Mt Pleasant News

Wash Journal   Fairfield Ledger
Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 23, 2018

Summer loss avoided with MPCSD summer school for kindergarten to third-graders

6-week summer school targets literacy in fun, low-pressure environment
Jun 22, 2018
Photo by: Grace King Students work in groups of three to four during summer school held at Mt. Pleasant Middle School. Summer school is for eligible kindergarten to third-grade students for six weeks Monday through Thursdays.

By Grace King, Mt. Pleasant News


Tables less than two feet tall surrounded by tiny chairs replace desks in one classroom of Mt. Pleasant Middle School as kindergartners make the space their own for six weeks of summer school.

In other classrooms, first and second-graders sit at tables of three to four students and work with teachers on literacy — phonics, fluency and comprehension.

While Lori LaFrenz, summer school administrator and Lincoln principal, recalled Middle School Principal Nate Lange describing students walking into the first day of summer school as “headed to the gallows,” the next day students arrived excited to learn.

Summer school is for students in kindergarten, first, second and some in third grade who struggle in reading. This is the first year the program has been open to kindergarten students. The cost of the program is covered by Title 1 funding to help ensure all children meet state academic standards.

Classes are held at the middle school because the elementary school classrooms are not air-conditioned. Summer school is Monday through Thursdays from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m.

Students are eligible for summer school based on their FAST scores — a test taken three times a year. Teachers look at each students’ progress and if scores indicate a student needs some help getting caught up before next school year or teachers are worried about summer loss — loss of academic skills over the long summer months — they can recommend them for summer school.

A letter is sent home to parents at the beginning of May inviting them to enroll their students in summer school. Currently, Title 1 only supports reading programs.

This year, 80 students are enrolled in summer school. While LaFrenz estimated that 15 have not been regularly attending, overall students want to be there. There is no penalty for students who do not attend and LaFrenz said it’s better to have students there because they want to be.

There is a school bus available to shuttle students from their homes to the school and back again for parents who need it.

This is the third year the Mt. Pleasant Community School District (MPCHS) has offered summer school. While the first year didn’t show a lot of student growth, LaFrenz contrasted that to last year, when students excelled so much that the majority didn’t need to attend for a second summer.

“They were sad because they loved it,” LaFrenz said of her students who weren’t eligible for summer school this year.

“We’re really thrilled about participation and getting students excited to read and more confident in their reading and it’s just fun,” MPCSD Director of Instruction Katie Gavin said.

Summer school is broken into two parts — the first three weeks began Monday, June 18. The last three weeks bring students right up to the beginning of the regular school year. While some students do need the intensive lessons to bring them up to speed, others work on maintaining the skills they learned throughout the previous school year.

Students are placed into small groups of about the same reading level. Kindergarteners switch to a new activity every 10 minutes in their classroom. Other students transition classrooms every 35 to 40 minutes to get up and moving. “First and second-graders don’t like to sit still during the summer,” said Nicki Ensminger, summer school teacher and instructional coach at the middle school.

“One of my groups is doing amazing, and we pushed them ahead because they had the skills and were able to move on,” Ensminger said. “Some groups we find they need to slow down … We really focus on students who need that extra boost in the summer for their reading skills.”

Summer school teachers are also intentional about mixing it up during the week, giving them time to run and play in the gym and allowing iPad time on Thursdays as a reward at the end of the week.

Feedback from parents has been excellent, LaFrenz said. She even had one parent — whose third child is enrolled in summer school this year — thank her for her hard work helping the students maintain and even exceed their reading levels because of the program.

Amanda Reynolds, who is teaching four groups in phonics, said that a lot of summer school is tightening up a skill “here or there.”

Kelly Burgmeier, reading teacher, believes it’s important in maintaining students’ reading levels, saying that without summer school some students come back in the fall and are at the reading level they were the winter before.

“Being able to read is one of the most fundamental skills. It impacts all of their programs,” Burgmeier said.

Students aren’t graded over the summer, but their progress is monitored. A teacher listens to them read out loud, looks at how many errors they made and if they’re improving. “We’re consistently looking at our data,” Ensminger said.

Although the district currently only has funding for summer school with a focus on literacy, Gavin said the district has talked about looking into funding for a summer school math program. “At this point in time, we have stuck with reading and have some good success,” she said. “Our math data — we would always like to explore that option.”

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