Saturday, December 7, 2013

HOOVER MIDDLE SCHOOL: 'I Can't Dance' drive helps needy families

Before Thanksgiving, Hoover Middle School students participated in a canned food drive that led directly to a dance.

The “I Can’t Dance” program worked like this: If they brought in at least two cans of food or donated $1, they were able to attend the dance.  

As a result, students filled up 22 boxes with food and raised over $100, all of which is being used to help families in need during the holiday season.

Included are few pictures of students at the dance, one picture of some students playing in the gym (which was an option if they didn't want to go to the dance) and pictures of some of the boxes of food that were donated.


McDowell Elementary School second graders discovered Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer recently!

Mrs. Farago's class cut, glued and glittered their way right to their favorite Christmas animal. One student, when asked who Rudolph was, said "The guy who pulls the sleigh, of course, but I don't know why he needs a candy cane?"

It was just another example of learning through fun. And there's a lot of that going on at McDowell.

HOLLAND ELEMENTARY SCHOOL: 'Jump with Jill' rocks the gymnasium!

The “Jump with Jill Assembly” rocked the house recently at Holland Elementary School.

“Jump with Jill” is a rock and roll nutrition concert centered on schools, public events and conferences. It’s in-school program is called “Nutrition Rock Invasion” comes complete with a cooking show and danceable music videos, focusing on childhood obesity  with a child-appropriate approach to wellness, reinforcing classroom learning and supporting a healthier cafeteria menu.

The third, fourth and fifth grade students at Holland had an awesome time last week, according  to Principal Sue Massucci, rocking out to great music and learning about the importance of a healthy diet, exercising and living a healthy lifestyle.  

Students sang, danced and did the “Jump with Jill” rap during the high energy show to help them remember important facts such as 1) eating healthy foods gives you lots of energy and is good for your skin, muscles and bones; 2) breakfast is the most important meal of the day; and 3) eating lots of junk food zaps you of energy and strength!  

Many of the students thought this was the BEST show that they’ve ever seen!  

Jill left CDs for the music and physical education teachers to reinforce songs and dance moves with the students, as well as posters for the classrooms and autographed cards for every student.

Holland hopes to have the show return in the spring for its younger students. The school was one of just three in the Detroit area to receive a visit from the show.

BLAIR MOODY ELEMENTARY SCHOOL: Yearbook contestants have party

Blair Moody Elementary School hosted a contest to design the cover of its annual yearbook. The contest was narrowed to 10 designs and all of the students were treated a a pizza party, donated by Hungry Howie's. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

TAYLOR READING CORPS: Non-profit seeking two VISTA members

The Taylor Reading Corps is seeking two Americorps *VISTA members to assist in the expansion of a volunteer recruitment plan for the program.

Responsibilities include:
  • Ongoing recruitment of volunteers
  • Conducting background checks
  • Coordinating scheduling and training volunteers
  • Building partnerships with principals and teachers
  • Assisting with grant writing to sustain the program
  • Updating the volunteer handbook as necessary
  • And building community partnerships to support the program.

 Please click here for full job description and benefits.

To learn more about the TRC, click here.

Monday, December 2, 2013

MCDOWELL ELEMENTARY SCHOOL: Nothing beats a trip to the museum!

There’s nothing like a day at the museum to create enthusiasm and spark interest in learning. McDowell Elementary School third-graders loved traveling to the Ann Arbor Hand-On Museum recently.

Whisper dishes, a tornado, a liquid galaxy, sound scapes, an interactive nature walk and a bubble capsule were just a few of the amazing displays that captivated Mrs. Vanderworp's class.

It was a wonderful day of adventure that just might be the start to a life long interest in science!

MCDOWELL ELEMENTARY SCHOOL: Reading buddies work both ways!

McDowell Elementary School has “Reading Buddies!”

Here's the best-kept secret about the school’s reading buddy program: Older readers who come to read to a younger readers typically end up gaining as much or more as their "little reading buddy" does.

Mrs. Vanderworp's third-grade class has gained self-confidence, reading skills, academic growth and a new desire to read more by serving as role models by reading to Ms. Bochenek's kindergarten class.

There are always lots of giggles on "Read to a Buddy" day, as well as some new exciting friendships.

Remember: "'Tis the good reader that makes the good book," as Ralph Waldo Emerson once said.

TAYLOR READING CORPS: Study shows mentored students are improving

The reading performances of lower elementary pupils mentored by the Taylor Reading Corps are improving, according to a annual study done on the program by Wayne State University.

Since the TRC program has yet to expand to its fullest extent – which will eventually include children from preschool through the third grade in the Taylor School District – some data research cannot be considered totally complete.

However, the independent WSU study, performed by Dr. Kate Roberts, an assistant professor of Reading, Language and Literature, does note some interesting improvements for TRC-mentored children. For instance, last year’s pupils, after completing the first grade mentored by volunteer adults supplied by the TRC, registered a growth level of 7.75 – a 285 percent increase from where they started the year. Non-reading corps children, while registering a higher 10.18 growth level, actually grew at a lesser percentage (214 percent) than pupils in the program.

“The children not participating in the (Reading Corps) continued to outscore the children enrolled in the (program) in the first grade,” Roberts wrote in the study. “The gap between the groups is slightly less … it’s as if the (Reading Corps) group is scoring 71.51 points for every 100 scored by the non-RC group.

“However, and importantly, the (Reading Corps) group is now growing at a faster rate than the (non-mentored) group when it comes to reading level, which has to happen for them to catch up (to the others in their grade level).”

Roberts’ recent findings reinforce what her first study found. That study, released last fall, noted that TRC-mentored students were “closing the gap” on their more academically reading peers in the district.  Then-Taylor School District School Improvement Coordinator Emily Graham, a former member of the TRC board of directors, noted at that time that reading corps’ pupils were not only improving in reading, but educators in the district noticed the creation of important bonds between the pupils and their adult mentors, who were invested in their academic success.

There is no doubt that the TRC objectives – to make certain that every Taylor child is reading at grade level or above by the end of the third grade – are long-term missions. As Graham said last fall after reading WSU’s first analysis of the program, “We have to remember that the group we are targeting (the youngest of the elementary school non-proficient readers) has been consistently falling behind their peers for years.” Even with the TRC’s mentoring intervention, those non-proficient readers are not going to catch up in a short period of time.

Since last fall’s report from Roberts was done on a group that spent less than a full year in the TRC mentoring program, it was considered much more incomplete than this year’s version, which offered pre- and post-intervention analysis at the kindergarten and first-grade levels.

In her summary, Roberts noted that, while children involved in the TRC program were, on average, still reading behind their peers, they were growing “a bit more quickly” in terms of reading level during their second year in the program. “That is what needs to happen for them to catch up,” she noted.

Future independent reports by WSU’s Roberts are certain to shed more light on the TRC program, which was the intent of 23rd District Court Judge Geno Salomone, the creator of the program. He sought to not only form a non-profit organization that recruited, trained and supervised adult reading mentors to aid the Taylor School District, but to constantly analyze the program’s success through an independent organization.

The TRC is currently mentoring children in the preschool, first- and second-grade levels. It will expand to its fullest capacity next year, when it will enlarge to include third-grade pupils. National studies have shown that third grade is a key to proficient reading. Reading proficiency after the third-grade level affects high school graduation rates, according to an Annie E. Casey Foundation (2010) study:

  • ·      24 percent of below-basic readers at the end of grade three drop out or fail to finish high school on time, meanwhile …
  • ·      … Only 9 percent of students with basic reading skills at the end of the third grade drop out or fail to finish high school on time and …
  • ·       Only 4 percent of proficient readers at the end of the third grade drop out or fail to finish high school on time
  • ·      The U.S. national adult illiteracy rate was lingering around 18 percent, according to the Pew Foundation, 2010
  • ·      The Detroit metro adult illiteracy rate was tracked at an astounding 47 percent, according to that same Pew report

Those type of numbers are reflective in the Taylor School District’s 2011 MEAP reports. With not proficient rates climbing toward 60 percent at the end of the third grade, Taylor’s high schools reflected the same type of numbers during the Michigan Merit Exam test for juniors (Kennedy and Truman nearing the 60th percentile in not proficient readers; Titan at 80 percent). Taylor’s high school drop out rate was 6.1 percent; it’s graduation rate, 69 percent.

The TRC overall program will be heavily aided by a $20,000 annual grant through the PNC Foundation’s “Grow Up Great” program, which is the main reason the corps expanded its program into the preschool level. Reading improvement at the preschool level will usually reflect positively in the first grade, for example. Not only is PNC funding that the entire preschool program, but PNC employees from banks across the Downriver area are serving as reading mentors for Taylor preschoolers.

The TRC is currently serving nearly 360 children, but it could be mentoring more. According to reading corps’ statistics, about 180 pupils still need tutors. The TRC is recruiting and training volunteers on a constant basis, but the need remains high.

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer mentor or would like to donate to the TRC, email the organization at or telephone (313) 769-6730. You can also click on the TRC Website at,; write to the TRC, PO Box 276, Taylor, MI, 48180; or stop by the reading corps office,  22755 Wick (inside the Sax Pharmacy plaza) during regular basis hours.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

EUREKA HEIGHTS ELEMENTARY SCHOOL: Feast comes at the perfect time!

Children in Ms. Farkas's and Ms. Schoen's classes at Eureka Heights Elementary School enjoyed a tasting feast last Monday in an effort to compare foods served at the first Thanksgiving with those served today.

Social Studies curricular topics covering the "then and now" were emphasize in the weeks prior to the feast. The pupils, therefore, had points of reference.

The children also enjoyed an integrated science lesson when they made cranberry relish from scratch and discussed taste buds, states of matter and mixtures.

It all made for a perfect primer to the Thanksgiving Day weekend.