Students Benefited from Summer Focus on Rigor

March 10, 2003
A review of last summer's local and regional summer school experience and an evaluation of the new summer Extended Learning Opportunities (ELO) program show that students benefited from both programs' focus on increased rigor and enriched and accelerated instruction.

Last summer's programs followed a March 2002 Board of Education-approved plan for the redesign of the summer school program to provide targeted intervention, enrichment, and acceleration of academic instruction. As a result, a range of programs was offered at all school levels.

A primary focus area was a new ELO program called "Summer Adventures in Learning," offered to students entering kindergarten and Grades 1-3 in 18 federally funded Title I elementary schools. In addition, special education Extended School Year programs were located in buildings with other summer school programs when possible to facilitate student participation in the least restrictive environment. Local school and regional summer school centers also operated throughout the school system.

Summer Adventures in Learning

The new Summer Adventures in Learning ELO program enrolled 4,328 students, 73 percent of the children enrolled in kindergarten through Grade 3 in the 18 federally funded Title I schools. The majority of participating students were Hispanic (55 percent), followed by African American (25 percent), Asian American (10 percent) and white (9 percent). More than three-fourths of the students participated in either the FARMS (Free and Reduced-price Meals System) or ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) program.

An evaluation showed that the program achieved two major goals: it established that an academic program of enriched and accelerated instruction can attract a sizable portion of targeted students during the summer, and it identified measurable benefits for students who attended most of the four-week schedule. The success was attributed largely to certified teachers using a strong curriculum, support of parent and community volunteers, and coordination and leadership of principals and central office staff.

The evaluation found that students who attended most or all of the four-week summer program achieved, on average, higher levels of skill development in reading and mathematics in the first months of Grades 1, 2, and 3 this year than their classmates who did not attend the program. The ELO benefits were similar across all ethnic groups. The benefits also were apparent across all levels of academic need, (defined by receipt of FARMS and/or ESOL services), with the exception of Grade 2 mathematics (benefits limited to students lowest in academic need) and reading (benefits limited to those highest in academic need).

Areas found to need improvement include greater daily attendance in particular, because the greatest benefit occurred for students who attended 15 or more days of the 20-day program. Earlier planning and recruitment, along with expanding the program to include afternoon activities, also may help improve attendance, particularly in families with childcare and other concerns.

Additional study will be conducted to determine if academic benefits of the summer program are sustained throughout the school year. Student performance on this spring's Maryland State Assessments also will be conducted to determine any potentially sustained academic effects.

Regional programs

The school system provided regional summer school to more than 11,000 students last summer. Classes were held at five elementary, two middle, and six high school sites.

The elementary regional centers offered reading/English language arts, mathematics, and either art or computer. Students registered for two of the three courses at each center. Middle schools offered English and mathematics courses. The senior high centers, located in pairs in the upcounty, midcounty, and downcounty regions, offered all of the core high school courses necessary for graduation at each set of paired schools.

Enrollment in the regional programs was down 14 percent from FY 2002. Contributing factors likely included the increased number of cluster and local school programs offered and the option of attending evening high school during the school year at 20 percent of the cost.

Based on self-reporting, 41 percent of these students took classes because of a previous failure, 26 percent for original credit, and 22 percent due to loss of credit (with the remaining 11 percent not responding).

Local school programs

With a focus on increased rigor, high school summer instructional opportunities focused on intervention (freshman academies), intervention and acceleration (algebra and English), acceleration (SAT, Prep, Honors courses), remediation, and optional courses for enrichment/acceleration (arts, science, Montgomery College courses). Incoming ninth grade students were encouraged to participate in expanded course offerings to help prepare for their transition to high school.

Schools were encouraged to offer local summer school programs to meet the needs of their own students. Twenty-one schools authorized and paid staff for local school summer programs through the Adult Education and Summer School office. In addition, other schools operated local programs independently.

The redesigned middle school summer instructional program consisted of intervention for academically at-risk students, remediation in English and mathematics, Maryland Functional Test Summer Review Course, Essentials of Algebra, and optional courses for enrichment/acceleration. More than 5,000 students at 36 middle schools participated in the program. Activity bus transportation was provided to students in the local programs.

Overall feedback on the redesigned summer school program was positive. Principals noted that their students were better prepared for higher-level classes as a result of their summer instruction. They also said that at-risk students who participated in specific courses, such as College Preparatory Literacy at Watkins Mill High School, demonstrated greater academic success the first quarter than they would have without the intervention. Schools will continue to work with these students and monitor their progress throughout the school year.

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