Makeover Planned for Summer School

By Suzanne La Barre
Tuesday April 18, 2006

Traditional summer school isn’t working. 

Rather than give it the heave-ho—the popular choice of most students—the Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) is exploring alternative models.  

According to Neil Smith, district director of educational services, research suggests that standard summer school fails to adequately improve student performance. 

“We’ve been trying to come up with a different method for years,” said district spokesman Mark Coplan. 

The solution was to charge principals with the task of revamping summer school, under the premise that site-specific programs will best address student needs. 

For the pre-elementary school lot, Rosa Parks will offer a five-week bridge program starting July 24. Funded by Alameda County First 5, the program will give literacy exposure and medical screenings to 36 students who have not completed pre-school. Parent training is also included in the program. 

Three elementary schools will extend the school year for continuing students who struggle in reading and math. Cragmont students will undergo a six-week, all-day academic support and enrichment program, and teachers at Thousand Oaks plan to hold an Institute for Special Education students from June 19 to July 14.  

At Rosa Parks, 20 continuing students will take part in a new course that fuses intensive academic intervention with professional development. About 10 teachers will participate in instructional workshops, then practice what they’ve learned in the classroom. 

“We’re trying to provide a high quality intervention environment and do something new with teachers,” said Tom Prince, a literacy intervention teacher at Rosa Parks. “The staff development portion will help with the quality of instruction, and because there are extra teachers, the kids will get more individualized attention.” 

Berkeley’s three middle schools will host four weeks of math and English instruction, four hours a day, to students who have failed those classes, in addition to special education courses. 

Summer school at Berkeley High School won’t change—students who need credits will still take standard courses—but administrators are considering an option for students to attend evening classes starting this fall. 

Summer school programs are estimated to set the district back $350,000; $300,000 will be covered by intervention funds, and the remaining $50,000 will come from school site fundss. 

The Berkeley Board of Education is slated to approve the new batch of summer programs Wednesday..