News and Highlights from the WMU-HIL Literacy Leadership Project

Holland Heights Elementary students received free books last May thanks to the HIL project grant. Each of the approximately 140 students made their own selections at Barnes and Noble. Holland Heights Principal Kevin Derr told the Holland Sentinel that allowing kids to pick what books they read can help unlock more interest in reading over the summer. 

August 2019

directors' photo
The HIL Project enters its third year in October 2019! Years one and two were intense and rewarding. We have seen remarkable changes in the first group of 75 schools we serve.
HIL Facilitators will support the 75 schools in Cohort A for one more school-year (2019-20).

Plus, we are in the process of identifying candidates to serve as Facilitators for 75 new Cohort B schools, and we are working with those school and district leaders to ensure that each school receives a Facilitator who is a good fit. Our goal is to complete these placements by the end of September 2019 and begin training new Facilitators in October.

READ THE DIRECTORS' REPORT on the progress being seen in the 75 Cohort A schools, and the activity underway to begin working with the 75 Cohort B schools. 

Research on the construct of school renewal

The HIL project has been promoting the idea and practice of school renewal (vs school reform). Based on the research we have conducted over the years, the following table illustrates the key difference between school renewal and school reform. 



We had a wonderful two days of learning and growing together at the Principal and Teacher-Leaders Collaboration Summit on June 24–25 in downtown Grand Rapids.  Thanks go to our university partner, Grand Valley State University, for hosting us in their beautiful setting on the Grand River. 
Inspiration and reflections on our work came from the written word in many forms: poems, quotations, children’s books and tweets, all serving as great reminders of the Why behind the HIL Project work: Literacy success for all children in all schools! 
The two days contained sessions for school teams to work together to build their implementation plans and to focus on the gold standard of literacy work in their schools. Sessions also provided learning around the HIL Model High Impact Leadership Principles and their implications for the roles of both Principals and Teacher-Leaders.
The Summit theme of "Learning and Growing Together: Planting the Seeds of Success" lent new meaning to the steps typical of gardening: amending the soil, nurturing the plants, maintaining the garden, and harvesting the fruit. These all mimic the slow, careful process required when implementing school change initiatives. As we move into a new school year, we hope your teams have laid the groundwork and are ready to harvest the fruits of your labor in the form of literacy achievement for your students in the 19/20 school year. 
Click image to enlarge and read our HIL Project Poem:

"To Plant a Seed for the HIL Project"
Watch video highlights of the HIL Project Summit, held June 24-25, 2019 in Grand Rapids, Michigan.


The Critical Difference in the HIL Approach

by Dr. Patricia Reeves, Project Co-director
We are often asked, “How is the HIL process for making positive change in schools different than most school improvement and project implementation processes?”  
  • Probably the most noticeable difference is that HIL uses an
    appreciative, strengths-based and growth-focused approach to school change.
  • HIL is about implementing research-supported classroom and school leadership practices in a systematic and strategic way.
  • HIL focuses on both fidelity and integrity of implementation of evidence-based practices.
The HIL grant provides each school with a trained facilitator to help build the Essential Literacy practices into their classroom routines and the High Impact Leadership Principles for School Renewal into their continuous improvement routines.

READ MORE about each of these "critical differences" and how they work in HIL Project schools.


Family Synergy Event Night highlights literacy

HIL Project coordinator Derek Wheaton recently presented the power of creating a literacy-enriched home by engaging and encouraging parents to read with, read to, and read alongside their children. Wheaton's keynote address was just one highlight of a Family Synergy Event Night at Sunset Lake Elementary School in Vicksburg. 

The event fulfilled Principal Amie McCaw's vision to strengthen the connection between literacy, community, families and school. Families experienced an evening that would highlight and enhance school-to-home communications, the importance of literacy, and resources within the community and school district that support families in many different ways. The event brought together a host of community partners in a celebration of Literacy. 

READ AN ACCOUNT of the event by HIL Project Facilitator Cynthia Harrell.
Did you know?
Students who read just twenty minutes a day will be exposed to approximately 1.8 million words in a year, compared to students who read one minute a day being exposed to only 8,000 words per day, which provided a poignant example of the impact of time spent reading with children every day. So said Family Synergy Event Night keynote speaker, Derek Wheaton.
Spread the news! 


One principal's story: C.A. Frost Elementary

by Karla Finn, HIL Project Principal, C.A. Frost Elementary School, Grand Rapids Public Schools
(with Teresa McDougall, HIL Project Facilitator)

The experience C.A. Frost has had with the HIL Project has been very positive. We were fortunate to have Teresa McDougall as our HIL facilitator. Teresa has been wonderful to work with. She is knowledgeable, organized and has really helped guide and mentor me through my first year as an administrator. With her help. I am developing into the instructional leader I not only need to be, but desire to be for my staff, students, and parents.

As a first-year administrator, I have benefitted from structure and focus the HIL Project has provided. We worked on mapping out the various staff and committee meetings, parent events, evaluations, learning walks, and testing schedule. This visual map helped me to see the big picture and made it more manageable and not quite so overwhelming. Teresa met with Steve Podbregar, our Assistant Principal, and me weekly; she helped to focus on both our short- and long-term goals and assist us in planning our next steps. We also took the opportunity to celebrate the growth and achievements weekly. Through this work, I have gained a clearer vision as an instructional leader.

READ MORE of Karla's story.


Binda Foundation provides second year of funding for books

For the second-straight year, a HIL Project school will receive a $30,000 challenge grant from the Guido A. and Elizabeth H. Binda Foundation and community partners to stock elementary classroom libraries. The Godfrey-Lee district in Kent County received donations to reach the $30,000 goal through a fundraising campaign in June.

“I am beyond thrilled and extremely grateful for the support from our community partners to provide for our kids,” Superintendent Kevin Polston told the School News Network. “We look forward to ordering the books as soon as possible to get them in the hands of our students for the 2019-20 school year. These books provide the gift of literacy, which is critical for students to achieve at high levels.”


Leading Now, Reading WOW!

Don't miss all the latest news and happenings featured in the Leading Now, Reading WOW! widget on the home page! If you haven't visited lately, here's a sampling of what you've missed:
  • Updates and photos from Cohort A schools
  • News about ways local businesses and charitable foundations are enhancing literacy work at HIL Project schools
  • Stories about the impact that high integrity, high fidelity literacy practices are making in schools
  • and more!
Visit the home page often to learn what's new and exciting at HIL Project!

How can you help?

Some HIL Project schools are benefiting from the generosity of local businesses and charitable foundations. These donors recognize the good work happening and want to leverage their giving through partnerships poised for success. 
We acknowledge with appreciation their support and invite others to join them.

Thank you:

BESCO Water Treatment
Binda Foundation
Metal Flow Corporation
Perrigo Charitable Foundation
United Way

Contact us to learn how individuals and organizations can enhance literacy efforts at HIL Project schools, AND receive recognition for their generosity.
Learn how to contribute

Upcoming Events


October 17, 2019 (Bernhard Center, WMU-Main)
March 17, 2020 (Bernhard Center, WMU-Main)
June 22-23, 2020 COHORT A 
June 24-25, 2020 COHORT B
(both at Grand Traverse Resort)


September 13, 2019 
October 11, 2019
November 8, 2019
December 13, 2019
January 10, 2020
February 14, 2020
March 13, 2020
April 17 2020
May 8, 2020
June 5, 2020

Building Classroom Libraries: Essential Instructional Practices in Literacy

This series of courses was created by a subgroup of the ISD Early Literacy Coaching Network to provide support to district literacy leadership teams focused on building and supporting classroom libraries within their school. The courses are aligned with the Essential Instructional Practices in Early and Elementary Literacy.

Click here to learn more. 
(To access courses, you will need an EduPaths account and be logged in.)
Visit the HIL website
Copyright © 2019 Western Michigan University - HIL Project, All rights reserved.

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