Mandan News

Wilfred Volesky: A look at mandatory summer school

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This past summer at a school board retreat one of the goals that the Mandan School Board created was to make summer school mandatory for some students. The purpose of this goal was to require K-12 students that were struggling to meet district/state academic standards or that did not meet the district’s attendance guidelines to attend summer school. By creating this goal it was also the school board’s intent to let building principals, students and parents know they support and believe that having students attend summer school would help them become academically successful.

The school principals soon learned creating this goal was easy, but putting the guidelines in place for mandatory summer school was a difficult process. The school principals at each level-K-5, 6-8 and 9-12 were directed to establish the criteria that would be followed to determine which students would be required to attend summer school.

The principals worked for several months this fall to create the guidelines. During those several months the principals debated a variety of guidelines they felt would help a student develop good reading, writing and math foundational skills. Each time they decided upon a particular guideline, they found that there were some drawbacks that would make the guideline difficult to implement.

At the elementary level, the principals decided students in grades K-2 would not be included in the summer school guidelines, since many of these students that have deficient academic skills are already attending Title I or district offered summer school. In grades 3-5 the criteria established required a student to qualify in one of two criteria in the standardized testing area and in one of two criteria in the attendance/grades area. The two criteria in the standardized testing area were:

1) A student scores 25 percent or lower score on a Northwest Evaluation Association Measures of Academic Progress test in Reading or Math

2) A student is partially proficient or novice on the North Dakota State Assessment

The two criteria in the attendance/grades area were:

1) Had 15 absences or more during the school year

2) Had a D or F in either Reading or Math class.

At the middle school level the guidelines established for mandatory summer attendance were:  

1) Any student that failed Language Arts, Mathematics, Science or Social Studies during the school year.

2) Any student who failed to demonstrate proficiency or above on the state assessment or did not earn a grade level RIT score on the NWEA MAP test.

3) Any student who violated the maximum allowable days absent under the District’s Attendance Policy. A failure to achieve any of the three guidelines above would qualify a student for mandatory summer school.

At the high school level it was more difficult to establish mandatory summer school guidelines. The NDSA assessment test that was used at both the elementary and middle school level is taken by only juniors rather than all high school students. The NWEA MAP tests are taken by ninth and tenth grade students, but not juniors and seniors.

Since both of these tests are not taken by all high school students, it was difficult to incorporate either of these tests in the guidelines for mandatory summer school. The high school principals also had a concern that requiring students to attend summer school would encourage some students to drop out of school, which is contrary to a current high school goal of decreasing the dropout rate. They also argued that at the present time over 50 percent of the high school students were attending summer school. So for many students, summer school was already a part of their yearly schedule.

At the Nov. 2 school board meeting, these guidelines were presented to the school board. There was a great deal of discussion that brought up a variety of questions, which required additional information not available at the meeting.

So the school board decided to have a board retreat on Nov. 23 to further discuss mandatory summer school. Administrators were asked to have the necessary information prepared that could help answer the questions that arose at the meeting.

At the Nov. 23 board retreat the principals presented additional information on the guidelines they had prepared for mandatory summer school. School board members continued to question the principals in regards to the guidelines and the manner in which the guidelines would be implemented. After an exhausting two hours of discussion, a decision on mandatory summer school still had not been made.

At the end of the evening it was decided that we would continue with our present policy on summer school attendance. During the discussion the K-8 principals informed the school board that for the 2009 summer school program they called the parents of the students that they felt needed to be in summer school. In most cases when the parents were called they agreed to have their son or daughter attend summer school, since they understood the value of additional skill development for their child. The school board agreed since we had success in getting most of the parents and students to attend summer school we should continue with this same practice.

For the foreseeable future summer school will not be mandatory. However, the school board indicated at the end of the 2010 summer school they want to know what percentage of students targeted to attend summer school actually attended. If we are successful in getting parents of students who are not proficient on the N.D. State Assessment or do not show at least a year’s growth on the NWEA MAP tests in Reading, Language Arts and Math and who violate their school’s attendance policy to send their students to summer school, we will continue to follow the present summer school policy. If we are not successful in getting these students to summer school, we more than likely will see mandatory summer school a part of the Mandan School District’s future.