Summer school to cut 2,500 in TUSD
Arizona Daily Star
Tucson, Arizona | Published:
By George B. Sánchez
As many as 2,500 fewer students might attend summer school in TUSD this year because of a major change in how the district helps underperforming students.
Rather than wait for summer school to help students with academic woes, officials in the Tucson Unified School District decided to try offering aid during the school year. They used summer-school funds to provide tutoring and extra classes for those students.
As a consequence, less money remained for summer school, so district officials will target several groups of students for classes. Those who don't fall into the groups won't be eligible for summer school and will have to look elsewhere for academic help during the break.
"We are targeting our resources for the individuals and groups who most need it this summer," TUSD Superintendent Roger Pfeuffer said Friday.
For the past few summers, TUSD has held summer school for elementary and middle school students who weren't meeting state standards and needed support in such core subjects as math and English-language development.
But since 2005, according to TUSD officials, the summer-school budget has shrunk from $2.5 million to $1.48 million last year and to $1 million for this summer.
So TUSD administrators have decided to target five student subgroups for help: English- language learners, special- education students and students at Title I schools — those who qualify for free or reduced-cost meals — as well as students at schools designated for improvement by federal and state education officials.
TUSD officials have no plan for students who may need help but don't fit into those groups, but they suggest private or community programs.
The situation isn't unique, TUSD officials said, as most districts struggle to find effective ways to reach underperforming students with limited budgets.
"That situation comes up all across the city," said Lisa Long, a TUSD administrator. "It's not that we haven't thought about it. It's that the state of Arizona doesn't offer extra money for summer school."
Some TUSD elementary- and middle-school leaders might try to pool their resources, such as any unspent funds, to offer summer-school classes, Long said.
Such schools as Manzo Elementary, 855 N. Melrose Ave., are directing students and families to outside programs or resources. The parent association at Pueblo Magnet High School, 3500 S. 12th Ave., will host an informational meeting later this month about available summer school, programs and activities.
TUSD students also may be able to attend summer school in another district, depending on the other district's criteria, Long wrote in an e-mail.
With nine weeks before summer break begins, it remains unclear how many students will be affected by a smaller summer session.
TUSD officials said they expect 7,500 to 10,000 students, from kindergartners to high school seniors, this summer.
TUSD spokeswoman Chyrl Hill Lander said about 10,000 students attended summer school last year and there were 7,800 students in 2005.
Even Pfeuffer wasn't sure how TUSD's new plan might affect students or why district officials are expecting possibly the same number of students as last year if they're targeting a smaller group.
"I suspect by next week we'll have all the i's dotted and t's crossed," he said. "We're trying to retool our summer school."
TUSD has been working on its new summer school program since November, Long said, but only this week did officials announce which schools would be hosting summer classes.
Between Monday and Thursday, two schools were added to the list, for a total of 29 elementary and middle schools. One of them was Manzo.
On Monday, Manzo Principal Jerry Gallegos said that for the first time in his 12 years as principal it seemed Manzo would not host summer school.
Then on Thursday, Gallegos found out Manzo would be hosting summer school for its English-language-learner students.
Until then, he said, it had been hoping to receive funding for summer school by the end of the month.
"We've all had our fingers crossed that more money would come our way," Gallegos said.
Last year, Manzo hosted summer school for its students as well as those from Menlo Park Elementary, 1100 W. Fresno St., and Tolson Elementary, 1000 S. Greasewood Road.
Gallegos said intervention during the school year is a good idea, but it shouldn't preclude summer school. He said students who are helped during the year should be re-evaluated at the end of the year to see whether summer school is necessary. Others may need it, too, he said.
"Summer school is valuable," he said. "We're hoping to get more funds to hire more summer-school teachers and open up other classes for students who aren't ELL."
Grijalva Elementary Principal Anna Rivera said her school is waiting to receive results from Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards, the state's standards tests, to see whether TUSD's new approach has worked. But she said anecdotal evidence from day-to-day observations indicates improvements.
"I am pleased to see the funds redirected because we're using them proactively," she said.
Grijalva Elementary, 1795 W. Drexel Road, won't be offering summer school this year because of construction, Rivera said, but eligible students will be bused from Grijalva to their summer-school site. Parents should be notified this month about whether their students are eligible for summer school.
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