Summer school offers chance to catch up, get ahead
By Kathryn Schiliro
At Morgan County Middle and High schools, the end of the 2008-2009 regular school year and onset of the summer holiday didn’t mean empty halls. Both schools hosted summer school programs to allow students who fell behind in their classes to make-up coursework, and students took advantage of the opportunity.
Morgan County Middle School
At Morgan County Middle School, 32 students were enrolled and attended summer school, which ran for two weeks – from June 8 to June 19.
Of those 32 students, 28 recovered credit, according to Kemberly Williams, Morgan County Middle School’s summer school administrator. Last year, 88 students enrolled and attended summer school, and 80 recovered credit.
Because classes are based on Georgia Performance Standards (GPS) – or recently implemented Georgia Department of Education-sanctioned curriculum meant to bring the state up to speed with the nation in terms of education – the student must master the standards to pass the class. The amount of time spent in summer school is based on how many of the standards a student has demonstrated he/she grasps; whether the student came in knowing all but one of the standards or none, mastering the standards means passing the class.
“Students who are retained in their grade for failing two or three year-long classes can attend summer school to make-up credit,” Williams said, in an e-mail correspondence. “The students are taught GPS standards. Depending on the number of classes failed, the student may have to attend a full day or half-day.”
This year, four teachers taught the sixth, seventh and eighth grade summer school classes, and charter funding was used to cover the costs of summer school at Morgan County Middle School.
Morgan County High School
There were 186 students enrolled in summer school classes at Morgan County High School this past summer, which lasted from June 8 to July 24. As a result, 220 credits were recovered, according to Dr. Mary Ann Slaughter, Morgan County High School’s summer school coordinator.
However, like Morgan County Middle School, summer school isn’t based on classes per se, it’s based on standards.
“Students had to meet the standards teachers set…and teachers gave assignments based on the standards not met,” Slaughter said. “The time they had to stay was based on the number of standards [a student had] to meet.”
And because students knew they could leave when they were done, Slaughter encountered no discipline problems.
“Things ran so smoothly,” Slaughter said. “It was like, ‘Here’s what you have to do; when you finish, you can go.’”
Not all of the students present in Morgan County High School’s halls over the summer were recovering credits. Programs at the school over the summer also included an ROTC Leadership Program, SAT and Georgia High School Graduation Test preparatory courses, and Culinary and Visual Arts classes for students who wanted to take them but couldn’t fit the courses into their schedule otherwise.
While there were four teachers – one for each subject area – present at all times for the summer school crowd, more than a dozen teachers took part in programs over the summer.
Charter school funds paid for summer school, and students taking part in programs like the Culinary and Visual Arts classes paid a $50 fee to participate.
Morgan County High School’s Freshman Academy and
Principal Dr. Mark Wilson credits the school’s Freshman Academy with decreasing the number of students that attend summer school.
“There are fewer [students] at summer school because of Freshman Academy,” Wilson said.
The program is “big on transitions,” according to Assistant Principal and Freshman Academy administrator Davis Bell.
“Ninth is a tough grade,” Freshman Academy English/Language Arts teacher Dana Buxton said. “In 10th grade, high school is not a novelty, but you have to be sure students don’t become disengaged.”
To this end, as the school year drew to a close, Freshman Academy teachers altered their schedules. In the morning, they practiced enrichment activities – exercises to prepare students for 10th grade classes and curriculum – with students who were not in danger of failing courses. “The goal of the enrichment activities was to prepare students for tenth grade,” Bell said. “To make sure they were engaged.”
The Freshman Academy teachers met with 10th grade teachers to learn what their first units would be; consequently, they gave passing students a leg up on their coursework. In English/Language Arts, students worked on an autobiographical poem, as they just studied poetry, to be part of their 10th-grade “Me Board.” In Math, they practiced Algebra and Geometry through an exercise that required they determine how many basketballs could fit in a classroom. They also brushed up on their note-taking skills.
In the afternoon, these students went to gym to play basketball while Freshman Academy teachers gave extra help to those struggling to pass their courses.
“Every student we worked with in the afternoon successfully passed a class,” Mark Argo, Freshman Academy Mathematics teacher, said.
“We probably recaptured 40 or 50 credits,” Bell said. “We plan to make this an annual thing.”