Hundreds of local students will spend part of their summer strengthening their reading skills or taking elective classes they don’t have time for during the school year.
The summer courses offered by local schools are essential because they give students opportunities to catch up and review lessons they don’t quite understand and to work ahead, school officials said.
Districts are required to provide refresher courses for the third-graders who failed the spring IREAD-3 exam, which students have to pass before moving on to fourth-grade reading lessons. Those students will take the test again this summer.
A total of 165 Johnson County third-graders failed the exam the first time.
Other students in various grades will have the chance to either make up courses they failed or take new ones, depending on their school district.
High school students at Center Grove, Franklin and Greenwood can work ahead taking courses such as economics, government and algebra online so they can free up space in their schedule during the school year. Franklin also is offering classes for incoming freshmen who aren’t reading at grade level and for students who have failed the Algebra I or English 10 end-of-course assessments required for graduation.
The three school districts also offer classes for students in elementary through middle school.
At Greenwood that includes classes intended to catch up students who are still trying to master core math and language arts skills. Center Grove is offering a summer class that will prepare middle school students for honors classes.
Not all school districts offer summer school because the state doesn’t cover all of the cost. Indiana might pay for about 60 percent of the cost of teaching a core subject, such as math or English, and not cover any of the cost of an elective, such as band.
Most of those expenses are for the teachers who lead the summer courses, and school districts have to make up the amount not covered by the state. Some can’t afford to, Greenwood assistant superintendent of learning Rick Ahlgrim said.
But it’s worth the expense if schools can find the money, because summer courses can build on the lessons students learned last school year and better prepare them for their lessons in the fall, school officials said.
“The only reason we have money is to spend it on kids and help strengthen their academics,” Ahlgrim said. “We wouldn’t be offering these courses unless we felt (they) were important for the upcoming school year.”
Near the end of each school year, school districts start counting the number of students who might qualify for or be interested in summer school and then figure out how much it would cost to pay for teachers and supplies for those courses. Once all of Indiana’s schools have sent those numbers to the state, officials tell schools how much they could receive for their summer school programs.
But that’s not the final amount.
Some school districts will decide they don’t have enough money for summer school, which means more funding for those that do, Ahlgrim said. Districts typically cover the remaining costs with money they received to pay for teachers during the regular school year and with federal Title 1 dollars that pay for programs for students from low-income families.
Greenwood will use Title 1 dollars to offer math and language arts courses to elementary students whose parents and teachers thought they could use extra help in the core subjects. Greenwood typically tries to offer summer classes for elementary students, and this is the first year the school district will offer similar courses for middle school students, Ahlgrim said.
“We felt it was important enough to support students ahead of next year’s work,” he said.
Greenwood is finalizing the number of elementary and middle school students who will take the summer refresher courses, which are voluntary and will start later this month, Ahlgrim said.
This is the second time Franklin has offered summer courses for students who failed one or both of the end-of-course assessments and the first year it has offered a reading course to incoming freshmen.
Forty-seven Franklin students are taking summer end-of-course assessment classes, and nine incoming ninth-graders are taking the reading class.
One of the high school’s goals is to boost students’ graduation rate, which hit 93 percent for the first time during the 2012-2013 school year; and ensuring more students pass end-of-course assessments is a way to keep the rate going up, assistant principal Scott Martin said. High school officials also wanted to ensure the students who aren’t reading at grade level are better prepared for the reading lessons they’ll have this fall, Martin said.