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Shelby County Public Schools' expanded summer school program has had a big turnout this year.
In reports to the Board of Education at Thursday's meeting, it was reported that almost 350 students are attending the district's summer reading academy.
The program, which the district started last year for students in grades 1 and 3, expanded this year to add grades 5, 7 and 9.
With about 262 students enrolled in the elementary program at Wright Elementary School, which includes grades 1, 3 and 5, and more than 200 of them showing up for the first week, there is about a 10 percent increase over last year's numbers, said Cindy French, the director of elementary schools.
This is the first year for the secondary school program, which is for students in grades 7 and 9 at East Middle School, and it has seen about 142 of the 201 students accepted, almost 71 percent, attend the program.
"Principals have been calling homes everyday to try and get more students involved," said Kerry Fannin, director of secondary schools, in his report to the board. "I was really wrestling with those attendance numbers, trying to see how we could increase them, when I realized that they'll grow next year just like our elementary schools did. Once they see how much the students learn and advance, our numbers will go up just like they did with the younger students."
Fannin praised the help of Western Kentucky University educators and how much the partnership has benefited the program in Shelby County.
"They have two federal grants helping fund their program, and every time they show up they have even more resources and materials than we had hoped," he said. "They're doing training with our staff every Monday to follow up with the professional development they did before the program started. It's just been a great partnership."
Fannin also noted that the small class size and how much the students are enjoying the reading.
"What's it like inside a class? Well, first off, the classes are very small; we have a seven-and-a-half to one student/teacher ratio. And another thing we have is a literacy circle, which includes a [nonfiction] book they're reading and discussing that they get to take home."
French said the program for the younger students continues to show success. Based on the Reading Recovery and CIM models, the programs focus on individual and small group work to help students read and comprehend stories.
"One student already told her teacher, 'I'm reading way better than when I got here Monday,' and this was only on day four," French said. "She told her 'When I come back in the fall, I'm going to be on grade level.' That's the kind of excitement we're seeing from these younger students."
French noted that every elementary school principal is at the school each day, as is she, to help the staff of 38 teachers keep the students involved.
"The goal is to spend every minute of the day letting the students read, read and read."