Minds are engaged, knowledge is shared, and learning is accelerated during summer school in the Johnston Community School District.
Approximately 100 students entering grades 1-5 from Wallace, Beaver Creek, and Horizon elementaries have spent a month at Beaver Creek Elementary, refining math and reading skills to jump start their learning for 2013-14 school year. A similar session is held at Lawson Elementary for Timber Ridge and Lawson students.
“Teachers and principals invited students to attend the short summer session to give them a boost in the classroom,” said summer school administrator Josh Morgan. Morgan, who serves as the assistant principal at Timber Ridge during the school year, said the month-long school provides students with specialized attention in small groups they might not get during the normal school year.
“We have 15 teachers and [high school and college] student helpers in the classrooms,” Morgan said. “Students start the day at 8:30 a.m., spend half the day reading, take a short recess, then spend the last half of their time practicing Everyday Math skills. Our ‘day’ ends at 11:30 a.m.”
Each class has between five and nine students for small, targeted instruction. Beaver Creek fourth grade teacher Nick Gomez said the set up for summer school automatically lends itself to student success.
“Our [summer school] schedule is more relaxed [than the regular school year],” Gomez said. “Students have flexibility and freedom in learning at their own pace. We’re able to spend more time making sure all the concepts become familiar and useful to students.”
Students are given a baseline reading assessment upon starting summer school and another when they are wrapping up classes. When the regular school year starts, their teachers will watch for improved reading, vocabulary/speech, and comprehension skills. No formal math assessment is given.
“The great thing about this kind of environment is that students soon realize they’re having fun while they’re learning – there aren’t any stigmas attached to being here,” Gomez said. “They know it’s important to make up some missed skills so they can start the next year on the right foot.”
Morgan said ongoing learning and reading during summer months does much to help students retain skills and knowledge from one school year to the next. The district offers summer learning opportunities most years.
“The feedback from both parents and students has been great,” Morgan said. “Kids are enjoying their time here and will reap the rewards of their hard work when school starts in August. That’s a great feeling for everyone.”