Polk County students struggling with reading at grade level can get an extra 29 days of instruction this summer when Superintendent of Schools Kathryn LeRoy’s summer reading program kicks off in late June.
LeRoy outlined her program for the Polk School Board Tuesday claiming it will help 3,000 below-par readers reach grade-level reading during the summer so they are on an even playing field with their peers when school resumes in the fall.
She told the board that the 180 days in the regular school year “just isn’t enough for some kids.”
LeRoy explained that the summer program, which will be held at 10 as-yet-unnamed, centrally-located schools will give those kids full seven-hour days of additional instruction.
The program will concentrate on kindergarten through third grade and also feature teachers who also have had intensive reading instruction coaching, she added. They will be taught “theme based enrichment” theory and “use new, innovative approaches” to help boost reading scores in schools with below par scores on state reading assessment tests.
Also on tap this summer,LeRoy explained, will be the AMP program — Accelerating to Maximum Potential — which will concentrate on reading, math and science for middle schoolers or those transitioning from elementary to middle school who may need “a little more preparation.”
LeRoy introduced the summer programs to the school board Tuesday with a video from Johns Hopkins University that illustrated that lower-income students fail to keep pace with their middle-income peers after the summer break.
“These kids are losing ground during the summer, and after a few years, they just can’t ever catch up,” she said.
Even though some failing students can be forced into the summer program or be held back, LeRoy suggested that many more students need the program.
“We’ve got to get these kids into the program,” she said. “And we’re going to have to build trust in the community to see that we get them there,” she added. “We also have to make sure we have the right kids in the right program to ensure their success.”
Another summer program aimed at high school students who haven’t mastered minimal algebra skills also will be held at 10 locations so those students can pass the tests required for graduation, LeRoy told the board.
“Our algebra results are just dismal,” she said, adding that may be a factor in the system’s higher than desired drop out rate.
“We’ve got to get these kids on track.”
She further said the curriculum would have a “camp-like” approach to entice more students to enroll for the summer sessions.
“These kids are our weakest link,” said board member Debra Wright who lauded LeRoy’s efforts. “This is a champion effort,” she added. “We’ve got to do all we can to help these students.”
LeRoy said the schools had not yet been identified where the summer programs would be held, but that they would be “clustered” near those schools that fall under the “transition” heading, meaning those whose school ratings were below par.
“We’re also going to see that these kids can get to schools near their normal schools and we’ll provide them with transportation and meals,” she added.
LeRoy also told the board that federal Title I funds earmarked for those schools with a high percentage of lower-income students would pay for the programs.
She said that the board was preparing for 3,000 students in the summer sessions, but “there are about 4,500 who really need to be there. It’s up to us to see that parents see the benefits of the program and we have to get the community behind us to help get kids into the seats.”
LeRoy, teachers, counselors and administrators will be “walking through neighborhoods and doing what it takes to get these kids into these programs, even if we have to go door-to-door,” the superintendent said. She closed her presentation to the board adding that the reading and other skills learned in the summer sessions would be measured by comparing end-of-school test data against early school year assessments in the fall.
“We will measure our success to see what we need to do to tweak the program for next summer and keep building on it in the future,” she concluded.