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Summer school session ends

by Merrie Leininger, Record-Courier staff writer

There are some very relieved students and teachers in Douglas County today.

Friday was the last day of a six-week summer school that offered, for the first time, remediation classes for competency-related material.

It also was the first summer school session offered at the middle school level. More than 100 students in 7th and 8th grade attended classes at Carson Valley Middle School, which included an English as a second language class. Whittell High School held classes for 33 students in grades 7 through 11, in addition to special workshops for immigrant children.

Some 212 students in grades 9 through 11 attended classes at Douglas High School. Course offerings included a work experience class for students with special needs and an elective weight lifting class.

Special education teacher Brad Newlon, who teaches American government in Douglas’ summer school, was in charge of taking care of students’ and teachers’ needs during the summer sessions.

He said there were a few organizational problems in the beginning because the school went from offering five courses to 11 subjects. For the first time, the district provided transportation, as mandated by the state.

Previously, Douglas offered government, English and math proficiency classes. This year, two English I classes, an integrated math class, a reading class, world history and science were offered.

Students who took competency remediation classes didn’t have to pay the tuition that students earning credits did.

Students and teachers gained knowledge from the experience, Newlon said.

“There were some organizational issues, but the teaching staff did a great job and they did it on their own. We didn’t have mass confusion like we should have,” Newlon said.

He credits the solid four hours students spent on a single subject every day as the main reason students gained so much from summer school.

“Success in the class has been high. There were a lot less discipline problems, a lot less attendance issues. When you are in one class all day, it becomes real effective because you don’t have distractions. In the competency classes of world history and science, all those kids met the requirements to move on,” he said. “And as far as I know, all the 9th grade students passed their English class so they can come to the high school next year.”

He said the teachers will probably meet during the school year to discuss issues that need ironing out, because the summer school will continue to offer the expanded remediation programs.

“We are trying to make summer school like the other remediation programs, like night school and the alternative school, and if we are going to be held to those standards, the district needs to provide administrative support. Now we don’t have an administrator who oversees summer school,” he said.

He also said the blocks of time make it difficult for special education students to get the kind of individualized attention they need. Newlon said the 13 teachers who taught at DHS this summer had widely varied class sizes.

“Some only had five or six students while Mr. (Rod) Hearn’s English class had 31,” he said.

n CVMS. Cris Etchegoyhen, who acted as administrator for the middle schools’ summer school while Principal Rita Elliot was on vacation, said the district’s first summer school went well.

“This was a big step for us. We haven’t offered middle school summer school ever that I know of. It was difficult to plan because the students were invited based on their grades and test results, and because grades aren’t ready until the very end of the year and the tests took place in late spring, we didn’t know how many kids to expect. That’s like fixing the flat tire while the car is moving,” she said.

However, once things got rolling, the students gained a lot of ground, in part because of the four-hour blocks of class time.

Seven classes were offered at the school this summer: two math classes (one for competency remediation and one for credit); two competency reading classes; two credit English classes; and one English as a second language class.

“I was really impressed in the last two weeks with the quality of learning and the teachers’ energy,” Etchegoyhen said.

She said in the last couple of days, students have taken computerized Achievement Level Tests to compare their growth after summer school. She said many students made larger gains than expected at that grade level.

“We had kids with gains of 10 or more points, so that was pretty impressive,” she said. “The kids kind of had a new focus. They believe they can, so we’re hoping they will go back to school with a little more effort. In general, it’s been time well spent for everyone.”