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Summer school dilemma

June 16, 2003|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

As the federal No Child Left Behind act demands that all students meet national proficiency standards, summer school might seem an ideal opportunity for students who are behind to gain ground, but some Tri-State school officials say they are not equipped to provide such assistance.

In Washington County Public Schools, the summer school program has been affected primarily by the federal law's emphasis on testing.

More attention is being focused on middle school students and how they fare in reading, writing and math on the Maryland Functional Test. Middle school students are invited to attend summer school based on their functional test scores and placed in appropriate remedial groups, said Boyd Michael, executive director of secondary education.

High school students continue to attend summer school to improve on failing grades or to get ahead in their studies over the summer break, Michael said. Should passing the Maryland High School Assessments become a graduation requirement, more emphasis will be placed on getting students to pass the assessments over the summer, he said.

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At the elementary level, summer school is being offered this year only to students entering kindergarten, first grade and second grade, a change from years past, said Patricia Abernethy, deputy superintendent for instruction.

She said the decision was made to serve just those students because research shows that it's best to get children up to reading and math grade levels before they reach third grade.

The decision also is economically efficient, Abernethy said.

Berkeley County Public Schools Deputy Superintendent Frank Aliveto credits his school system's summer school for elementary students with placing the county ahead of the curve in educational achievement. He said all of the system's 27 schools meet state standards.

As in Washington County, Aliveto said Berkeley County middle school students are strongly encouraged to attend summer school if they are having trouble in reading, math or language arts.

"We think there are many kids who need remedial work, but I think right now as a county we are in pretty good shape," he said.

Greencastle-Antrim School District Director of Secondary Education Jack Appleby said his school system isn't having difficulty keeping its students at pace with requirements of the federal act.

In elementary school summer school, which is paid for by parents, students have their choice of weeklong sessions in art, communication, math, elementary Spanish, elementary French and other topics.

Greencastle-Antrim high school students attend summer school primarily to get ahead of their peers in certain subjects, he said.

"In older days you went to summer school because you failed something. Well, that whole notion has changed," Appleby said.

The notion hasn't changed for students in the Chambersburg Area School District.

Middle and high school students who fail classes can take an expensive summer course through Keystone National High School, a correspondence school that will award students a passing "D" on their transcripts upon completing the summer class, said Eric Michael, the school system's assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.

He said that in addition to the remedial summer school, the district will offer for the first time this year a summer program for special-needs students in fifth and seventh grades to help them with reading.

Michael said the school system sees a need for more summer school options, noting that a few of the 23 schools in the system aren't meeting the federal act's standards for attendance or academics, but the funds aren't available to run them.

He said the district has no plans to add summer school in elementary schools.

"All of us realize summer school is beneficial to students," he said. "But the dilemma comes from the resources available to do it."

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