Exams spur growth of summer school

Posted: Tuesday, June 08, 2004

The final bell sounded last week for most Anchorage students, but an estimated 3,600 will be returning for summer school.

Part of the reason is that more students are taking summer classes in hopes of doing well on standardized exams.

The School District's summer school program has mushroomed in recent years. In summer 2001, only about 2,668 were signed up for courses.

Mounting pressure to do well on standardized exams is making summer school more critical for students who have fallen behind. With only two elective courses being offered through summer classes, the program has evolved into something designed almost exclusively for students who are behind their grade level or who are struggling with standardized tests.

"We teach really hard, and they learn really hard," said Patricia McRae, director of elementary education.

At the elementary level, the goal is to get students who are a year or more behind grade level caught up in reading, writing and math. McRae said the summer classes are a boon for some students because the classes are so small and students get so much more attention from teachers.

"And because they're being taught at their level, they feel successful," McRae said. "They go back to school in the fall feeling good."

Up to 900 students will enroll in the elementary school summer program. Up to 600 students will attend middle school summer classes.

High school summer classes are designed largely to help students catch up and prepare for the High School Graduation Qualifying Exam, a three-part test in reading, writing and math. Students must pass the exit exam to get a diploma.

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