Thursday, June 07, 2001

More add summer to school seasons

Lower grades see greater attention

By Lori Hayes
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Dozens of 5-year-olds in Norwood will spend part of their summer in the classroom before they start school.

        For the first time, Norwood Schools is launching a one-week kindergarten camp in August to get incoming students into the buildings a bit early. The new program — a mix of reading, science and tips on navigating the lunch line — is aimed at preparing children and their parents for the first year of school.

[photo] Karen Jacob (left) and Milbeth Hinton look over materials they'll be using in summer school at Vine Street Elementary in Over-the-Rhine.
(Ernest Coleman photo)
| ZOOM |
        With a national push for early intervention, summer school students are getting younger and younger. Pressed to improve state test scores, Tristate schools from Boone to Clermont counties are expanding summer programs and zeroing in on children who lag behind.

        “Getting them there early will help,” said Stephanie Sick, whose daughter Chelsea, 5, is starting school at Norwood View Elementary this fall. “It's a big step for a kindergartner to go to school all day.”

        Summer school is no longer just for high school students who have to make up classes. From weeklong camps to months of remediation, many elementary schools are offering — even requiring — summer school for students who need extra help.

        Many schools are emphasizing the basics, shifting their summer focus from keeping kids entertained with recreation and field trips to targeting students who are struggling, particularly in reading.

        “They are even beginning to look at proficiency tests at the preschool level in a developmentally appropriate way,” said Michael O'Laughlin, reading communication arts curriculum manager for Cincinnati Public Schools.

        “The focus is on prevention and being proactive,” said Cathy Bregar, a consultant with the Ohio Department of Education's Regional School Improvement Services office. “It's trying to make sure you have intervention before kids fail.”

Fourth-grade tests
   Ohio requires school districts to offer summer intervention programs for fourth- and sixth-grade students who fail three or more areas of the state proficiency test. About 90,000 students are eligible this year.
   Kentucky does not mandate summer school. Instead, it helps districts pay for summer programs for struggling students. About 35,000 to 40,000 of the state's students, elementary through high school, will attend summer school this year.
   Summer school attendance in Ohio and Kentucky has been static over the past few years, but students are getting younger as more schools provide early intervention programs.
        Ohio targets the primary grades to help prepare students for its fourth-grade proficiency tests. State law requires school districts to offer summer intervention programs to elementary students who fail three or more areas of the proficiency test. That affects 90,000 students, or 37 percent of fourth- and sixth-graders, down from 100,000 last summer.

        “Everything is aimed at proficiency tests,” said Patti Stewart, assessment supervisor for Norwood Schools. “The fourth-grade proficiency tests aren't just for fourth-graders. We have to start in kindergarten preparing them for the tests.”

        Driven by last year's gains, CPS is adding a week to its six-week mandatory Third-Grade Guarantee 2001 Summer School, which starts Monday in 47 elementary schools.

        The Third-Grade Guarantee, launched in 1999, promises that students will read at their grade level by the start of fourth grade. Last year, 61 percent of the third-graders who attended summer school passed a state reading test at the end of the summer.

        This summer, 2,997 students will be required to attend summer school, up from 2,466 last year.

        CPS' summer school is mandatory for second- and third-grade students with poor performance on the state reading test given in March. Struggling first-graders are encouraged to attend too.

        At Vine Street Elementary, 96 percent of its summer school students passed post-summer school tests last year, one of the highest passing rates in the district. The school focuses on reading, and students get a lot of individual help.

        “The students who are not passing the proficiency, no matter which area they didn't pass, it boils down to their reading skills,” said Lisa Campbell, Vine Street's summer school literacy coordinator.

        Gwendolyn Hill of Mount Auburn said the one-on-one attention helped improve her daughter's reading skills. This will be the second year that Iyonna, 9, has attended summer school because of low reading scores.

        “It encourages her to read more,” Ms. Hill said of Vine Street's program. “I wish they could go all year round. The kids need more studying and less playing.”

Kentucky's approach
        Kentucky does not mandate summer school but helps districts pay for programs for students who lag. About 35,000 students, or 6 percent, attend summer school around the state.

        With a new approach this year, Boone County Schools is also targeting younger students who have trouble reading.

        The district is offering two three-week sessions this summer for kindergartners through third-graders from nine elementary schools, in addition to a few other weeklong programs. Last year, summer school was offered up through fifth grade.

        “Anything we can do to advance them or keep them on target is what this is all about,” said Marcella Ashcraft, a fifth-grade teacher at Yealey Elementary and summer school coordinator.

        Boone County used to offer a more extensive program that included academics, recreation and other activities for all kids, not just the ones lagging. But increased state scrutiny of test scores has pushed the district to zero in on reading, Ms. Ashcraft said.

        “If the child can't read, it's really hard to focus on the other areas,” she said. “We want to get them at least on grade level before we pass them on.”

        Students are recommended for the program but not required to go.

        Mary Chance, however, is sending her son Aaron, who'll be a fourth-grader this fall at Yealey, to help bolster his reading skills.

        “There are a lot of children in the upper levels that do not know how to read,” she said. “These early intervention programs are going to be crucial for this next generation.”

Clermont's new site

        To reach children who most need extra help, West Clermont Local School District is moving its three-week elementary summer school this year.

        The district has held its elementary program at a middle school, but this year it's moving to Holly Hill Elementary in Batavia Township in hopes of luring more students.

        The district is targeting that neighborhood because of students' poor test results and low summer school attendance in the past, said Margaret Krueger, director of the Jump Start program for grades 2-5. Attendance is recommended for students with low test scores.

        For three hours each morning, students get lessons in math, reading and writing. The district is adding study skills and motivational activities this year.

        “We want to make it as positive as we can and actually give them a jump-start on the next school year,” Mrs. Krueger said. “You want them there to learn, not to regret the fact they have to spend their mornings there.”

        Cindy Kranz of the Enquirer contributed to this report.


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