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More summer school staff would boost success of students, administrators say

Although administrators said this year's summer session in the Tonawanda City School District accomplished their goals, they told the Tonawanda School Board on Tuesday that the program needs more staffing to better succeed.

Last year, the School Board, after some debate, agreed to continue funding the program, but it imposed some restrictions to make the program fiscally efficient. The most notable rule was requiring every class to have at least 10 students.

Administrators who ran this year's summer school said that while the program was financially efficient, adding more staff should boost academic results.

Sharon Lansing, assistant superintendent of pupil personnel, told the School Board that staff reductions at the elementary level forced the district to use more volunteers in the classroom, which could present liability problems.

Larry Badgley, assistant principal of the high school, said it was forced to combine several subject areas, such as math, science and English, into one class, while others, like health and physical education, were eliminated.

"These initiatives to combine [classes] had to be designed due to staffing reductions," Badgley said.

The academic results of Tonawanda's summer program were mostly positive.

At the high school, 60 percent of students passed their final exam. At the middle school, 79 percent of pupils passed. Elementary administrators said they met their goal of getting 75 percent of their pupils to improve their knowledge of the subject areas.

Badgley said that high school students who pass a class in the regular school year but fail the exam are not required to take the course again during the summer.

Those students can sign up just to retake the final exam. However, several educators recommended that these students take the classes as review for the exam. Of the high school students who signed up only to take the exam, only 47 percent passed.

"Students that are not engaged in active learning just don't do as well," Badgley said.

Another problem is that summer school students often miss class for any number of reasons, from family vacations to regular truancy.

Several of the summer school administrators advised the district to support a strong attendance policy.

"One of the major problems at the middle school was that if you missed three classes, you pretty much failed," said Julie Kaczar, an administrative intern for the summer school program. "We have to find a better way to emphasize the importance of attendance."

"You cannot get through a summer school if you take a five-day midsummer vacation," Badgley said.

The School Board will likely revisit the issue next spring when it considers the budget for the next school year.

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