It’s not called summer school anymore in the West Seneca School District.
When some middle school students return to the classroom next week, it will be for academic intervention in math and English language arts. High school students will be there for credit recovery in a variety of subjects, which may enable some who didn’t graduate last month to earn their diplomas in August.
Digital learning, with support from certified teachers, is catching on in local school districts. Still, West Seneca’s four-week summer program remains old school in at least one respect:
“The way we’re doing it, attendance is mandatory,” said Brian Graham, assistant superintendent of pupil services. “They’re only allowed to miss two or three days.”
There wasn’t any summer instruction offered last year as district leaders grappled with finances.
“By not running the program last year, we saw the consequences of that: more students … having to retake classes in the next year,” Graham said.
Last fall, he and Jonathan Cervoni, principal at East Senior High School, visited the Maryvale School District in Cheektowaga, which implemented a credit recovery program more than a decade ago.
“We were impressed. They were using it not only for summer, but during the school year for kids who needed to make up credit,” Graham said.
Jim Maloney, Maryvale’s assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, said it’s been a very successful program.
“It really reduces the dropout rate for kids because you’re never really losing momentum in pursuing that diploma,” he said.
West Seneca will be using a GradPoint program, which is the same currently used by Maryvale.
Selection committees of teachers, administrators and counselors determine which students could benefit from digital learning and develop a priority list. At the high school level, seniors who couldn’t graduate top the list, followed by incoming seniors who are behind one or more credits.
“A student on track to graduate is a success for everyone,” Cervoni said.
After completing a pretest, students are placed in the appropriate module of a subject. “They don’t have to sit through content they have already been proficient in,” Graham said.
There are 150 seats available for middle school students and 200 for high school. A single student may account for multiple seats, based on the number of courses that student is taking.
Each session is 40 minutes long for middle schoolers and 90 minutes for high school students.
Class size is 25. Students of varying grade levels, working on different modules of the same subject, are in the same room, where a certified teacher of that subject is available to help individuals or pairs of students.
“The beauty is it’s individualized,” Cervoni said.