrollment was 7,310 with a general fund budget of $62 million. Its foundation allowance per pupil -- the per-pupil state grant to fund education annually -- was $7,547.

Supt. Diane Allen pointed out that the revitalization program was focused on giving new life or vitality to the system and bringing it again into prominence.
Why the task force? Allen used a couple of quotations to make a point.
Margaret Mead once said, "We are continually faced with great opportunities which are brilliantly disguised as unsolvable problems." 
"That says so much about our district," Allen said. "Actually, this is an opportunity for our district" to improve. She then turned to another quote, this time from Oprah Winfrey.
"We can't become what we need to be by remaining what we are." Allen told the task force members that the district will only get better by changing.
Revitalization focuses on five points: 

               Increasing student achievement
               Better preparing students to live and work in the 21st Century
               To bring resident students back to the district
               To retain the students that the district currently has
               To increase enrollment through schools of choice

Allen pointed out that nearly half of the K-12 students living in the district (3,016) attend schools out of the system. In addition, she pointed to a 32 percent decline in student population over the past decade. Taylor did see 231 out-of-district student enrollees this year.
The revitalization campaign seeks to change negatives into positives -- instead of an end, this is a chance for a new beginning in Taylor. Considered heavily will be issues like reorganizing to add value, saving money and aligning with best practices and effectively and efficiently using facilities.

The timeline for task force work began with that first meeting. The end date is projected for Sept. 30. There is plenty of work ahead.
"We are now at a point where we must educate our children in what no one knew yesterday, and prepare our schools for what no one knows yet."
-- Margaret Mead

TAYLOR READING CORPS: Summer program continues

The Taylor Reading Corps’ second summer program continues this week at McDowell Elementary School.

Theme of the opening week was “auto biography.” Students started creating biography books. Last Wednesday marked day two of the Autobiography Week. The children finished their autobiographies, which were read to their groups during story time.

Three national junior honor society students from Allen Park Jr. High started volunteering that day, and there will be more to start on a later date.

July 1 was the first day of space week. We started with the activity “moon tennis,” which focused on blend words. Kids started creating moon print pictures using balloons as paint brushs. The kids were read a story about the moon and a poem about the planets.

The children continued to get to know each other with an icebreaker. Exercised the brains with “Brain Gym” and read some stories.

The Taylor Reading Corps could use a few recycled items to aid in children's education over the vacation months. Emily Sweeney, who is coordinating much of the program, needs the following:

                Yogurt containers
                Paper towel and/or toilet paper rolls
                Tissue boxes
                Cereal boxes
                Coffer containers
                Pringles cans
                Masking tape

The TRC plans to have children building a "recycled city including towers and buildings" so anything that you'd like to donate would be very helpful.

The TRC office (22755 Wick) is located in the Par-Wick Plaza near Sax Pharmacy, which is at Wick Road and Pardee. The office is open during regular business hours weekly. For further information, call (313) 769-6730 or click on the TRC Web site by clicking here.

The TRC is also actively seeking adult volunteers mentors for the next school year. The program is expanding to include second-graders and next year will aid preschool, kindergarten, first- and second-grade students.

Volunteering is easy. Each mentors get a child and meets with them, at their school, for two, one-half-hour sessions each week throughout the school year. The TRC provides training and support.

National studies have shown that if pupils fall behind in reading proficiency by the end of the third grade, they stand an highly increased measure of failing to perform standard work throughout their educational careers, and have an increased chance of failing to graduate.

The TRC is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization that recruits, trains and supervises adult reading mentors to work in the Taylor School District. This past year, the TRC mentored children in preschool, kindergarten and the first grade. Next year, it plans to expand its effort to the second-grade level.

Monday, July 1, 2013


Five students at Truman High School just received the state proficiency award for Michigan DECA.

This means that these students achieved a high standard of performance in the competency, based on a series of events at the Michigan DECA districts and state conferences 2013, thus becoming a member of a select and representative group of students in an organization designed to prepare emerging leaders and entrepreneurs in marketing, finance, hospitality and management.

The students are Miguel Andrade, Sarah Oulette, Shawntez Turner, Kayla Fisher and Megan Kaminski. These students were recognized as part of an elite group based on their individual scores for the events they competed in.

“This is an amazing accomplishment and they worked very hard all year long preparing to compete and putting together their projects,” said Carly Lundgren-Barnard, DECA advisor and marketing instructor. “These students put in a lot of time and effort, along with heart and dedication and I am truly proud to have had them in our marketing/business program and DECA club.

“I want to wish Sarah, Shawntez, Kayla, and Megan luck on their new adventures as they graduate from Truman. It was a pleasure watching them grow and learn and become excited about furthering their education by entering the DECA club.

“All of these students participated in marketing classes for the last two years and I watched them get excited about education and jump into the wonderful world of business and marketing. They each worked in the school store as managers and leaders of the other employees and maintained A+'s in the class.

“Megan and Kayla received a letter signed and personalized by the senator thanking them for their hard work and effort on their public relations campaign to help decrease bullying and they were awarded business student of the month.

“I am excited for Miguel to enter his senior year, after having him as a student for the last two years I have watched him take his education to the next level by qualifying for the state competition as a sophomore and a junior and now adding a new accomplishment of winning this award.

“I can't wait to see where his senior year will take him -- he is a born leader and will do wonders at Truman 2013-14!!