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New programs boost summer school

JULIE SUTORsummit daily news
Summit Daily/Brad Odekirk Rising seventh-grader Alma Chavez takes a spelling test Tuesday in an intensive literacy class at Summit Middle School.
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SUMMIT COUNTY – During the summer, the last thing on most children’s minds is school. But that’s not the case for several dozen Summit County kids striving to improve their reading and writing skills. About 60 students – nearly 10 percent of the Summit Middle School’s population – are enrolled in summer school programs, doubling the level of participation compared to last summer.”I like being able to be a better reader and writer,” said 11-year-old Ivan Flores. “I’m learning words that I didn’t know, and I’ll be pretty well-prepared for next year.”Flores and about 25 other students are taking a six-week, intensive literacy course for children struggling with language and reading.Superintendent Millie Hamner attributes the enrollment jump to a new set of programs that cast a wider net for summer school participants. In addition to the traditional credit recovery courses, the district now offers enrichment classes like fine arts and technology – and the new intensive literacy program.”Our hope is that, through word of mouth, these programs will become even more popular and successful in future years,” Hamner said. “Students can now earn elective credit during the summer, and we’ve also really focused more on kids in need of intervention.”Hamner is particularly enthused about the intensive literacy class, Foundation of Analysis, Synthesis and Translation (FAST), versions of which are also available at the elementary and high school levels for the first time this summer. The invitation-only program targets students who aren’t reading at grade level.

“It’s a multisensory approach to teaching reading, and there’s a body of evidence that shows this really works,” Hamner said.P is for progressFlores is excited about the progress he’s making, even though he appeared fidgety during class on Tuesday.”Last year, when I took the CSAP, there were some pretty hard words I didn’t know how to pronounce. I just had to skip them and it made me angry. I think I’ll understand it better next year,” Flores said.Seventh-grader Benjamin Antillon, a soft-spoken native of Mexico, is also making strides.”Last year was my first year here, and I didn’t know any English,” Antillon said. “I only read little books in English, but now I’m learning more words, I’m better at spelling and I can read bigger books.

“Before, when I talked to people who spoke only English, I was shy. Now, I don’t get shy too often,” Antillon said.And neither boy is too distraught over trading in a little summer sunshine for new reading skills.”If you know English, you can go to very good schools in Mexico and have a good job,” Antillon said.”It’s really not that bad,” Flores said. “I’m here for the morning, then I get a cappuccino at 7-Eleven, I go home, and then I go swimming at the rec center.”L is for lessons to learnOn Tuesday morning, teacher Debbie Ruckriegle led 11 students through spelling and vocabulary lessons and a variety of reading and writing exercises. Ruckriegle talked to the students as she collected their written responses to “Moonlight Tales.”

“These are very, very good reflections,” she said, “compared to the first reflections you wrote.”Pending successful results this summer, FAST will continue during the regular school year as part of the district’s efforts to boost reading proficiency. Teachers who received FAST training to teach classes this summer will give the program a jump-start for the fall.”They’re reading, and they’re enjoying it,” Ruckriegle added. “They’re not reading because they have to. They want to know what’s happening in the world around them. Every day, one of them walks in with a newspaper in their hand.”Ruckriegle and her fellow teachers received classroom instruction on FAST before the program began, in-classroom feedback from the district’s literacy specialist and another dose of classroom training after the program had been in session for three weeks.”We think we’ve got a very successful model here. I’d be really surprised if we didn’t see big gains in the students,” Hamner said.Julie Sutor can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 203, or at jsutor@summitdaily.com.


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