Tue. Jul 16th, 2024

A Look Inside the Memphis-Shelby County Schools Summer Education Academy

By meerna Jul10,2024
A Look Inside the Memphis-Shelby County Schools Summer Education Academy

In one classroom at Jackson Elementary School, music teacher Harold Johnson played a drum in changing tempos while fourth- and fifth-grade students marched to the music.

In another classroom, a group of second-grade boys were studying consonants and discussing the upcoming “Dress Like a Nerd Day.” The students were confident they knew what nerds dressed like, explaining that they wore glasses and books. But one student was considering changing his costume.

“I can dress up as a hot dog,” he said.

It was the start of the final week of the Memphis-Shelby County Schools Summer Education Academy, which ran throughout the district from June 10 to July 10. On Monday, The Commercial Appeal and MSCS Board Chair Althea Greene went to see the program in action at Jackson Elementary School.

Avoiding the “summer slide”

Thousands of students enrolled in the Summer Education Academy across the district and took part in many exciting activities.

For example, Jackson Elementary—which had 104 students enrolled—had a popcorn and movie day and a sidewalk chalk day. Students had picnics, and an herbalist came to talk about the plants in the school garden. There were dress-up days. In addition to “Dress Like a Nerd Day,” the staff planned a “Camouflage Day.”

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However, the Summer Educational Academy also provided students with academic materials at a time when there was a risk of academic regression.

“There’s always what we call the ‘summer slide,’ meaning that students can forget some of the things they learned during the regular school year,” said Deborah Anderson, Ed.D., activities coordinator at Jackson Elementary. “We work hard to shorten that slide and get them learning during the summer so that when they come back in the fall, they’re not struggling.”

At Jackson Elementary, students in kindergarten through fifth grade participated in the Summer Learning Academy, focusing on subjects such as English Language Arts, math and science. At the end of the program, most students took tests, and their scores were compared to the end of the 2023-24 school year so teachers could see their progress.

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For many students, the Summer Science Academy was optional. For many third-graders, however, it was mandatory.

Rate for third grade students

In 2023, a statewide law focused on third-grade reading metrics went into effect. It stipulated that third-grade students who did not score proficient on the ELA portion of the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program tests would be held back unless interventions were implemented.

Students who scored “approaching”—the category just below proficiency—were required to attend summer classes and show a 5 percent improvement on the final test to advance. If they didn’t meet that score, they could still advance to fourth grade, but were expected to take a full year of tutoring. And students who scored “below”—the lowest category—were required to attend summer school and accept a full year of tutoring to advance to fourth grade.

According to state data, about 27.4% of MSCS third-graders scored well on the ELA portion of the TCAP tests this spring, an improvement from the 23.6% of third-graders who scored well last year. Still, on June 4, MSCS Principal Marie Feagins said about 2,000 MSCS third-graders were required to participate in the Summer Learning Academy and that about 5,000 had signed up.

This year, 42 third-graders participated in the summer program at Jackson Elementary. MSCS found that third-graders tended to have difficulty identifying the main idea and point of view in stories, so that was a focus. However, teachers don’t necessarily cover these things the way they would during the school year—because they have more freedom in how they teach at the Summer Learning Academy.

“It’s cool, in the summer,” Anderson said. “During the school year … we stick to our curriculum map, and it doesn’t allow for as much creativity as it does in the summer. In the summer, when you look at the curriculum map they have for (Summer Learning Academy), there’s a lot more freedom.”

John Klyce is an education and children’s affairs writer for The Commercial Appeal. You can reach him at [email protected].

By meerna

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