July 14, 2008

Summer School Program Aiming at Putting Students at Grade Levels

By Christopher Ortiz, Greeley Tribune, Colo.

Jul. 12--Inside a classroom at Jefferson Elementary on Thursday, students are sitting at their desks, pencils in hand, listening to their teacher talk about a magic pot that doubles anything put inside.

The students at Jefferson, 1315 4th Ave., just started classes but no one is confused about what month it is.

During this summer, about 722 students in Greeley-Evans School District 6 will spend part of their summer break in school.

The students are participating in a summer program that works with students who have been identified as behind their peers in school. Educators hope that some extra time will help them catch up. For half a day, students go through three or four academic classes along with some physical education and enrichment time, such as art class, but the focus is on reading, writing and math.

District 6 is taking part in 21st Century Community Learning Centers, a federal education program, designed to provide academic enrichment opportunities to students who attend high-poverty and low-performing schools.

"The program adds additional time, primarily after school but some before and this summer component," said Kathi Van Soest, director of priority schools for District 6. "There are enrichment opportunities plus extra time for academics. It's giving schools with high needs extra accommodations to provide meaningful activities."

The program targets students who are behind in their grade in Title 1 schools. The district has made getting elementary students to read at their grade level a top priority. Third-grade reading CSAP scores earlier this year showed 65 percent of District 6 students tested at proficient or advanced. The state average was 70 percent.

"The kids (in the program) are identified as having a need to have additional time and support academically or having other additional needs a well," Van Soest said.

Title 1 schools are schools where a large percentage of students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch.

The summer program is funded by the federal grant, and its costs do not come out of District 6 coffers, Van Soest said. District 6 is in the middle of a five-year federal Title 1 grant.

Teacher Lorraine Montoya was teaching her third-grade class, about 12 students, the notion of doubling.

"If I have two pairs of shoes, and I double them, how many will I have?" Montoya said to her class.

"Four," said her students.

Montoya has taught summer sessions before and said it works.

"What it does is give us a foundation so when they start school in August, they are starting right where they left off," she said. "They restore the knowledge."

Giniel Burke, the facilitator at Jefferson Elementary said the progress a lot of students make over the course of a school year can be lost during the summer.

"Kids that don't read constantly show a lot of regression when school starts," Burke said. "We want to keep them where they are so they don't regress over the summer."

Van Soest said that is exactly what this summer program is aimed at accomplishing.

"The research shows all kids regress over the summer," said Van Soest. "So this helps just to keep their skills. We want all kids to accelerate and become advanced learners. This helps us give extra time to them."

To measure the success of the program, the district uses assessment data, the students' tests scores at the end and beginning of the regular school year. The program recently was audited by the Colorado Department of Education and while not perfect, it received high marks, Van Soest said.

"We are one of the districts in the state with this high of quality of program," she said. "We got some notice from the state that it will use District 6 for (future) professional development."

The program is completely optional but educators said a overwhelming majority of parents say yes to the program when their student is selected.

"Most parents want this additional support for their students," Van Soest said.

Parent Rachell Parker agreed.

Parker has two of her children, Alexis, 9, and Sophia, 6, going to school at Jefferson for part of the summer.

She said she is glad her daughters have the opportunity to get a little bit more help.

"I think it's a really good program," she said. "It helps them keep up with what they learn in school. It helps them retain what they learn and helps them with the transition" in the fall.

Like Van Soest and others, Parker doesn't think another month of school is too much for youngsters.

"These kids are having a blast," Burke said. "We are making it fun."

Contrary to what some might think, the kids in these summer classes agree.

Joey Rodriguez, one of the students in Montoya's class, said not only does he not mind coming to school when the calendar says July but he looks forward to it.

"Yeah, I like it because it's short and it's fun," Joey said.

Another of Montoya's student, Brisa Camorano, said coming to school over the summer was not a chore.

"I like coming because we get to learn more," said Brisa, who added her favorite subject was science.

WHAT'S TITLE I: Title I, part of the No Child Left Behind legislation, is the largest federal program that supports both elementary and secondary education. Resources are based on poverty rates of students enrolled in schools and districts. There are 619 Title I schools in Colorado.


To see more of the Greeley Tribune, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.greeleytribune.com.

Copyright (c) 2008, Greeley Tribune, Colo.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

For reprints, email [email protected], call 800-374-7985 or 847-635-6550, send a fax to 847-635-6968, or write to The Permissions Group Inc., 1247 Milwaukee Ave., Suite 303, Glenview, IL 60025, USA.