In the third year of operation of the program, Bloomfield Public Schools saw a 20 percent increase in enrollment in “Early Start,” which in years past would have been called summer school.
But this isn’t your mother or father’s summer school and it’s not just for low-achieving students.
“We do not want this to be perceived as a remedial program,” Bloomfield Schools Superintendent James Thompson said Friday.
He said more than 40 studies point to strong evidence there is “learning loss” in the summer. The regular school year in Connecticut is 180 days.
“Most students lose two months of grade level competency in math over the summer months,” according to one study cited in a presentation given Friday by Ellen Stoltz, Bloomfield’s chief academic officer. That same student found “students from low-income families lose more than two months in reading competency, while their middle-class peers make slight gains.”
“We have to ensure our students don’t forget what they learned in the previous year,” Stoltz said.
The school district, which is one of the 30 Alliance Districts because of its low performance on statewide tests, mandates attendance in the program for students who are entering grades 1-3 and scored below goal in reading, and students entering grade 4-8 who scored below goal in reading and math. Students with Individualized Education Plans are also encouraged to attend, but school officials made it clear that the program is open to all students regardless of academic performance.
The open door policy seems to be working. At Metacomet Elementary School, 650 students out of 850 who attend during the regular school year were enrolled in the program.
This year the program used some additional money it received from the state to run the program. In the previous two years it found the money in its own local budget to fund it and other “extended time” programs.
The full day of programming for the four-week summer session starts with breakfast and then moves into academics for three hours before breaking for lunch. The day ends with two hours of enrichment. The final bell rings at 2:30 p.m. Free transportation is provided to all students and physical education and art also are part of the curriculum.
Stoltz said it is cheaper to provide bus transportation to all students, even those who live within walking distance, than it was to hire crossing guards and also run buses.
Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor visited Metacomet Elementary School for a tour on Friday, which marked the last day of the program.
Pryor said Bloomfield is one of the districts that’s leading the way in finding ways to extend learning opportunities to students throughout the year.
School officials led Pryor on a tour of two third-grade classrooms Friday where they pointed out the “strand” data posted to the bulletin board. The data was color coded and it allowed the students to see how well the classroom was doing collectively in certain skill areas.
“It shows where the class is shining, which is very healthy,” Pryor said.
A bigger individual student visualization chart is posted in the central office conference room. Stoltz said that information is shared with the students on an individual basis and tracked by school officials so they can see where they may need to improve.
She said tracking longitudinal data and the impact of these programs on standardized assessments is important to advancing student achievement.
During a lighter moment of the tour, one student in Ms. Frazier’s class wandered up to Pryor and asked if he was the governor. He laughed and explained that he works for the governor, but that he’s not the governor.
In another classroom Mrs. Manaloi’s students were getting ready to learn about “Thunder Cake,” the story of how Patricia Polacco conquered her childhood fear of Michigan thunderstorms with the assistance of her grandmother.