Summer school helps some students catch-up, keeps others engaged
By Nora Hertel | Tue, 06/12/2012 - 11:07pm
Even though summer represents freedom for most students, a time blissfully free of classes, teachers, and homework, experts agree that three months off from school is not ideal for knowledge retention.
“The summer break is a legacy of agricultural economies… The whole US calendar, the timing of school period isn’t set up for educational purposes,” explained Beth Graue, professor at UW-Madison’s Department of Curriculum and Instruction. “You can’t assume that the kids you get in September are the kids that leave in June. They get rusty, and that’s been shown pretty well in the research.”
To help students make the best of summer break, the MMSD offers catch-up classes for those who fallen behind and enrichment courses to keep other students intellectually engaged. Summer school starts on June 18 and lasts six weeks.
“Some students are behind and they need to get caught up, so summer school’s a great time for that,” said Scott Zimmerman, director of Early and Extended Learning for MMSD. “There are other students who really need that enrichment, that structure, and that social piece, and we provide that as well.”
The school district provides a variety of courses for approximately 5,000 students from pre-kindergarten through high school.
High school students elect to take summer courses—the courses are never required at this level as they might be for students struggling to pass fourth or eighth grade. Students in high school can take courses online or in the classroom to get ahead or make up credits for a failed class, explained Zimmerman. These courses run the gamut from art and physical education to math and science.
For students in elementary and middle school who received lower grades in fundamental academic areas, MMSD offers math and literacy courses. The district identifies students who could use academic review and invites parents to enroll them for the summer. The only students required to take summer school are those in fourth and eighth grade who risk “non-promotion” to the next grade level because of their GPA and standardized test scores. Students with free or reduced lunch take these classes free of charge, otherwise they cost parents $20.
“[Required classes] are very academically rigorous for literacy and math. They’re based on what goes on during the regular course of the school year,” Zimmerman said.
Enrichment courses take a light-hearted approach to learning and are non-required electives. These courses range from Book Club Extravaganza to Science Wizards, and include dance and art courses.
“The enrichment courses are the fun part. [They] are not based on students meeting standards, they elect to be there, and it’s not based on a particular curriculum,” said Barbie Klawikowski, Program Support Teacher in the Department of Early and Extended Learning.
The enrichment programs cost $20 per course at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. But, Zimmerman explained, students with demonstrated need can have the fee waived. The district also provides accommodations for students with special needs who participate in summer programs.
And while the courses run in the morning for elementary and middle school students, they can stay for the afternoon, participating in recreational activities through the Madison School & Community Recreation.
All these programs work to keep students engaged over the summer, retaining what they learned in the school year and expanding on it.
“The summer school program is very important to closing the achievement gap for our students,” said Zimmerman. “And it really provides a great way for children to maintain the skills and learning that they achieve during the school year so they can start in the fall, ready to go, and functioning up to speed in terms of grade level.”
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