More students, the majority of whom were incoming freshmen, took summer classes at Evanston Township High School in 2016 than in 2015. While classes such as “Access ETHS” continue to attract new students looking for help in navigating the large school, “targeted outreach” is increasingly identifying and enrolling incoming students performing below the 40th percentile in math and reading support classes, Bill Farmer, Director of Summer School, told the District 202 Board at its Sept. 19 meeting.
ETHS operated a 26-day summer school program. Courses required for graduation met as 26-day classes. Sixty hours of instruction are required to earn high school credit toward graduation. Courses were also offered for elective credit as a 13-day option, and some were offered with the 26-day format. The summer school program also provided a number of courses for enrichment, course preparation, and academic recovery.
Enrollment Trending Up
A total of 1,226 students, more than one-third of all ETHS students, enrolled in at least one summer school class. This number reflects a 118-student increase from the previous summer.
“We consistently have over one-third of students enroll in at least one summer school class,” said Mr. Farmer. While the report shows last summer’s enrollment was down from 2003, the numbers have gone both up and down since then, but summer school enrollment has steadily increased since 2012.
Programs are “attracting a lot of incoming freshmen and rising sophomores. There is a drop off for upper classmen,” said Mr. Farmer, adding that summer jobs often become a greater priority for upper classmen.
“Well over half of our incoming freshmen take a summer school course,” said Mr. Farmer. This means that summer school is the start of their educational careers at ETHS.
Summer students are “demographically representative” of the school as a whole and included many with an Individual Education/504 Plan. Eight total sections of classes were offered through Special Education, serving 45 students, and approximately 125 IEP students were enrolled in mainstream classes.
There were 20 students who graduated over the summer, Mr. Farmer reported.
Fewer Discipline Incidents
The report also detailed a decline in summer school discipline incidents.
Overall, the total number of discipline issues processed by the Dean’s Office has continued to decrease over the last 3 years. There were 20 incidents in 2016 compared to 27 incidents in 2015 and 31 incidents in 2016.
“Significant Gains” in Math and Reading
Thirty-seven students enrolled in Reading and Math in the Social Context (RMSC), the largest number of participants ever in this remedial support class for those testing at or below 40th percentile in reading and math on the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test. By the end of the course, 25% made a significant gain in MAP scores, with two students going up a notch, and seven going above the 50th percentile, said Mr. Farmer.
More teachers were hired for the RMSC class this past summer in order to “provide students with individualized support,” Mr. Farmer added. A social worker was also incorporated into the program.
Administrators did “extensive outreach” to parents to help bring more students into the support program, enlisting the help of middle-school principals to help contact and follow up with students who would benefit from the program. The Latino Liaison assisted families with translation services.
Steps Toward Academic Excellence (STAE) is a two-year guided study hall enrolled by invitation only. It is designed to help high-potential students achieve success in the honors English and/or math curriculum. This year, 264 students were invited into the STAE program, and 118 enrolled in and completed a STAE prerequisite course (Prep to 1 Humanities, Bridge to Geometry, Project Excite Science); 117 students enrolled in STAE this fall.
Operating costs for summer school have “historically exceeded revenue from fees,” said Mr. Farmer, but this past year, “we narrowed that gap.”
Expenditures for the summer program totaled $448,306 while revenues were $316,130. Expenditures over revenues were $132,176 in 2016, compared to $194,309 in 2015, or a reduction of $62,133.71, says the report.
ETHS administrators will “look for ways to generate more revenue and reduce costs to help make summer school more self-sufficient,” said Mr. Farmer’s report to the Board. Fees for Drivers Education will be looked at as they have “not been raised in over a decade” and are “out of line with other school districts.”
The school also plans to expand enrichment course offerings and continue to explore adding classes that may be of interest to upper-grade-level students. One idea is to offer half- or quarter-credit courses to “increase the opportunity for exploration” in engineering, for example, through a one-week course sampling.
There is “still room for growth for students to recover credits,” said Mr. Farmer and, “take advantage of smaller class sizes.”
“Who isn’t in summer school who should be, and how do we get them?” asked Board Member Mark Metz.
The target number for the remedial math/reading class was 140, but “despite efforts” only 37 enrolled, said Board Member Doug Holt.
Some of the targeted students enrolled in Access to ETHS or other mainstream classes and received some foundation for the transition to high school, said Mr. Farmer. “This time we did more targeted outreach, calling people, talking to principals to get in touch with certain students. There is no financial barrier, but students must commit to the program. We do need to look at other shorter-term interventions.”
Identifying students for math and reading support earlier and getting them into summer school before eighth grade could help “create less of a need,” said Superintendent Eric Witherspoon. “We can establish a pattern about summer offerings,” showing what the students can gain. The idea has “been put out there” with District 65 and “has potential,” the Superintendent said.