Turns out those folks who thought that canceling summer school for lower grades was a bad idea were right.
The results are in from the summer “packets” students took home in lieu of summer school face-time with teachers. Nearly 18,000 packets went home; just 1,938 were returned.
Said Rosalyn L. Taylor, East District School Board representative: “My goodness. That’s not very many.”
We couldn’t agree more.
The district canceled summer school this year for students in kindergarten through sixth grade, mainly in an effort to save $4.1 million that would have been spent over a four-week program. Federal stimulus funds were non-existent and Title I funds that had been used in the past for summer school instead went to additional teacher assistants in kindergarten classes throughout the district during the regular school year.
The packets cost about $40,000 to produce. The district saved and the students lost.
Parents were both puzzled and annoyed by the district’s decision. It didn’t help that the 70-page packets of worksheets sent home in June lacked, shall we say, depth in asking students to do such things as draw pictures of the moon every night for a month.
The low response shouldn’t be a surprise, even with an extended deadline, robocalls to parents and notices posted on school websites. The limited incentives offered to students who returned packets didn’t do much. The prizes of pencils, bookmarks and erasers may have been useful, but they were certainly disappointing for these pupils. There were a few bigger prizes, including an e-reader tablet given away in each school, and a drawing for two laptops citywide.
The decision to send packets in lieu of summer school was made before current Superintendent Pamela C. Brown’s time. So perhaps her comment about not being discouraged by the number returned because just sending them home helped parents know what kind of activities would be beneficial over the summer were her attempts at making lemons appear to be lemonade.
But the results still leave a bittersweet educational taste. The lesson is that if the district wants to engage its students over the summer, it needs to resume summer school.