School is more fun in the summer time, says Isabel Acabal, a third-grader at Hawthorne Elementary.
Since kindergarten, Acabal, has participated in “K-3 Plus,” a program that extends the school year for low-income students in kindergarten through third grade for an additional five weeks in June and July.
The program is strongly touted by both the New Mexico Public Education Department and Albuquerque Public Schools because it is believed to help students academically. A 2011 Legislative Finance Committee report found a link between the program and higher student test scores in reading, writing and math.
For her part, Acabal just says K-3 Plus is fun and it beats summertime boredom.
“So you’re not just sitting there watching TV,” Acabal said.
Hawthorne Principal Penelope Buschardt said her staff has seen firsthand that students in the program have improved academically.
She said one of the biggest benefits is students don’t need as much time at the beginning of the school year to get back into the swing of things.
She noted that in most cases students in the K-3 Plus program are paired with the teacher they will have in the next school year.
Lea Lopez, mother of a third-grade student at Hawthorne, said her son has benefited from the program.
“I honestly don’t know where he would be academically if it wasn’t for K-3 Plus,” she said. Her son, Timothy Abeyta, said if he were not in the program he would probably spend much of his time playing video games.
But while many families see the benefit from the program, others can be reluctant to sign up their children because they think K-3 Plus classes are for remediation, said Christy Baitz-Evans, a second-grade teacher.
“K-3 Plus is not intended for the low students. It is intended for a good mix … That is a misconception that is often out there,” she said.
Baitz-Evans added that there is homework and strong curriculum in the program, but because it’s summertime the classroom environment is a little more laid back.
“I love seeing the kids in a far less stressful environment,” she said.
Parents can still sign up for the program by contacting their school, said APS spokeswoman Johanna King.
The district is hoping families in eligible schools take advantage of the program.
APS has 49 elementary schools that are eligible for K-3 Plus.