For some Niles district students, summer comes to early end

Published 6:48 pm Friday, August 3, 2007

By By ERIKA PICKLES / Niles Daily Star
NILES – School is only one month away, which means it's time to say so long to summer, buy new backpacks and supplies and prepare for the new school year.
Though some will enjoy these last four weeks of freedom, around 300 students have already hit the classroom.
The Niles Community Schools Summer School program started this week, marking this the second year the district has offered additional classroom help for those looking to make the most of this school year.
Jim Craig, director of curriculum for Niles Community Schools, said the decision to start summer school was based on a number of factors that all seemed to converge at the same time.
"First, the legislature moved back the starting day of school until after Labor Day – almost two weeks later than we had been starting. At the same time, we moved the MEAP test for third through eighth graders from the spring to the fall. We actually start testing now just three weeks after we are back in school. Our decision to provide summer school rests with the research that shows us that students lose ground achievement wise over the long summer vacation (this is confirmed by our own spring/fall testing) and at-risk students lose the most. Secondly, changes in the Title One grant legislation required us to spend more of our funding on interventions that did not occur during the regular school day – and summer school fits the bill, nicely," Craig explained.
Students at Oak Manor were busy Thursday afternoon, getting help in math, reading and on computers.
"Based on last year's results, we decided to offer the program again this year," Doug Langmeyer, principal at Oak Manor said. "The kids who attended summer school last year showed improvement in math and language arts."
Langmeyer pointed out that in the state's MEAP testing, math scores improved 63 percent, while language arts improved 44 percent.
"Our test results after the first year of summer school were almost too good to be true," Craig said.
Langmeyer said this will also help give many students a head start, as the summer break was longer this year than it usually is.
"We got out in May and won't start until after Labor Day. Though most kids won't admit it, I think they like the extra help and getting started earlier. Plus it gives them a chance to be with their friends," Langmeyer said.
He also added that the kids have been outstanding and that the behavior has been very good.
Summer school runs Monday through Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The students have two lunch breaks, one at 10:45 a.m. and the other at 11:15 a.m.
Sue Leslie, a sixth grade teacher at Oak Manor, said above everything else, she wants to make this fun for the students.
"So far everything is going awesome. I think this gives them an extra boost of confidence so that when they start the school year they are ready and prepared," Leslie said.
It was obvious the students enjoy what they do, as all kept busy doing problems and working in groups to help each other out.
"I feel like I am a coach for them and my goal is to convince them that they can do this. I want them to have fun and learn at the same time. That's why everyday before school is out we do some kind of fun math activity," Leslie added.
Michael Hoadley, Cicone Palmore and Brandon Willard stayed busy in another classroom, all sitting at the same table working together.
Hoadley said summer school will help him with his work and will make him want to do it more. Willard hopes the program will help him improve his grades.
"I think it will help me pay more attention in class," Palmore said.
Craig explained that the schools concentrate on math, reading and writing skills, and the teachers use state of the art materials along with our regular tools, such as Read Naturally and Successmaker. All in-class instruction is done in small groups.