SMS reading program paying off

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 6, 2007

COURTLAND—A new program during the school year may have contributed to a decrease in Southampton’s summer school students.

The 80 Southampton Middle School students in summer school represent a 36-percent drop in those numbers from last year, according to school officials. They attribute that improvement in part to an after-school program that gave at-risk students extra help with reading and math each week.

The program has been continued and expanded for the summer, with almost 25 students involved four days a week, from 8:15 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

The hours and days are the same as those for summer school at SMS, but the difference is that the students participating in the 21st Century Community Learning Center program have been invited to attend and can choose to decline the invitation.

Indeed, many of the 61 students who were involved in the program during the spring declined to participate this summer. But they will have the opportunity to get involved in the after-school program again in the fall.

Those who accepted the invitations, however, have had a busy couple of weeks, reading novels, completing computerized math drills, making crafts, playing outside and even going on field trips.

The program is funded through a federal grant. The summer session started June 25 and ends July 12.

&uot;We’re real excited about how the program is going this summer,&uot; said Laura Vick, Title I and gifted coordinator for Southampton County schools.

The work students are doing while school is out is seen as a continuation of the efforts they put in during the school year. Where, for instance, the spring program required students to complete a project on women in history, the summer session focuses on the historical areas of Richmond and Hampton Roads, highlighted by field trips to the Edgar Allen Poe Museum, the Virginia Zoo and the Museum of the Confederacy.

Darian Bell, assistant principal at the middle school and the chief administrator there for both the 21st Century program and summer school, said the program has helped improve attitudes amongst SMS students.

&uot;I know of several kids who were borderline toward the end of the year, but wanted to be involved&uot; in the summer program, so they buckled down and improved their grades in order to avoid having to go to summer school, he said.

The focus on reading and math has also helped with pass rates and test scores for the at-risk students who have participated, resulting in fewer failures and, therefore, fewer students forced to attend summer school, Vick said.