Summer school sees increase in students
With the COVID-19 pandemic disrupting education throughout the past three semesters, public schools are now seeing more kids in summer school.
Marshalltown High School Jacque Wyant said much more students are recovering credits this summer than usual. On the first day of summer school June 10, about 130 students showed up.
Any student in a situation where they don’t have to completely retake a class for credits, within the 40 percent to 60 percent grade range, can recover credits over the summer or through credit recovery classes the following school year. Teachers go into their gradebooks to see what students have missed, such as assignments, quizzes, tests, projects and papers, and have them finish up.
Summer school students have until the end of June to catch up before they must take credit recovery classes the following school year. A second graduation for seniors who missed the first due to not earning enough credits will be held July 1.
Wyant said she also anticipates a large number of kids needing those credit recovery support services and other alternative learning services going into the next school year.
She said problems first began when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit in the spring semester of 2020, forcing school to close for six weeks.
“There was a lot of fear and mental health struggles, I believe for everybody, teachers community, students,” Wyant said. “It was just a fear that we were all living at the time.”
Then as school began in the fall of 2020, hybrid learning proved to be a challenge with attendance rates being poor.
“It’s been difficult for kids, in hybrid, they didn’t really like hybrid at all,” Wyant said.
During hybrid learning, teachers were also not able to hold their intervention periods, a 30-minute block of the day where students are assigned to meet with a teacher to work on specific skills they are falling behind on.
Intervention periods returned the spring 2021 semester, and teachers were happy to have the period back. The high school also began holding Saturday school twice per month to get ahead of learning loss and credit recovery.
Wyant said grades in the spring semester of 2021, when the high school ended hybrid learning and began offering a fully in-person learning option, were improved significantly from the previous semester.
“So we know that professional relationship, face-to-face, being able to monitor that body language and know if they’re connecting students to the content, it just does it all,” she said.
She said being in-person, teachers were better able to use their craft of connecting with and gauging students.
“Teachers all have this bank of knowledge, but what they really do with kids is to create a professional relationship of caring, and then working with students one on one wherever they’re at, and you cannot discount that,” Wyant said.
At Lenihan Intermediate School, summer programming works a bit differently, in the form of what is called Bobcat University.
Fifth and sixth grade students have all been invited to participate in virtual summer programming, with fourth grade students receiving invites based on their learning needs. The school also makes calls to students in fifth and sixth grade who they feel will benefit the most, and encourages them to participate. An average of 75 students are logging on each day. Students sign in for 90 minutes Monday through Thursday, receiving project-based content focused on improving math and reading skills. For example, fourth grade students are learning how to run an animal shelter by creating a budget using math skills and giving an advertisement presentation using reading and speech skills.
Lenihan Intermediate Instructional Coach and Coordinator of Bobcat University at Lenihan Tonya Gaffney said while the school met face-to-face for the school year amid the pandemic, she still foresees learning loss being a continuing issue going into next school year.
“Students really rose to the occasion, they’re really amazing little humans, but it’s hard to keep learning at the same rate when there’s so much going on in the world around you,” Gaffney said. “We’ll just keep working and it’ll probably take a couple of years to catch them all back up.”
She said beyond the pandemic, a lot of decisions made at the state level affected day-to-day operations, such as bills signed by Gov. Kim Reynolds requiring face masks to be optional and requiring in-person learning.
“Anybody with kids knows that expectations need to be clear and consistent in order for the environment to be the best it can be for learning and socializing,” Gaffney said.
At the elementary level, summer school is actually Mid-Iowa Community Action (MICA) handles programming as Bobcat University while working in collaboration with the school district. Unlike Bobcat University students at Lenihan, participating students are invited to the program if they are at risk for lower academic achievement the following year.
MICA Resource Development and Communications Director Jaimie Adkins said they have narrowed their focus this year to serving kindergarten through second grade instead of kindergarten through third grade. The school district helped them identify students entering the first grade would benefit more from the program, Adkins said, and want to target the biggest potential impact areas.
While serving 40 students this year, the number is fewer than typical. MICA is also serving three elementary buildings in-person at a time with half days instead of full days.
Instruction has typically focused on math and reading skills, but this summer instruction will also focus on social and emotional skills.
Elementary students in Bobcat University have also typically gone on enrichment activities, and this year includes bowling at Wayward Social, working with the Iowa State University Extension Office, the YMCA, the Marshalltown Public Library and Marshall County Conservation.
Contact Trevor Babcock at 641-753-6611 or email@example.com.