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July 11, 2013
Summer Quest kicks off second year with NYC-themed learning
Chancellor Dennis Walcott asked elementary school students questions about the maps they were making of New York City and the Bronx. This morning, after the class of rising fourth-graders at P.S. 211 established what they want to know about the Bronx, they divided into four different groups to come up with projects that would help teach them. One group wanted to know what animals live in the Bronx, so they decided to create a magazine about wildlife. Another group wanted to know what some of the most famous restaurants are in the Bronx, so they're creating a menu for their own Arthur Avenue eatery. Their project-based learning is the hallmark of the Department of Education's Summer Quest program, which is designed to prevent students from losing ground over the summer. It differs from regular summer school, which is geared toward helping students pass state math and reading exams, because it enrolls students who struggle but are not the lowest-performing, a rarity among city-funded summer programs. Summer Quest, which is part of Chancellor Dennis Walcott's focus on middle schools, launched last year with 1,120 elementary and middle school students in 12 schools and includes 1,800 students this year. Community-based organizations including the Children's Aid Society, Building Educated Leaders for Life, and Good Shepherd Services have partnered with 11 South Bronx schools to provide staff and support services for five-week, nine-hour-a-day program. At P.S. 211, which Chancellor Dennis Walcott toured Thursday morning, the theme for all Summer Quest learning is "Our New York City." Students in different classrooms drew maps of the Bronx and its landmarks, sketched and shared objects that were significant to their cultures, learned to cook a vegetable frittata, and practiced a choreographed dance routine — which Walcott enthusiastically joined.
June 28, 2013
City schools struggle to connect students with summer options
Lettie Edgerton says it's a struggle to keep her granddaughter Kyndal busy over the summer. Jovani Nias’s 21 years as a mail carrier in Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn has given her unique insight into how families in the neighborhood spend the year. Now that school is out, she said, differences among families even in the same building are even more obvious. “You see some kids leaving for programs or summer school, and the other kids are just out, hanging on the corners," Nias said. Which direction a student takes over the summer can change the course of her education. Researchers have pegged students’ academic regression — known as the “summer slide” — as the equivalent of two months of school or more. Students who are occupied in summer learning are more likely to sustain their progress from the previous year. But whether city students can avoid the summer slide is often a matter of luck, depending largely on how their school’s approach to summer learning and their family’s access to information that schools don’t always provide. “There are opportunities that are invisible in my community that are more visible in other communities,” said Sheryl Davis, a Brooklyn parent. “We all have that conversation, what are you kids doing this summer? And I find that a lot of schools do not help with that.”
August 6, 2012
P-TECH students act as teachers in summer geometry course
Seifullah (left) cuts a paper cylinder into circles to teach P-TECH students at one table for a lesson on how to calculate volume. All but a handful of ninth- and 10th-graders at Pathways in Technology Early College High School have an ambitious summer goal: to pass the Regents exam in geometry before school starts in September. To that end, they are enrolled in a six-week long summer enrichment class meant to get them up to speed on the information technology-themed school's academic expectations and prepare them to take the state's geometry exam this month. Classes are long — two to four hours each morning — and involve a mix of group projects, drills, homework, and writing assignments. GothamSchools spent the morning in one marathon math class two weeks before the Aug. 16 exam. As the students worked in pairs on projects, four teachers hovered above, sometimes chiming in with explanations of geometry concepts and sometimes reigning students in when they wandered off-task. After class, the lead teacher, Jamilah Seifullah, explained how she kept track of the students and what she wanted them to learn. As when we chronicled Ryan Hall's math class in May, we've included Seifullah's commentary in block quotes beneath our observations. Seifullah, who taught geometry to a small cohort of advanced math students last spring in the school's first year, took turns directing the class with Rachel Jamison, an English teacher who is pitching in with math instruction this summer. Jamison is also offering English lessons, but not for credit and during a shorter class period. With the Regents exam approaching, she and Seifullah agreed to combine the classes for longer math sessions, but weave in tasks that build literacy skills. 10 a.m. Already, 32 P-TECH students had been working in pairs on a major assignment for almost an hour. Sitting at round tables in groups of five or six, each pair was using a computer to put the finishing touches on presentations on various geometry concepts, such as surface area and the isosceles triangle theorem, they would later present to their classmates.
July 9, 2012
Schools that build summer "bridges" for students pay a price
Ninth-graders at PTECH work on algebra problems in May. On a muggy August afternoon last year, nearly 75 Bronx students could be found playing orchestra instruments to the tune of Duke Ellington's C Jam Blues in the auditorium of M.S. 223. They were gathered to mark the close of three weeks of arts, music, and math instruction they received through the school's first summer "bridge" program. M.S. 223 is one of dozens of city middle and high schools to invite to incoming students for summer classes meant to immerse them in school culture and prevent them from forgetting what they learned the previous year. "Summer bridge is important because we think of our model as a year-round school," said Rashid Davis, principal of Brooklyn's nascent Pathways in Technology Early College High School. "That way we’re not dealing with that summer learning loss than can go from two to four months of material, especially for high-poverty students. We can't expect them to magically come in here with the skills they need." Indeed, researchers have pegged students' regression — known as the "summer slide" — at the equivalent of two months of school or more. City officials recognize the challenge: This summer, the Department of Education is piloting a small program in the South Bronx for students who are struggling but not failing. But the funding for that program, Summer Quest, comes from private donors. Public funds, for the most part, are earmarked only for the thousands of students across the city who are required to attend summer school because of low test scores or poor grades. That means schools that develop programs for incoming students who aren't already in trouble are on their own to scrounge up funding.
December 16, 2011
More students in summer school this year, and more promoted
Five days before the official start to winter, the Department of Education has finished crunching numbers from summer school — and found that nearly one in five students told to attend shouldn't have had to. Of the elementary and middle school students whose test scores were so low that they had to attend summer school, two thirds were promoted in August, according to data the DOE released today. The numbers also show that thousands more high school students than usual signed up for summer classes when it looked like they wouldn't have a chance to retake Regents exams in January. Over 17,000 more high school students enrolled in summer school than in 2010, likely driven by the news that the state had voted to eliminate the January Regents exam administration, often used to retake failed tests required for graduation. The exams were reinstated in August, after the summer session had ended. Elementary and middle school students have less choice about whether to attend summer school. In those grades, whether a student is promoted depends on his state test scores. But the city doesn't find out students' scores until August, when summer school is already over. So every year, the city must predict whether a student is likely to pass the state exam — and tell those who seem likely to fail to register for summer classes. This year, the city told 34,069 students in grades 3-8 that they should attend summer school — or about 9 percent of all students in those grades. But 6,245 of those students actually passed the tests with a score of 3 or 4.
July 14, 2011
To fill budget gap, principal jumps back into gym teacher role
Principal Diahann Malcolm, at center, leads two students in rope-jumping drills during gym class. Students who failed gym last year at the High School of Law Enforcement and Public Safety have an unlikely teacher in their makeup class this summer: their principal, Diahann Malcolm. For 90 minutes on each of the school’s 27 days of summer classes, Malcolm is setting aside her considerable administrative duties to coax coach potatoes and class clowns into breaking a sweat. Malcolm began her career three decades ago as a physical education teacher and she falls easily back into the role each day, donning a Nike tracksuit and showing off her own athletic abilities, honed through decades of distance running and competitive rope-jumping. But it was budget cuts, not her love of fitness, that pushed Malcolm back into the classroom. HSLEPS doesn’t look like a school in fiscal distress. The school occupies its own 7-year-old, six-story building in a low-slung section of central Queens. Inside the sun-drenched, colorful space, there are two large gyms, a library with a balcony overlooking Jamaica, a mock courtroom, gleaming science labs, and rooms of computers on every floor. But like all city schools, HSLEPS is contending with its third straight year of budget cuts. Several years ago, Malcolm said, she could pay four teachers to offer summer classes. Now, she can only afford two.
June 13, 2011
9 percent of third through eighth graders sent to summer school
Nearly 35,000 elementary and middle school students are being told this week that they should attend summer school based on their low test scores, the city Department of Education announced today. The figure — 34,069 students between third and eighth grade, to be precise — represents nine percent of all students in those grades. And it is an increase of more than 10,000 from the number of students recommended for summer school last year. As part of Mayor Bloomberg's vaunted initiative to end what he calls "social promotion," students who do not pass annual state English and math exams must either attend summer school or repeat their grade. The figures released today are the first public indication of what city students' performance on state tests this year might look like. The results have not yet been released.
September 23, 2010
Half of all summer school students have to repeat a grade
Confronted with heightened standards on the state exams, only half of all summer school students graduated to the next grade this year, city officials said today. New York State education officials made the annual math and English exams more difficult to pass this year after realizing that, over the course of the last three years, the tests had become too easy. As a result, the number of students who failed the exams and had to attend summer school rose from 10,000 in 2009 to about 22,800 this year. But even after weeks of summer school, the bar remained too high for many students to pass. Roughly 11,500 failed the exams again on the second try and are being held back. The other 11,300 passed the tests and have advanced to the next grade. Last year, when students sat for the then less-difficult exams, about 80 percent were promoted onto the next grade at the end of summer school.
July 29, 2010
Told they passed, thousands of students failed state exams
Thousands of students are moving up to the next grade this fall even though they failed last year's state reading and math tests. Caught between two sets of conflicting test standards — one produced by the city, one by the state — over 10,000 students were wrongly labeled as passing or failing. Some of them, about 1,807, will get to skip the last week of the summer session, which they had attended unnecessarily. The new state standards show that these students passed their exams. But the vast majority of them, about 8,500, were initially told they passed and will shortly learn that they actually failed. City education officials have decided to promote these students to the next grade level, though in a typical year they might have been held back. A teacher emailed to say that a few eighth graders at his school were told they passed the test, but the state's cutoff scores now show that they failed. Still, they will begin high school in the fall.
July 23, 2010
Summer school enrollment up, but could drop next week
Source: NYC DOE The number of students enrolled in summer school has increased more than 16 percent compared to the same time last summer. That's according to a snapshot of summer school enrollment and attendance from Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week that city officials released today. The jump isn't a surprise. This year, the city and state raised the bar that determines who passes the state exams and who falls into the low-scoring range that requires them to attend summer school. But the number of students compelled to attend summer classes could fall next week, when the state releases the official results of its third- through eighth-grade math and reading exams. Because the state delayed its testing schedule this year, the city set its own cutoffs that were used only to decide who would be sent to summer school. It's possible that some students marked as failing under the city's provisional scoring could end up officially scoring high enough to be promoted to the next grade without the extra class time. If that happens, the students will be given the option to drop out of their summer classes.
June 4, 2010
New testing schedule complicates NYC's summer school plans
When the state announced plans to push back the date of the annual tests, some teachers and administrators bristled. But now the change is complicating a rite of passage: figuring out which students are promoted to the next grade and which are going to summer school. This year's delayed testing schedule puts New York City in the awkward position of choosing which students to send to summer school without knowing whether they passed the state's annual math and English exams. Currently, schools have their students' raw test scores, but they don't know whether the scale score passes the official state cut-off for passing, because the state hasn't set cut-off scores yet. In response, the city is working with the state to set their own cutoff scores months before the official results come out in August.
October 20, 2008
Course credit requirements for middle schoolers?
Should middle school students have to earn credits in specific courses in order to graduate and enter high school? That’s what middle school teacher…
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