Friday, April 24, 2015

Secondary summer school helps students improve grades, consolidate academic skills

From page A8 | July 13, 2014 |

The Davis school district’s secondary summer school program is well underway — the first session began on June 23 and wrapped up on Friday, a second session begins Monday and continues through July 31.

Each session features about 15 courses, in math (including algebra and geometry), geography, world civilization, biology and health.

“Our program is here to support students, and help them be more successful in school and gain confidence in their academics,” said summer school Principal Tom McHale, who is a Davis High School vice principal during the regular school year. “We help them prepare for the coming school year.

“We have some high school students who are doing credit recovery — for instance, a student who didn’t do well in world civilization (during the regular school year) and needs those credits so they can work toward graduation.

“We also have junior high courses for students who completed the seventh or eighth grade, and need support in one of their core classes,” McHale added.

There are about 230 students enrolled in each of the two summer sessions, and most students take one class per day, “so the students and the teachers can focus on that one subject. … The result is success for many students,” McHale said. “Most of them do quite well being able to focus on one subject.

“Students are able to keep up their studies from the previous year, and then they move into the fall in a better position as the new academic year starts.”

During summer school, the teachers are also beginning to introduce lesson plans reflecting the new Common Core academic standards, McHale said.

“The teachers will be going deeper into certain subject areas, and all of the classes will be using more nonfiction texts,” he explained.

During summer school, the library at Holmes Junior High is available for students, and a computer lab is open as well.

Summer school also includes programs for special education students. Steve Smyte, coordinator of special education summer school programs, said there are basically two paths — one for students who have mild to moderate disabilities, and another for students who have moderate to severe disabilities.

“The whole focus is on supporting the students so they have an equal opportunity to succeed, and support the teachers so they have the tools at their disposal to help these particular students,” Smyte said.

Smyte meets with teachers and reviews students’ academic profiles, suggesting strategies for instruction and making sure the teachers are aware of the accommodations and modifications in each student’s IEP (Individualized Education Plan). Another goal is to help special education students maintain the academic progress they made during the previous academic year.

And with older special education teens, another goal is helping them to prepare for the transition into life after high school. A variety of specialists work with students in areas identified in the student’s IEP.

“I’m glad the district has seen the value in this summer program and has supported it so richly,” Smyte said. “It’s been hugely successful. During the four years that we’ve been doing this, we’ve seen a very high pass rate for credit classes during the summer. It’s been extremely successful.

“I’ve also been impressed by how accepting the teachers are in summer school,” Smyte added. “They want to make sure that student needs are being met, and I appreciate how open they are to the strategies that we request (they consider), and how they abide by the accommodations and modifications in the IEP.”

Smyte mentioned teachers Lisa Yamasaki and Mike Inchausti, who have been working with special education students during summer school for several years.

Another area of focus during secondary summer school is migrant students. Rose Camargo, an intern from the counselor training program at Sacramento State (working on her master’s degree), is working with about a dozen migrant students — some who live at labor camps near Davis, and some who live with their families in town. Camargo is known as a MEAP adviser (Migrant Education Advisor Program).

“I give the migrant students advice on what classes they need to work on to prepare for graduation,” Camargo said. “I also do parent calls. And I go into the classroom and do tutoring, especially with the English language development students.

“Most of the migrant students in the Davis school district are here from the spring through the fall,” she said. “They leave around November, and they come back around April.”

In some cases, the migrant families return to Mexico, but the students don’t always attend school while they are there.

“It’s one of the reasons they fall behind, especially with their English,” Camargo explained.

The goal is to help the migrant students put together enough classroom credits to meet high school graduation requirements, and to help them prepare for the California High School Exit Exam.

— Reach Jeff Hudson at [email protected] or 530-747-8055. 



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