Despite Budget Cuts, Summer School Soldiers On
Summer school as usual in Newhall School District
The Newhall School District's summer school program opened June 29 for both regular education and special education students who need extra help over the long summer months.
"We felt summer school was too valuable for our students, in spite of the budget cuts we have been experiencing," said assistant superintendent Nancy Copley.
In the past, summer school revenue from the state never completely covered the cost of the program and it was slashed 20 percent this year. But Copley shifted unused grant dollars to supplement the inadequate state funding. Newhall School District coordinates major staff development training programs in conjunction with summer school and administrators felt too much would be lost for both students and teachers if the program was cancelled.
"We will be conducting training on specific strategies for working with English Language Learners and other low achievers that require teachers to observe training teachers in real classrooms, discuss what they've seen, and return to the classrooms over the course of a week," said Copley. "We value the opportunities for students and we value staff training."
While the training group is mostly Newhall teachers, there are 15 participants from the Castaic School District also participating.
Approximately 500 low achieving regular education students and English language learners who will be entering grades K-6 in the 2009-10 school year are attending the July summer session at Old Orchard School. Another 120 special education students also attend. Ken Hintz, assistant principal at Stevenson Ranch School, oversees the program.
"Our goal is to boost student achievement with some extra seat time and to deliver specialized lessons that will firm up their basic skills. We've got an intensive program planned for our students," said Hintz.
A 1996 study from the University of Missouri-Columbia conducted by education researcher Harris Cooper found that most students lose about two months of basic math skills over the summer. Low-income students lose even more in both math and reading skills.
"We have been making great strides with the achievement of our struggling students, our kids who live in poverty, and our English language learners. We try to find any opportunity for them to receive more instruction than the normal school day and year. And we know that highly trained teachers are the key to success during the regular school year," said Marc Winger, superintendent of Newhall, "So even in a budget crisis, kids come first and training is important, and we found a way to make this summer program happen."
The regular education summer school budget for expenditures in Newhall School District is approximately $93,000, allowing for about 25 students per classroom. An English Language Acquisition Program grant targeting upper grade English language learners will underwrite $18,000 of the cost. Special Education summer school is mandated and the district receives no extra funding for the program.