07/27/10 — Summer practice

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Summer practice

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on July 27, 2010 1:46 PM

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Troy Herring

Carver Heights student Tanijah Cobb uses plastic colored blocks to help her solve math problems Thursday morning during summer school classes at Carver Heights Elementary. Funding cuts forced the district to limit participation in summer school last year, but this summer more than 1,200 students benefited from the extra help and enrichment classes.

Nearly 1,200 students are attending summer school this year, the largest session in years because the district has lacked funding to hold it.

Wayne County Public Schools received stimulus money to run the five-week program for its Title I schools, said Dr. Sandra McCullen, associate superintendent for curriculum and instruction.

Last year, a smaller program was made available, for kindergarten through second grade, courtesy of funds provided by the county commission. The program served about 200 students, Mrs. McCullen said.

"This one there's a lot better attendance," she said of the latest session, which wraps up Aug. 5. "The schools targeted the students that they thought would benefit the most, providing enrichment activities as well as the full-day summer school."

Fifteen area schools have been sites for the summer program, for students in kindergarten through eighth grades. Goldsboro High School was the only high school offering an abbreviated program, accessing grant money that ran out in June. Students without computers at home were also able to access the school's computer lab, through the Learn and Earn program.

Summer school enrollment has varied, Mrs. McCullen said, ranging from 33 at School Street Elementary to 183 at Spring Creek Elementary School. Attendance has been distributed across all grades -- 212 kindergartners, 233 first-graders, 191 second-graders, 199 third-graders, 157 fourth-graders, and 95 fifth-, 38 sixth-, 39 seventh- and 20 eighth-graders.

Preparation for summer school began back in February, Mrs. McCullen said. Principals and teachers also worked with parents of potential students, and the district provided transportation.

"It takes a team," she said. "We're very appreciative of the bus drivers, the teachers that are working this summer. We also have nurses and social workers so it's a full program."

The program also affords assistant principals an opportunity to gain experience at the administrative level. The district assigned several of them to work with principals at the summer school sites.

Assistant principals are assigned to two or three schools, assisting with the full-day program that includes breakfast and lunch as well as a spate of academic and enrichment activities.

Lori Goodman, assistant principal at Goldsboro High School, is serving two schools this summer, Carver Heights Elementary and Dillard Middle.

"It gives us some opportunities to practice some things that we have learned at our base schools," she explained. "It also gives us some different people to work with, such as the principal that's already there."

For struggling students, the program provides an outlet that goes beyond playing and watching TV during the summer months, she said. It gives them structure and opportunities to build and develop their skill sets.

In addition to reading, math, computer-assisted instruction, students participate in physical activity, arts and crafts and science.

By being more of an enrichment program, students as well as teachers get a chance to go beyond academics.

"We're focusing on math and reading skills (and) they participate in a computerized program to help them ramp up for next year," Ms. Goodman said. "Typically it's tied to specific weaknesses the child may have had.

"It's more of just an opportunity to enrich a large number of students and help them build skills across the board, because they're here for a full day and for five weeks, the teacher has more opportunity to know them and meet specific needs as they come up."

Students have "thoroughly enjoyed" the program's structure, said Sheri Hobbs, assistant principal at Eastern Wayne High School, assigned to three schools this summer -- Eastern Wayne, Tommy's Road and School Street elementary schools.

"(Students are) excited to be here each day and with smaller class sizes that we have, it's given them an opportunity to get more one-on-one attention," she said. "The response has been very positive from both students and parents."

Another reason for the program's success, Ms. Hobbs noted, is that it is not solely tied to promoting students from one grade level to the next.

"Each individual student has been able to be taken a step further regardless of their level," she said. "It's not been about standardized retesting and promotion. It's about actual skill mastery on an individualized basis."