Bibb schools committee recommends ending summer school

Bibb County school officials are steps closer to ending the summer school program for elementary and middle school students, replacing it with an aggressive year-end remedial curriculum to save the school system money and reach more students.

Members of the Bibb County school board are expected to vote next week to finalize the plan, which will eliminate the June summer opportunity program for the majority of Bibb students seeking extra tutoring after failing the math section of the state’s Criterion-Referenced Competency Test. A record high number enrolled in 2008.

The Fiscal/Support Services Committee voted Thursday to recommend that the school board eliminate the program.

Instead of asking elementary and middle school students who fail to come to school for four weeks in June for extra help, teachers will tutor struggling students during the last month of the school year, in May.

The change would adjust the dates of Bibb’s CRCT original testing window from April 21-30, to about a week earlier, April 14-23.

Test score results should be returned to schools the first week of May. From April 27 to May 22, all students would get remediation on the exam.

Students projected not to meet standards and those failing reading or math, or both, would get four weeks of remediation in May. Other students would get help accelerating on the next year’s exams.

“This allows us to reach everyone, of course the students who really need the work but also the students who might be right there on that bubble of making an A,” said school board President Lynn Farmer. “I’m excited by the accelerated component, which was not a factor in regular summer school.”

Students would continue to have physical education, art, music or their gifted classes, but during math or reading class times, students would be pulled from their homeroom classes and regrouped so that those who are weakest in reading or math would be with the strongest reading and math teachers, as shown on class test score data.

Those who excel would also be regrouped together for classes and start on harder work. Gifted teachers and other school staff may be pulled in to help with remediation or acceleration. Retests would be held June 1-3, a week after school ends. Students would be bused in to take the exams at their home schools while assistant principals are still on contract.

Results from the retests should be available by the middle of June, much earlier than last year when some students didn’t learn of their promotion status until the day before school started.

Dr. Jerri Hall, principal at Rutland Middle School and director of the summer opportunity program, said the new program will better achieve the goals of summer school.

“Remediation has always been considered an option. You ask the children to show up, but they don’t always show up. Sometimes their family situations prevent them from showing up. The students are in a new school, a foreign learning element. The teachers aren’t in their own classroom or using their own materials,” Hall said. “With the stakes as they are, it can’t be done this way. If we’re going to follow the tenets of No Child Left Behind, we have to re-evaluate our approach.”

Bibb principals met for a session last month to discuss ideas to save money, including doing away with the summer school program for elementary and middle school students.

The program redesign is expected to save the system approximately $700,000 in salaries and benefits as it seeks to cut costs across the board because of an expected $3.2 million funding shortage from the state budget.

Other cost-saving proposals include canceled vehicle purchases for the campus police and maintenance departments, which have no vehicles on reserve, adjusted fuel expenditures, reductions in supplies and travel, and other cutbacks in salaries and benefits.

Summer school programs for high school students, such as for Georgia High School Graduation Test remediation or to earn academic credit, will remain intact, school officials said.

About 13 percent of students attended the summer opportunity program in 2008 to retake state exams or get remediation. The high number of enrollees was comprised of mostly eighth-graders, according to school officials.

The program had grown so massive that it had to be held in six different school buildings and required 185 teachers to tutor students and 61 buses to transport them.

But students’ test scores after summer school didn’t necessarily reflect success, and principals complained that not every student who needed to go attended.

This was apparent in third-grade reading. Of the 382 students who needed to attend summer school and pass reading on the CRCT retest, just 150 (about 40 percent) ended up passing summer school.

Diana Rodgers, Bibb’s deputy superintendent of teaching and learning, said school staff began receiving training to implement smaller models of the new program in 2003.

“This is a model that we’ve had in place to an extent,” she said.

Rodgers could not confirm hard testing goals but said school officials will be tracking scores from this year’s first and second test administrations, as well as the test results for the accelerated students next year.

“My goal would be that every student in our system be in an exceeding range,” she said.

Information from The Telegraph’s archives was used in this report. To contact writer Ashley Tusan Joyner, call 744-4347.