Arizona Education: Summer Learning

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Summer is a good break for kids and those in education, but students can fall behind because of the lack of continued education. We’ll take a look at programs offered to counter that in the Kyrene School District, followed by a discussion on fighting the “summer slump.” Gabriel Trujillo, principal of Trevor Browne High School in Phoenix and Sue Edman, director of Title I and school improvement for the Mesa Public School District, will discuss summer learning.

TED SIMONS: Coming up next on "Arizona Horizon" -- we'll hear about the "summer slide" in education and what's being done about it. And we'll meet the author of a new novel that focuses on the drug wars in Mexico. Those stories next on "Arizona Horizon."

VIDEO: "Arizona Horizon" made possible by contributions from the friends of 8, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

TED SIMONS: Good evening. Welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. The water levels at Lake Mead are at a record low. The lake sunk to new levels that will trigger a water supply shortage and cutbacks of river water if they don't rebound by the ends of the year of the water managers expect it to improve thanks to a wetter than expected spring but more water is needed to avoid shortage.

TED SIMONS: Former Phoenix city councilman and activist Gary Peter Klahr has died. He's better known for filing a one-man one vote lawsuit that shifted the state's political power from rural area to population centers. He's a two-time candidate for Maricopa County District Attorney and served on the school district. Gary Peter Klahr, dead at age 73.



TED SIMONS: Is that education looks at what's called the summer slump or "summer slide". The time of year that out of school Arizona students can fall behind. Producer Christina Estes and photographer Langston fields shows how a school in the Kyrene district is fighting summer learning laws.

VIDEO (Ashley Thomas): We are going to be working in space today.

VIDEO: While Ashley Thomas's class is in Chandler her students are focused on Mars in particular NASA's mobile lab, curiosity.

VIDEO (Ashley Thomas ): we ran into a little bit of trouble where a part has broken on our rover.

VIDEO: students will get a feel for -- a feel for what it's like to repair something in space.

VIDEO (Ashley Thomas): this is what your final tool will look like once you put it together.

VIDEO (Ashley Thomas's )they make sure to have all the pieces they need to complete their work as quickly as possible.

(Ashley Thomas's) Get set -- go!

VIDEO: They wear goggles and gloves to better experience the challenges that astronauts face.

VIDEO: so important to keep students engaged during themer time with two months off.

VIDEO: Thomas calls it the "summer slide".

VIDEO (Ashley Thomas's ): They come back in the fall and you're having to reteach what you taught the very end of the school year because the brain isn't triggering sending those synapses to each other, keeping connections tight.

(Ashley Thomas's) research shows teachers could spend four to six weeks reviewing material forgotten over the summer. They generally experience the biggest learning loss in math. Calvin is among 1600 students enrhoeled in the summer academy. It's a four hour daily program with classes like slimy silence, geology rocks and planet hunters.

VIDEO: space when I was five year old.

VIDEO: he says he's visited NASA about five times but this is his first attempt at fixing a part for curiosity.

VIDEO: it's hard. You have tiny bolts with big gloves and you're trying to put it on to the stick rod. It's pretty hard I've got to say, but I just mastered it in seconds.

VIDEO: As they learn to follow instructions they gain an appreciation for patience and perseverance.

VIDEO: Good job, Nathan.

VIDEO: Like many summer programs Kyrene charges a fee but students don't have to be enrolled in formal camp to avoid the "summer slide."

VIDEO: there's public libraries where they offer many programs usually for free. Not just in reading they also do science exploration and activities at libraries. Even in your own backyard you can go with your child and explore, get them thinking about how things are made, engage them in conversations about what they are interested in and what they think about things.

TED SIMONS: Kyrene district offers other summer programs including Spanish immersion and community theater. Here now with more about the summer learning is Gabriel Trujillo, principal of Trevor Browne high school in Phoenix, and sue Ed Mon with the Mesa public school district. Thanks for joining us. "summer slide," summer slump. How real is that?

SUE EDMAN: Oh, it's definitely real to have a summer slump because research shows that kids that have -- are educationly disadvantaged for a short time where they are not connected to a learning piece that those students can have two to three months learning deficit in the area of reading and math. It's important that we bring activities to these kids in the school setting.

TED SIMONS: it's especially true for lower income kids. Why is that?

GABRIEL TRUJILLO: Absolutely. the research goes back to Carlisle Alexander, a researcher out of Johns Hopkins who looked at 600 kids in the Baltimore public schools area. Really the most economically disadvantaged neighborhoods of the city, and he tested them two times during one year with the California achievement test. He tested them in September and then tested them again in June. What he found is sort of really changed the way we think about summer vacation. He found that these kids, these economically disadvantaged kids, a majority of which were African-American and Hispanic, actually learned more during the school year but then when he tested them again in September, coming back from the three-month summer break, they actually slipped as much as a grade level in reading and writing. It took them two to three months into the school year to recover those skills. This was in stark contrast to another subgroup of that study of some more economically advanced students in more economically privileged parts of town. He found with this subgroup that those particular students really didn't lose as much over the summer because of access to educational opportunities that the poorer kids didn't have.

TED SIMONS: I was going to say, why? The kids are kids are kids, aren't they? As a kid I don't remember too much in the way of formal learning activities. I remember a lot in the way of formal physical activities, having fun in sports and Dole all sorts of things. What's going on out there?

SUE EDMAN: When you talk about the socioeconomic students that had more advantages, parents took them places. We read them books. We brought them to museums as we travel on trips we have conversations and there's learning events. Those students that might northbound a low socioeconomic environment may or may not because parents are working to three jobs to make the family meet ends. So the school districts have to look at ways to provide those opportunities district-wide and at school sites to provide those experiences.

TED SIMONS: It's not necessarily a superformal activity. It's just the activity of reading, of doing. Instead of just sitting around.

SUE EDMAN: right. Some of the programs that we have for our elementary schools in Mesa we have our community education department that offers different types of camps. We have kids camp. They may be doing activities revolving around science experiences like you saw in I could Korean. Social studies, look what's coming the Fourth of July week. They are studying the founding fathers in a unique way, putting drama together with the founding fathers and the history of the Fourth of July. Then for the low socioeconomic students the title 1 funding that I support we have 55 elementary and Junior high students that are receiving additional summer extended learning based on their academic needs but we're doing it a little differently for them.

TED SIMONS: you're talking about title 1 kids. Are we seeing different results or different out comes of a "summer slide" in different age groups?

GABRIEL TRUJILLO: Well, I have to agree I think that the key is offering the educational opportunities. Being a principal of the largest high school in the city, 3200 kids, we're school-wide title 1. High minority population, our kids are just as brilliant, just as bright, just as hard working as any other kid in any other part of the city, but it comes down to access. The Phoenix union high school district has really done some great stuff around summer programming. Namely not just the traditional summer school which is a traditional experience for kids, but this is the first year that we have through a product called edinuity offered online opportunities for kids not just to make up credits lost or to have a remedial experience but actually to work ahead. For the first time our computer labs district-wide have been open to kids. We see kids coming early in the morning, staying later in the afternoon essentially working ahead.

TED SIMONS: I was going to ask about the hours. Summer program. How long does it last per day, how long does it last per week?

SUE EDMAN: We have some programs in Mesa that go from 8:00 to 12:00, some from 58 co-5:00. We have a wide selection of opportunities. What you were talking about, our career and elk Al education program. We have different clubs so they have a stem club on science, technology, engineering and math. They do video production so they can -- the kids can see different things that they may want to do for their future.

TED SIMONS: options are out there apparently. Are options meeting demand?

GABRIEL TRUJILLO: Options are not meeting demand. Unfortunately the biggest challenge that we face or that any high school -- mu colleague from Mesa public schools I'm sure will agree, is getting students to take advantage of the great opportunities. Although we have a great percentage of students who come online and take advantage of the new opportunity and summer school, we have a great segment of the student body that is still disconnected from those opportunities. Largely for socioeconomic reasons, largely for family reasons. We see a lot of our students are basically the child care providers for their parents that are working two or three jobs during the summer, so they are not able to come and take advantage of those opportunities. And it really is a double edged sword. Once a student enters high school, it does become about credit accumulation and credit loss. And credit loss is the number one factor that will determine whether a student graduates from high school or not. Course failure, the ability to get the A the B or the C, not the D or the F, is the chief determinant in credit accumulation. It's equally as devastating because it adds on to the academic lapse that they suffer from the "summer slide" as well.

SUE EDMAN: When you talk about the continuing elementary, Junior high and high school, what you need to do, with your feeder schools that go into your school you want to make a connection to build that information with parents that it's important to be able to keep that education going in various ways and opportunities so they continue to attend into Junior high and high school.

TED SIMONS: what would you like to see as far as summer learning programs? More money infused into the system? More cooperation, participation?

SUE EDMAN: we need to keep thinking outside the box on different ways that we can produce different activities and opportunities for kids to connect. We also want to be able to bring the parents in to be able to help them to connect as well. We have a family literacy program this summer at one of our elementary schools that the parents are on campus working with the kids and then bringing it home. We're trying to innovative.

TED SIMONS: what would you like to see?

GABRIEL TRUJILLO: We need to redo the way we do the school year and school day. We need to move toward a more year round model. There are models that have prevent to be very successful schools that do just that in some of this nation's toughest cities. They have year round model. The actual school day is a little bit longer and there's school on Saturdays. Their college graduation rate is outstanding. We take current resources, take what we're doing now, revisit the calendar and the schedule.

TED SIMONS: thanks for joining us.

SUE EDMAN: Thank you.

Gabriel Trujillo:Principal of Trevor Browne High School in Phoenix;Sue Edman:Director of Title I and School Improvement for Mesa Public School District

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