The Skillman Foundation for Detroit Free Press / Newspapers in Education Program

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Proposal to

The Skillman Foundation for

Detroit Free Press / Newspapers in Education Program
Organization Description

Nothing is more important to the quality of life our children will enjoy in the future than the quality of the education they receive today. This is especially true in the City of Detroit.

Literacy is essential for the future success of both our K-12 students and the viability of the communities where they live and go to school. Detroit Newspapers/Newspapers in Education, Inc. (DN/NIE, Inc.) 501 (c) (3) is the non-profit entity associated with the newspapers in education department of The Detroit Newspaper Agency. We're dedicated to building community partnerships pursuant to strengthening literacy and education by providing teachers with classroom copies of the Detroit Free Press, quality instructional materials and training that will enrich the curriculum and assist in teaching reading, writing, math, science, and critical thinking skills through use of the newspaper.
DN/NIE won the following national press awards, given to publications with a circulation of 250,000 and greater:

1st Place for General Program Excellence ñ 2001, Newspaper Association of America Foundation (NAA)

1st Place for Original Curriculum (Hispanic Heritage and Culture unit) 2001, NAA

1st Place for Sponsored Curriculum, (Hispanic Heritage and Culture unit) 2001, National Educational Press Association

1st Place for General Program Excellenceó1999, NAA

1st Place for Original Curriculum, (The Weather Tracker unit)--1998, NAA

2nd Place for General Program Excellence 2000, NAA.

2nd Place for New Media (web site design) 2000--NAA

The Detroit Free Press has been on guard for 170 years, the oldest continuing business in the City of Detroit (we’re actually older than the State of Michigan itself!). We’re committed to offering solutions and hope for the children of Southeastern Michigan.

There’s no need for hyperbole in describing the need for literacy programs in Detroit’s schools. Detroit Public Schools (DPS) own Metropolitan Achievement Test (MAT) statistics, which measured the percentage of students reading at grade level during the 2000 school year, show that the high-water mark for students performing at an age-grade appropriate level is the 1st grade, at just 50%. Grades 2-10 show a progressive and precipitous drop in reading proficiency; only 1 in 10 high school sophomores read at grade level.

Detroit Free Press / Newspapers in Education Program
Goal of the Program

The Newspapers in Education program encourages teachers to make the Detroit Free Press an integral part of existing curriculum, to enliven classroom discussions and develop solid reading habits in their students that will last a lifetime. The Free Press is a perennial award-winning newspaper--weíve won eight Pulitzer Prizes for excellence in Journalism--offering teachers fresh, timely, relevant, real-world lesson plans.

Every weekday the Detroit Free Press includes Yak’s Corner, an easy-to-read mixture of news, features, jokes, games, contests and facts of interest, a safe zone, for elementary and middle school students. On Thursday’s during the school year, Yak’s Corner is an interactive eight-page magazine with youth-specific content. DNIE seeks the support of individuals, businesses and corporations to sponsor classroom delivery of Yak's Corner to Michigan students in schools that would not be able to take advantage of this program without outside financial support.

Program Plan

During the school year, Yak’s Corner is printed in an eight-page, full-color tabloid sized format, which is delivered to schools in a separate bundle from the rest of the Free Press. Beginning January 9, 2002, schools will receive Yak's Corner along with copies of the Wednesday edition of the Free Press, one day earlier than the magazine will be delivered to homes and newsstands. On 17 Thursdays school-year holidays and summer vacation—Yak’s Corner appears as a one-page feature within all copies of the Free Press.

Detroit Newspapers, Inc. annually contributes more than $420,000 (minus salaries) toward the development, printing, promotion and distribution of materials designed to support the effective use of newspapers in Michigan classrooms. At the Free Press' half-price educational rate of 17.5 cents per copy, it would cost an additional $268,000 per year to put Yak’s Corner in the hands of 45,000 3rd, 4th and 5th grade students in The Detroit Public School System, as well as Catholic and Lutheran schools (DPS acts as the fiduciary agent for reading programs for the Archdiocese of Detroit). Detroit Newspapers covers all other costs associated with providing educational support materials to the participating classrooms, such as teachers’ guides and topical student supplements produced only for Yakademic Team classrooms.
Detroit Free Press Newspapers in Education seeks $536,000 ($268,000/yr for two years) from The Skillman Foundation for the Yakademic Team literacy program.
In addition to providing Michigan students with sponsored copies of newspapers that include content that enhances school curriculum, Newspapers in Education also develops topical newspaper-based educational materials designed to support and improve student performance on standardized tests. These thematic units include background sections written specifically for students on a variety of topics and companion teachers’ guides. It’s important to note that all thematic unit guides specify the skills taught, using language taken from the Michigan Curriculum framework.
Program Logic Model

Recent Free Press student sections designed to help improve Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) scores statewide include:

Taking the Mystery Out of MEAP Grades 4-8. This Yak’s Corner section helps kids and teachers understand and prepare for 4th ñ8th grade MEAP tests. The section contains skill-building exercises and answers to basic questions about the test. This year’s updated and expanded section includes information about the 2001 MEAP tests and changes coming in the future. During the 2000-2001 academic year 3,000 teachers and 45,000 students utilized this special section.
Winning MEAP Money: Pencil it In Everything You Need to Know about Passing the Test, Getting a Scholarship Grades 9-11. Much has been written in the past 12 months about the fairness issue regarding the MEAP tests, as well as the distribution of merit scholarships. This 12-page section provides the information necessary for all 11th graders, whether they go to school in the wealthiest school district or the poorest, to do their best on the reading, math, science and writing portions of the high school MEAP test, and be eligible for the $2,500 merit scholarship offered by the state of Michigan.
The primary focus of this program is distribution of Yak's Corner to 3rd, 4th and 5th grade students in Detroit. Yak's Corner responds to issues for younger readers on a wide range of topics, facilitating discussion of current events, historical observances, or topical issues of an enduring nature. You'll find Black History Month coverage in all February editions, and Reading Month and Women’s History Month stories in March. Periodically you’ll also find special Yak's Corner editions devoted to a single topic. Some are planned in advance while others are in response to events in the news.
Yak’s Corner content is both timely and responsible -- sensitive to just what young readers need. After the attacks on America September 11, the staff worked immediately to cover the issue for children, starting with a question line phone number that kids could call in news questions. Yak answered those questions in a September 20 magazine, "United We Stand," that explained what happened, including a comforting letter from first Lady Laura Bush. Yak's Corner also recognizes how kids care and participated in a national "Pennies for Firetrucks" campaign as well as sharing poems and artwork from kids daily, and in a special issue on October 11, the anniversary of the attack, "Kids Caring and Sharing in America."
In addition to the September 20 and October 11, 2001 issues, recent examples of issues devoted to a single topic include:
The September 27, 2001 "We The People: A Yak's Corner Guide to Citizenship" issue took a look at what it means to be U.S. citizen, including a review of the historic documents that shaped our country's government and a look at the history of the Pledge of Allegiance.

The October 4, 2001 " Fall Into Reading" issue celebrated reading and introduced the authors who appeared at the Yak's Corner annual book Fair, which was held at Lawrence Tech on Sunday, October 7, 2001.

Yak's Corner also produces and distributes other topical sections solely for Michigan Detroit Free Press Newspapers in Education classrooms. Two examples of this are:
Conflict Resolution: Making Peace Without Fear or Fighting--Grades 4-8, (with a four-page pullout for younger students) Violence is all around us. And feelings that can make us violent are inside every one of us. The power to choose something besides violence is also inside all of us. In this unit students will discover how to get that power by learning ways to handle feelings before they lead to violence. Students will learn how violence grows out of conflict and anger, and learn how peer mediation and choices they make can prevent conflict and violence.
Character Education--Grades 4-8. Schools are being asked to teach values, as well as academics ñ to make students better people, as well as smarter ones. This challenging unit explores the key values of respect, responsibility, caring, honesty, self-discipline, courage, love, truthfulness and fairness ñ and shows how they can be learned through different subject areas.

The Free Press offers free activity cards and curriculum guides that tie into news stories or features that appear in the newspaper. Other activities include:

Detroit Free Press Yak’s Corner Favorite Book Character Contest (grades K-6)

Detroit Free Press Letters to the Editor and Editorial Cartoon Contest (grades 6-12)

Yak's Corner Book Fair (grades K-6)

Interactive activities, updated weekly on our award-winning web site. Beginning at the start of the 2001-2002 school year, DN/NIE added a weekly Yak’s Corner online teacher’s guide. Each guide, based on the content found in that week’s Yak’s Corner, includes discussion questions correlated to state standards and benchmarks, as well as a comprehension quiz.

Free teacher workshops on the effective usage of newspapers in the classroom.
Revenue Plan

In addition to our proposal to The Skillman Foundation, we’ve also submitted letters of inquiry or proposals for Yakademic Team funding in academic year 2001-2002 to:

The Corning Foundation, $200,000 requested (declined)

The Verizon Foundation, $200,000 requested (pending)

The DuPont Corporation, $200,000 requested (pending)

The IBM Corporation, $200,000 requested (pending).

In the event that multiple grants are awarded for Yakademic classroom funding, the Free Press would be able to greatly expand the program and include many more schools in every county across the state of Michigan that heretofore couldn’t afford to participate. Detroit Newspapers/Newspapers in Education has other award-winning materials that use the newspaper to help teach math, social studies, and science skills. These materials also require outside funding in order to ensure as wide a dissemination as possible throughout Michigan.
To date, no corporate or foundation support has been secured for the Detroit Free Press Yakademic Team program.
Continued Support

The Free Press is committed to forging partnerships with school districts, philanthropic foundations, and our corporate neighbors to ensure the continuation and growth of the program. We will also seek out and recruit grant makers that award matching gifts.

Communications Plan

Upon awarding of the grant, the Detroit Free Press will publish a prominently placed story within its pages acknowledging The Skillman Foundation’s support of this program, and how it relates to the Foundation’s philosophy of service to the children of Detroit, its mission, and its history. Each eight-page Yak’s Corner magazine also will contain an acknowledgement that the participation of X number of Yakademic classrooms and schools is made possible thanks to the generous support of The Skillman Foundation.

The Free Press Newspapers in Education department works with the Detroit Public Schools to monitor newspaper usage throughout the system, primarily through the use of teacher evaluation forms (example enclosed). We are fully cognizant that teachers are the most important component in this equation. Our representatives are in constant dialogue with teachers throughout metro Detroit, and we encourage, appreciate and respond to suggestions regarding teacher and student needs, program content and format, and our shared goals and objectives. Upon awarding of the grant from The Skillman Foundation, the Free Press will work with the Detroit Public Schools Office of Research and Evaluation (Linda Leddick, director) to develop an institutional evaluation tool to measure the effectiveness of newspaper usage in DPS classrooms, again depending heavily on teacher perceptions and input. Other DPS personnel that will help implement the program include: Juanita Clay Chambers, Ed.D., Chief, Department of Curriculum Development and Related Programs; Ron Kar, K-12 Director of Curriculum Development; and Audrey Fitzgerald, Executive Director of the Dept. of Literacy, Numeracy and Related Programs.


There were 162,202 enrollees in the Detroit Public School (DPS) system during the 2000-2001 academic year. Nearly a quarter of all the students in Detroit’s schools (42,404) are in grades 3-5, when lifelong reading skills and habits begin to foment. The combined number of 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders in Archdiocese of Detroit and Detroit Lutheran schools is 2,690. In the DPS, 91% of K-12 students are African-American, 4% are Hispanic, and 3.7% are White.

Michigan’s teachers have validated the worth of the DN/NIE program by their enthusiastic participation during the 2000-2001 school year. Across 81 counties, 4,213 teachers from 2,220 schools use the Detroit Free Press and other program materials to facilitate discussing current events, as well as exploring cultural and topical issues in their classrooms. Across the entire state, school children enjoyed the use of 2,355,350 daily issues of the Free Press at school.


Development and implementation of Evaluation Mechanism, including teacher/student perceptions via collection of statements and administering of written surveys
Detroit Newspapers in

Education Program Personnel

Yak's Corner and Free Press Personnel
Archdiocese of Detroit, Lutheran and Charter school in Detroit
DPS Departments of Curriculum Development & Related Programs and Literacy, Numeracy & Related Programs

Detroit teachers, public and non-public, participating in program

(National Center for Educational Statistics)
Long Term Outcomes
Intermediate Outcomes
Distribution of program information to parents of students
Workshops for participating teachers & distribution of print teacher guides

Posting of weekly online Lesson Plans tied to Yak's Corner

Delivery of weekly Yak's Corner and Free Press to participating classes
Detroit Public Schools Office of Research & Evaluation
Improved reading habits for elementary,

middle and high school students

Increased student interest in reading and knowledge of current events as documented by evaluation mechanisms
Improved performance on standardized tests
Increased submissions by Detroit students to student generated writing and drawings contests and Yak's Corner student pages
Increases in adult literacy
in Michigan, 18% of adults, or 1 in 5, are functionally illiterate.*
Only 1 in 4 high school seniors read

anything for pleasure daily*

Less than 3 of 10 8th graders call themselves recreational readers.

Only 45.7% of all 4th graders read for pleasure daily*

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