Image: Vincent Chong
The Greek philosopher Heraclitus once wrote, “The only constant in life is change.” This is an accurate description for OCM BOCES Regional Summer School. There are a multitude of changes occurring within the Summer School Program to better address the needs of students that attend our program. Some of the changes are minor, such as having all four locations of summer school implementing a three block schedule that has been traditionally only at the Cicero-North Syracuse and Cortland summer school sites. For the first time at summer school we will be using a universal English Language Arts (ELA) and literacy framework for all subject area teachers to incorporate and to utilize throughout the summer. Perhaps the most exciting changes occurring this summer will be the way that we provide support services to students with disabilities (SWDs) and English Language Learners (ELLs).
Providing Supports for Language Acquisition
According to the National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition, “From 1997-98 school year to the 2008-09 school year, the number of English Language Learners (Ells) enrolled in public schools increased from 3.5 million to 5.3 million (Pray, p. 1).” Combine with the increase in the number of students who qualify for ELL services, an analysis of ELL student data from the summer of 2013, found that only 52% of ELLs passed summer school courses they were enrolled. In an attempt to level the playing field for ELLs we will, for the first time, have a full-time ELL teacher and two teaching assistants to help provide supports for ELLs in and out of the classroom. For this to be effective though we need to have information about students who have ELL services during the regular school year. We will be asking school districts to supply information about ELL students to summer school staff and administration, in a similar way that school districts provide information for students with disabilities from their Individualized Education Plan (IEP). Huang & Cho stated, “Those (ELL) students who regularly attended well-structured summer programs demonstrate higher rates of attendance in school, have fewer discipline referrals, are more prepared for academic rigors of school, and demonstrate increased achievement in core academic areas such as mathematics, science, reading and language arts (Pray, p. 2).” Isn’t this what we want for all students that attend summer school? For this to happen with ELLs we need to provide structure for the language acquisition to occur in addition to the content instruction.
Providing Supports for skill Acquisition
In addition to providing more supports to ELLs this summer, another change to Regional Summer School will be a philosophical shift in the way we support students with disabilities (SWDs). After completing a similar data analysis to the one complied for the ELLs, we found the pass rates for SWDs was better than the ELLs, but still were not within an acceptable range of the population of general education students. Upon closer inspection of the pass rates of SWDs enrolled in two classes versus three courses we saw that the success rate decreased as SWDs took more courses at summer school. In an attempt to better support SWDs during summer school we will be implementing a resource model as opposed to the consultant model we have used in the past. There will still be a test center to provide a student’s test modifications, but now each student with an IEP will have a resource block to support their learning needs. Hang on a second here, I thought the title of this blog post was Leveling the Playing Field for All Students and if you just said that SWDs will be limited to two credit recovery classes and the third class in their schedule will be a resource period. The question must be asked, how is that leveling the playing field for SWDs? My response to that question would be the pass rate for SWDs would increase for the two courses they are taking outside of their resource class and SWDs will have the option to complete a third course through credit recovery software in the structured and supportive environment of their resource period. In other words, SWDs will not be missing out on any opportunities given to general education students.
We are very excited to see how these changes to the summer school program will effect student achievement this summer. Thomas Edison once said about inventing the first light bulb, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10000 ways that won’t work” and in this spirit we will continue to look at summer school data until we have a 100% pass rate for all students.
- Pray, L. (n.d.). Supporting English language learners: In-school, after school and summer. Retrieved May 14, 2014, from https://www.expandinglearning.org