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Maryvale summer programs produce mixed results

Summer academic and leadership programs are seeing good results in the Maryvale School District, but the passing rate for summer Regents exams is less than 40 percent.

Those were the findings in a report given to the Maryvale School Board on Monday by Shelly Phillips, principal of summer school programs, and Joseph Scalisi, coordinator of the Circle of Success program.

In programs such as Seeking Opportunities for Academic Reinforcement, or SOAR, for grades 6-8, and the Circle of Success course for grades 6 and 7, more than 92 percent of the program work was completed by 122 students, according to the report.

In the Circle of Success program, which pairs what Scalisi termed "at-risk students" with high-achieving peers for activities and volunteer work, the results do more than prepare 30 children for testing, Scalisi said.

"We get them to become something, to do something through challenges that they didn't think they could do, mentally," he said. "Once they figure out who they are, we set them up to start giving back . . . The benefits don't just end with the summer."

Scalisi noted that the program, which runs from early July through mid-August, has seen results for both groups.

"Our goal is, simply, to try and help kids survive adolescence," he said. "But our goals are also the same as we have academically [in the district]."

The SOAR academic intervention program saw only two of its 92 pupils fail to complete requirements and be held back, Phillips said. She believes SOAR's success comes in part from coordinating transportation and scheduling with other summer programs.

Not every summer offering has seen such enthusiasm. Among high school students taking Regents or comprehension exams in the summer, the passing rates are about 37 percent, which Phillips said was caused mainly by test takers simply not showing up.

Students are written to, called and reminded numerous times of when and where the exam is, but exam day sees low turnout anyway, she said.

"They sign up in June, and then, for whatever reason, something happens over the summer and they don't show up," Phillips said. She added that even when regular review classes were offered by the district three years ago, "some days, one or two of 12 to 14 students would sometimes show up."

In another matter, Superintendent Gary Brader presented the enrollment count for the 2007-08 school year, which saw the district's projections less than one percent off from actual enrollments.

Demand for a pre-kindergarten program was higher than expected, with 49 children enrolling for what had been expected to be a 40-child class. Overall enrollment at Maryvale schools in October 2007 was 2,363 students, down 13 from October 2006, while the district had expected to see 2,352 students in school this fall.

The district has 54 staff members for the pre-kindergarten through sixth-grade classes.

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