BY CHASTITY PRATT DAWSEY
FREE PRESS EDUCATION WRITER
Detroit Public Schools put out a call to the region Sunday to recruit volunteers to do 100,000 service hours to help teach children to read and retired mechanic Mark Durfee, 55, of Detroit didn’t hesitate.
The self-published poet read an article about the new DPS Reading Corps online at 2 a.m. He clicked on the link and became the first of more than 700 people to volunteer within 36 hours. An additional 140 people signed up by phone.
The volunteers include men and women from throughout the tri-county area from communities such as Grosse Pointe and Grosse Ile to Southfield and Sterling Heights.
“I have to have faith that the coming generation can make Detroit, Michigan, the nation and the world a better place than the one we are leaving behind,” Durfee said. “If the coming generation of kids cannot read, they will fail in bringing that change. That is why I volunteered.”
The DPS Reading Corps is being organized in the wake of last week’s release of the National Assessment of Educational Progress math test. Detroit’s fourth- and eighth-graders scored worse than any U.S. city in the 40-year history of the test.
Educators said students who had problems with reading had trouble with the test. The math test is full of story problems and about 40% of it can include open-ended questions, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, which administers the test.
“Literacy is the fundamental key to all content areas,” Barbara Byrd-Bennett, the chief academic and accountability auditor for DPS, said at Monday’s news conference to kick off the Reading Corps.
Volunteers must get a background check, attend an orientation and four to six hours of training on the district’s reading recovery program that will be used in the tutoring sessions.
Training for tutors is expected to begin in January. Tutors will be asked to help a minimum of two students for 30 minutes a week each.
Durfee, author of “Stink: Poetry and Prose of Detroit 2005-2009,” said he wants the children of Detroit “know they are not forgotten, and they are thought about and cared