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Summer school revisions revolutionize student studies

By Logan Fassbinder
posted May 26, 2011

To advance the OASD’s efforts to make schools more technologically savvy, West summer school students may find themselves experiencing a new form of learning this year. A new freshman remedial English course will be run in a mixed hybrid style of learning, in which students will complete large portions of the class online and out of the classroom. This is the first year that West will offer such a course, which was the partial brain child of English teacher Jeff See. According to those who have worked with its implementation, it marks a progressive technological milestone for the summer school program.

“We’re implementing it this summer for freshmen only. We’re the pilot case. I know that they’re looking at whether it’s a viable option for us to do, at least in summer school,” said See. “Some of the other options that we have for credit recovery are not necessarily optimal. But if this happens to work, we may spread this all the way through the grade levels.”

The course will loosen the attendance requirement of summer school classes, allowing students to attend a physical classroom class only when instructed to do so by the teacher. Whether the format will extend beyond the freshman remedial classes has yet to be seen.

“I think what we’d like to do is to expand it to other credit recovery classes,” said Summer School Coordinator Pete Cernohous. “But you’re seeing education making some drastic changes with more online and getting kids to develop their own plan of attack educationally and getting them to learn what’s tailored to them, rather than just force feeding them.”

Another advantage of the online format of the course is its ability to individualize the learning process. Coordinators praise the new teaching style for its educational precision.

“We’re trying to customize it, so that we get feedback from their freshman teachers, as to what skills are they deficient in. We will tailor summer school to that kid, based on that feedback,” said See. “So if you need help working on your writing skills, that’s what we’ll be focusing on, so that when you get to sophomore year, you’re not swimming up stream.”

Along with having partial in-class and out of class instruction, a plan is set into place to provide home visits, where a teacher will actually visit a student’s house and work with them individually.

“If a student needs one-on-one time, we can schedule it. We’re building home visits in, and that’s something that’s always been missing. The students that are in summer school are the ones we need to talk to the most during the school year, and a lot of times we don’t get to communicate with them,” said See. “For those students who are struggling, I may visit their parents and talk to them, and talk about a plan, and try to find a way to involve them in the educational process.”

The course would also allow students to work at their own pace to complete the necessary work required to finish the class. The method opens up more freedom for those students taking part.

“We have kids who couldn’t do it during a regular semester, and they need more time to process,” said See. “And so when we’re talking about the class, there might be kids who take six to eight weeks to finish freshman curriculum because of what we’re doing with this.”

The new system has received mixed reviews from the student body. Many wonder if the course will truly offer all the advantages it promises.

“If they can’t show up when they’re required to show up during the school year, with an adult present, I doubt that they’re going to be able to sit at a computer and follow a class,” said senior Kate Rosenbaum. “But I feel like if they’re required to show up to summer school and someone is present all the time, and then they’ll be able to learn.”

The dilemma of how to keep kids focused during summer school remains a pertinent question for those opposed to the new course. Considering the percentage of students who graduate from summer school often looms around the 25% mark, keeping kids motivated is a major requirement.

“One of the things that we look at is how it would be a discipline issue if it’s online,” said See. “The kid wouldn’t assume that it’s just that the teacher just doesn’t like them, so that becomes less of a problem over time.”

However, the purpose of the switch to online is to open up more freedom for students so that they will finish their work.

“Summer school is a four and half hour day for three weeks, and a large number of these kids need to get out of bed, and it’s difficult,” said Cernohous. “But I think what we find in summer school is that most kids fail because they’re unwilling to get out of bed in the morning.”

The course will also aim at stopping a vicious cycle of failure. The resource makes it easier for students to earn the skill they need, so that they do not need to retake freshman English during their sophomore years.

“It’s always tough to put a sophomore into a lower level class, because it can cause issues,” said Cernohous. “So I guess what we’re trying to do is get more kids to do their credit recovery during the summer and not during the school year.”

While there are some who doubt the advantages of the program, there are others that see the course as a step in a progressive direction for the district.

“I think it’s a good idea, because a lot of time people have other needs that they need to take care of during the summer,” said freshman Adam Long. “It’s just nice to have a back up plan instead of failing summer school and having to take the class again during the school year.”

Program coordinators remain optimistic that the course will create an increase in the success rate of remedial freshman English classes.

“By putting it in a different light, we think there’s a better chance that the kids will be willing to do it and that they’ll finish up,” said See. “But more importantly they’ve got the skills so that next year they can transition successfully to sophomore year.”

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