Minneapolis Public School’s summer program opens to more students

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I was surprised when I received a letter encouraging my son to attend summer school. It didn’t make sense to me — he made the honor roll and his test scores were good. Why would I send him to summer school?

When I investigated, I found a confusing web of rules about summer school. A student might be “invited” to go to summer school for a variety of reasons, including status (English language learner, homeless or highly mobile student), grades, attendance, etc. But students may also qualify to attend summer school even if they have good grades and score high on the MCA tests.

According to Daren Johnson, district program facilitator for Minneapolis Public Schools, “We’ve made it loose to qualify.” He said the only requirement is that students must be current Minneapolis Public School students. “We want them to come. It’s a good program,” he said.

For those who are recommended for summer school, letters were sent to parents during conferences, but Johnson encourages parents to check and see if their children could qualify. If you think that your child may not qualify or does not need it, you might want to look more closely at the program. Students who have good grades, and test high on the MCA still may be eligible to attend.

This year’s program will run Mondays –Thursdays, June 17 – July 25 (with July 4th off).

Minneapolis will offer a total of 16 cluster sites. Class size will be about 25 students per teacher and will integrate literacy with a science focus. There is no cost for the program, which includes transportation, breakfast and lunch. Deadline for registering for summer school in Minneapolis is May 24. After the May 24 deadline, interested students will be put on a waiting list.

According to MPS, curriculum is set up so all students will be challenged and can be easily accessible for students at different entry points.

The point of summer school is not to punish students but to give them stimulating learning opportunities to grow over the summer months and avoid as Johnson puts it, “the summer slide,” where kids lose academic skills over the summer. One of the biggest frustrations for a teacher in the fall is discovering how much students have forgotten over the summer months.

During the summer, without the routine of daily classes, it is really up to parents to supplement their kids’ vacation time with learning activities. That doesn’t always happen. Summer is about vacation for many families and often there is little time or room in the family budget for summer camps or other structured learning based programs.

While all students may experience the summer learning slide, the impact is greatest on the most vulnerable students. Summer Learning Association research shows that during the summer break:

  • All students experience up to a two-month loss of math skills, though this is usually made up in the fall.
  • Low-income students lose more than two months in reading achievement, despite the fact that their middle-class peers make slight gains.

According to Johnson, the Minneapolis program “is real exciting for kids to make them learn. They just don’t know it.” Educational partners such as the Bakken Museum, Kroening Interpretative Center, Eloise Butler Wildlife Garden, Wilderness Inquiry, and Jr. Achievement give students hands on experiential opportunities.

Johnson said it used to be difficult to find community partners for the program but that is no longer the case. “It is amazing how people back the youth in Minneapolis,” he said.

Another Minneapolis Public School program, The Fast Track Scholar program offers those going into eighth grade an opportunity to earn four quarter credits during the summer school program. It gives an edge for students and helps them transition more easily into high school. Before MPS offered the program, very few eighth graders attended summer school but now between 300-400 students attend. They also receive a free city bus pass to use for transportation.

I asked parents about their past experience of summer school in the Minneapolis Schools and those who responded reported positive experiences.

Melissa Hernandez sent her daughter to Windom for summer school. Her daughter enjoyed the poetry/song instruction used to familiarize the kids with word sounds and patterns. She also met new friends and spent a lot of time outside.

“We appreciated the pride with which the program was executed,” Hernandez said. “Despite the fact that it was the summer everyone who was there appeared to want to be there serving the kids. We felt she was ready for a full day kindergarten program cognitively (per the assessment they gave her at the end of the program) and emotionally. It made the transition that much easier.”

Another parent sent her daughter to summer school at Marcy two years ago. The program helped her catch up on reading along with having two recesses each day to make summer school fun.

“We are having him go to summer school at NEMS to get a vibe for the school,” said a parent whose son will enter middle school in the fall. She also noted that five weeks of summer school is free. “My husband went to summer school when he was a kid and has fond memories. The people running the summer school at NEMS said it’s more like a ‘camp’ than school. They get to do all the fun projects they can’t do during the year and also get to teach the kids about their hobbies,” she said.

Parents can go to the MPS summer school website for more information or contact Daren at 612-668-0064 with questions.