Summer school new reality for many students

.......... .......... .......... .......... .......... .......... .......... .......... .......... .......... .......... .......... .......... .......... .......... .......... .......... ..........

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New math requirements mean making up courses is harder

Copyright © 2013 Albuquerque Journal

Joseph Cruz should be enjoying one of the sweetest summers of his life – that brief moment of freedom after high school graduation and before college or career.

Instead, he’s spending his summer in a stuffy, crowded portable classroom taking math classes all day long.

Cruz will be among 274 students to graduate today as Albuquerque Public Schools holds its summer school graduation.

That’s a 23 percent increase over last year, and officials say it may be a reflection of a “high school redesign” that requires students to take four years of math to graduate. The class of 2013 is the first class affected by the redesign, which was signed into law in 2007.

Cruz said his path to graduation would have been easier without it.

“I probably would have been out of high school by now,” he said.

The redesign also requires all students to take either an Advanced Placement class, a college class for dual credit or an online class.

Leah Gutierrez Wier, an instructional manager at APS who oversaw summer school, said the district offered 14 more summer math sections this year, and had an enrollment of 1,965 in math classes. That’s up more than 20 percent over last year.

Summer school staff stayed within the program budget by cutting or combining classes with low enrollment, like electives. Summer school costs $200 per semester credit for high school students, and heavy discounts are available to low-income families.

Last year, APS’ summer school didn’t offer the traditional 12th-grade math options of financial literacy, transition to college math and pre-calculus. This year, 76 students took those classes.

Anthony Marquez, left, works on problems in his summer school algebra II class. At right is teacher Liz Alvarado. (Greg Sorber/Journal)

Anthony Marquez, left, works on problems in his summer school algebra II class. At right is teacher Liz Alvarado. (Greg Sorber/Journal)

Cruz is taking financial literacy in the morning and

Algebra II in the afternoon at the Career Enrichment Center.

Cruz said he is grateful that the fourth-year math courses are offered as summer courses. He said one upside is that learning is easier for him in the summer school format, where students spend four hours per day on one subject. He said that kind of intensive study has helped him learn the material better than he could during the shorter class periods of the traditional school year.

Younger high school students, who are also subject to the four-year requirement, also are swelling the summer school rolls. Those students are taking classes like geometry and Algebra II during the summer in much higher numbers.

Gutierrez Wier said she saw the largest increases in Algebra II enrollment. In-person Algebra II enrollment increased by 91 students to 239.

Students also have the option of taking summer classes online through the APS eCADEMY. The eCADEMY assigns students to a teacher, who communicates with them through email. Students complete the work in a school computer lab, where an adult is present to help with technical assistance, but teaching is done electronically. The eCADEMY courses are offered throughout the year.

Online summer school math enrollment also increased over last year, but less dramatically.

Gutierrez Wier said the increases reflect the new reality for students: they don’t have time to make up failed math classes during the school year.

“In the old days, before four credits of math, students had their senior year to make things up. In other words, they had an extra year in there. And so you could play around with it and make it up during the school year. Now that they need a credit every year, the only place to make it up is at eCADEMY in the evening or in summer school.”

She said there has also been an increased effort at the district level to keep every student on track with their math credits, and for counselors to get every student who failed math during the school year into summer school or eCADEMY.