SHEPHERDSVILLE - Traditional summer school — the kind in 80s movies, where kids are stuck behind desks, peering out the window to watch their friends run wild in the parking lot — doesn’t quite exist anymore.
For students who need to play catch-up, there are online programs with practice materials, content review, and exams that can be accessed year-round. Many students can retake a course before the last school bell rings in May.
Compass Learning is an online program students can access to relearn material they fell behind on or retake a class they failed.
“We have seen a dramatic change during the year using Compass,” Dave Marshall, director of secondary education, said. “We have used many online programs, and this is the best.”
Elementary, middle, and high school students are eligible to participate in summer school programs if they don’t meet the standards of their grade level during the year.
Math and reading assignments are available to elementary school students, who can pick up where they left off. The level of the assignment is based on the student’s Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) standardized test score.
Middle school Compass Learning programs are also available throughout the year. Most students finish assignments or relearn lessons after school.
The MAP scores are used to determine what a child needs assistance with; for example, the test is out of 280, and the average math score for a seventh grader is 227. If a student receives a score of 200, he or she passed the class but performed below grade level.
“The Compass program is tailored to the individual,” Marshall said. “And each school has control over their program, so it is operated on a case-by-case basis.”
Mt. Washington Middle School operates strictly on an individual basis. Due to School Based Decision Making (SBDM) policies, students can only fail one course and move to the next grade level. Compass Learning has allowed students who fail more than one to make up missed work during the year.
Very few students need to participate in the program, according to Principal Denise Allen.
“It seems to be a very good program, especially for the at-risk children,” she said. “The higher-end children do not seem to enjoy it as much.”
At-risk children are defined as those who may come from a low socioeconomic status, little contact with technology, and families who have not read to them, which puts them behind in classes.
Allen added that she could not give a solid opinion on the program, because it began in the spring.
Mt. Washington is using another online program, Carnegie, which focuses solely on mathematics. All other middle schools in the county, except Eastside and Mt. Washington, were already using Carnegie. After Allen saw the improvement in math scores, she decided to use the program as well.
“We were performing well, but we needed that extra boost,” she said. She is happy with the hands-on learning approach Carnegie and Compass provide.
It’s not all fun and games, however. Some problems have arisen among parents and faculty concerning the after school programs; issues of transportation and whether students should be required to attend have been discussed.
“Kids in remote areas can’t get to or from school during those hours and some parents don’t like the program,” Allen said. “But the teachers are out here twice a week, trying to help this situation.”
Allen added that Bullitt County is looking at grants offered for after school transportation to garner more parent and student involvement.
The high school Compass program is much different; students may have to retake an entire course if they fail.
If a student scores a 55 to 64 in a class (a 65 is a passing grade of a D), they may participate in summer school for credit. However, they receive a D on the report card, because the program is for “credit recovery.”
Students who score below a 55 in a class must retake the class on campus, but most still use Compass. Math, Science, Social Studies, and English classes are offered. For more specific classes, such as art history, students use eSchool, another online classroom. The score of the summer class and the failing grade are averaged together.
Connie Hatfield, a counselor at North Bullitt High School, helps run the program. She said that students are given a pretest at school, complete assignments at home, and return to school for a final exam.
Here comes the obvious question: Don’t they cheat?
“They can have someone else do their work, but they will not pass the final,” Hatfield said.
Students who score high enough on the pretest can test out of the course. Most students complete the work after school.
“This recovery is offered all year long,” Marshall said. “If a student fails a class first semester, they can retake it second semester and don’t have to worry about summer school.”
Compass has an advantage over eSchool or traditional summer school. The courses are no longer generated by teachers; instead, they are set up through the district, though teachers have some input on the material covered.
“That way, kids at all of the high schools recover the same material,” Hatfield said. “It’s not easier at one school than another.”
Hatfield added that she has received positive feedback from students about the Compass program.
“They seem to enjoy it,” she said. “Well, as much as they can enjoy summer school.” She added that many students prefer Compass over eSchool.
Hatfield accredits the success of Compass to its auditory and visual elements—which cater to all types of learners—since eSchool primarily offers reading passages or math problems straight from a textbook.
“It is very useful, very helpful, and a great tool,” she said.
The implementation of these online programs results from state budget cuts on Extended School Services (ESS); cuts have increased since the beginning of the recession. Between the 2008 and 2009 school years, the budget was cut by $17 million.
Allen said that Mt. Washington Middle School is left with less than $10,000 a year for ESS programs, making summer school retention difficult.
“We have teachers that must provide after-school tutoring, which leaves no money for the summer months,” she said. “The district is trying to help, but there is no funding there either.”