SOMSD Interested in Increasing Summer Program Enrollment

by The Village Green
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After a presentation Monday night by South Orange-Maplewood Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Susan Grierson on the results of the school district’s summer programs, Board of Education members agreed that more should be done to increase enrollment.

In all, 725 students “spent time in our schools this summer in a variety of programs,” said Grierson. The programs included: Cougar Prep, Summer Step Up, Academic Advancement, Academic Support, Credit Recovery, ELL (English Language Learning), Extended School Year, and the FAST program providing support for summer reading and requirement for Columbia High School students.

All of the programs are described below in Grierson’s presentation.

In a nod to complaints about 5th to 6th grade math placement notification last year, Grierson said that “going forward the takeaway is to identify students earlier and notify parents earlier so that everyone can take advantage of the programs we offer.”

Board member Stephanie Lawson-Muhammad noted that the “spend” for middle school students was lower than she would have anticipated ($40,500 compared to $64,400 for elementary, $140,300 for high school, and $350,000 for special services).

Grierson responded, “I assume it is the late notifications. People are putting deposits down for camp in January.”

Lawson-Muhammad also questioned what the district was offering for middle school students through summer programs besides the math step-up program.

Grierson responded, “I’m interested and assessing all the programs and making sure they are effective.” She noted that the district did not offer middle school ELA this summer. “Participation is important,” said Grierson. “We found attendance at all levels to not be as good as we would like it to be.”

Board member Elizabeth Baker questioned why the math packets and reading lists for middle school were not required this year and suggested that a more prescriptive reading list would benefit students more. The voluntary reading and math, said Baker, “seemed to be going in the opposite direction” of the district’s goals.

Board First Vice President Madhu Pai expressed surprise that students needed to recover credits for nearly 600 failed classes at Columbia High School. “Did nearly 600 students fail a class?” she asked.

Grierson said “yes,” but Board member Beth Daugherty noted that the number probably included some of the same students failing multiple classes.

“That’s even worse!” exclaimed Pai.

Board member Maureen Jones wanted to know what supports were being offered to failing students during the school year and Lawson-Muhammad asked, “What is the other piece of data? What is our community of struggling kids? What does that population look like? Do we report out on that?”

Grierson noted that that was an internal report with supervisors and principals.

Lawson-Muhammad acknowledged that it made sense that that information was internal but said, “We as a board need to care, as we have conversations about the upper tier.”

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