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Enrollment in summer school dropped this year at Evanston Township High School.  Despite the fact that more than one-third of the student population took at least one course during the 26-day summer school program June 6 through July 19, student numbers are down, continuing the downward trend over the past 10 years.

A total of 1,132 students enrolled in Summer School 2018. This number reflects a 183 student decrease from the previous summer, according to a report given to the District 202 School Board at their October 8 meeting.  Numbers dating back to 2008 show that enrollment has gone up and down, peaking at 1,356 in 2009.

Bill Farmer, Director of Summer School, said a 20-30% drop in enrollment in most of the academic recovery courses is a major factor in the decline. Students are receiving “fewer Ds and Fs” he said, so fewer need to take recovery courses. “We’ll see if that trend continues,” he said.

A smaller incoming ninth-grade class is also a contributing factor to the decline in enrollment, he said.

Aside from academic recovery, the summer school program provides a number of courses for enrichment and course preparation. Access ETHS continues to be a popular preparation course for incoming freshmen. This year the school provided eight sections, the most ever, for the 169 students who took the summer course. The class was co-taught to include special needs students.

Reading/Math in the Social Context is a targeted academic intervention, and outreach is done to register students who would benefit based on MAP scores.  This year, 29 students enrolled, the largest number to date.  At the end of the summer, the students took the MAP test and the majority of students made gains: 12 students raised their scores to move into Freshmen Reading with Earned Honors Humanities; and seven students raised their scores enough to move out of Reading completely into Biology.  Preparation courses for 1 Humanities, Geometry, and 2 Algebra are intended to be “academic boosters for the fall,” said Mr. Farmer. 

Rethinking Summer School Options

Some new and reformatted classes were also provided last summer. College N.O.W.  was changed to a workshop format and targeted rising 12th-graders to help them get ready for applying to college.  The trend is that upperclassmen do not take as many summer classes.

ETHS is “looking for more opportunities for summer learning,” said Mr. Farmer. While the State requires that credit-bearing courses consist of 60 hours of work, mini-courses for half or quarter credits “might be doable,” Mr. Farmer said. Summer school could be used to pilot new or innovative classes like Biotechnology, which was offered as an elective for first time during summer school.  Northwestern University and ETHS collaborated on the curriculum for this emerging field.

Administration hope changes in class offerings will change the financial picture for summer school. Typically, there are more expenditures than revenue said Mr. Farmer, but it is a priority to shrink the gap. This summer revenues totaled $304,800 while expenses were $408,958 (a $104,158 difference). The differences have in fact shrunk for the last four years. Many classes are offered for free or with a partial scholarship.

“There is an equity concern here.  What are we doing about it?  How are we involving District 65 to encourage participation?” asked Board member Jonathan Baum.

The school is “mindful” of the challenges and the cost associated with them, said Mr. Farmer. Fees can be a barrier for some, and there can be a “communications gap.” Two hundred students were invited to participate in Reading/Math in the Social Context which is free, but it can be difficult to reach some families.

Board Member Mark Metz asked if there was a way to “mine data” to show a correlation between taking a summer class and how well students do their freshmen year. It could be a, “powerful marketing message to take to students and families.”

Board Member Jude Laude suggested upperclassmen who are not continuing to a four-year institution could use summer classes to “explore career clusters” and create a “plan for transitioning out” of ETHS.

“There is a lot of competition for students’ time, but we must let them know [summer school] will benefit them in the long run,” said Board President Pat Savage-Williams.

Summer classes in 2019 will be: Session 1 (13 days) Monday, June 10 – Monday, July 1; Session 2 (13 days) Tuesday, July 2 – Wednesday July 24.  Online and mail-in registration begins on Jan. 22, 2019.