Students get jump on success at summer school

By Dr. Marci Larsen, Superintendent | Sep 07, 2011

When people learn that I work in schools, they often comment that it must be nice to get the summers off each year. I then have to explain that I’m among many school employees who work all year long. I usually then point out that not all teachers get the summers off, either. A large number, for example, continue to work with students during summer school.

Our summer school has been a tremendous program over the years, and each year the results seem to outshine those from the summer before. This year was no exception. Perhaps because the weather wasn’t all that great outside anyway, the students arrived every day eager to learn and seemed to have a great time in their classes. The results of the assessments conducted at the end also showed that their skills improved, which is the whole point of the effort.

We offered summer school programs for elementary, middle school and high school students. The elementary program included a program called Power Up, which was designed to improve reading, writing and math skills for students performing below grade level, and it included enrichment classes in the arts, technology and crime scene investigation—a particular favorite.

Middle school students had the opportunity to take classes designed to reinforce skills in reading, language arts and math, while high school students took classes designed to build math and English skills for those who did not pass the High School Proficiency Exam last spring. We also offered credit recovery classes for students who might have received a failing grade in a class or no credit because of attendance issues, and a class in tennis.

We had 247 students attend our elementary Power Up sessions and another 67 attend the elementary enrichment classes. A total of 197 attended the middle school math class, and 142 attended the middle school English class, which were both significant increases from the year before. In high school, 111 students took the class to build math skills, 70 took the class to build English skills, and 97 took credit recover classes. On top of that, our summer food program provided a total of 32,000 free meals to young people in the community.

Most impressive to me was the improvement the students demonstrated after their time in summer school. At the beginning of each class, the students were asked to take a test to determine their skills in the subject area. They took another test at the end of the class to see if there had been any improvement and, in all cases, the scores went up. This will pay particular dividends as these students now get back to their regular classes, because they are now further along in their academic achievement than they were when school ended last June.

There was a time when going to summer school was considered some kind of punishment. As our program showed again this summer, that perception has now been turned on its head. I’m convinced that the students who attended summer school this year instead saw the program as an opportunity to build on their skills in an atmosphere that was both fun and challenging. In my book, that’s a significant success.

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