Fairfax County slashes summer school
My guest is Alison Lake, who has worked as a teacher, tutor, education columnist and Blue Ribbon Schools evaluator. She now works at the Washington Post. She has two children, ages 7 and 9, and lives in Reston, Va.
By Alison Lake
Fairfax County has opted to cut the majority of summer school programs to save $6.3 million as it tries to whittle down a huge budget shortfall.
The move raises concerns that struggling students are likely to suffer academically and overall achievement in Fairfax County could decline. In past years, the summer has been a time for English language learners to keep making progress and for mainstream students to supplement skill gaps.
This is considered especially important for students still learning English because many lose skills over the long summer break. Summer school has also served as a safe place for children to spend the day while parents work.
While the summer school cuts may not raise ire in higher-achieving schools and wealthier communities, they are a blow to families in struggling schools and low-income families that can't afford expensive day care and tutoring.
But the tough economic times forced Fairfax County to make tough choices.
In fact, when schools superintendent Jack Dale first presented the 2010-11 schools budget to the community, he frankly noted that without additional funding, the system faced negative effects on student achievement, academic excellence, high-caliber teachers, innovative programs, individual student needs [and] FCPS’s reputation.
Schools officials could not say exactly how many students had attended summer school last year, but said that the majority of programs would not operate this summer.
Those that will continue to operate include Extended School Year for special education, which is federally funded; online credit classes for high school graduation; online English language instruction, and programs that pay for themselves through tuition, such as arts and science enrichment.
The English as a Second Language (ESOL) program tapped into federal funding for online language training. Free of charge, middle and high school students can enroll in interactive reading and writing instruction, one hour a day for three weeks in July.
Twenty teachers will guide 350 ESOL students, and assign some homework and outside assignments. However, as some county teachers and parents have noted, not everyone has an Internet connection at home, or even a computer.
A parent liaison with immigrant families said that many parents are upset about the change in summer school.
In years past, ESOL students could attend summer school, which was structured like a regular school day. It was once free of charge, though in the last few years families had to pay some tuition. Just another sign of the budget-stressed times.
How many of you were planning to send your kids to summer school, only to find that the programs have been cut in Fairfax and in other districts? What are your plans now?
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| May 8, 2010; 6:30 AM ET
Categories: Fairfax County Public Schools | Tags: Fairfax County Public schools, Fairfax budget cuts, Fairfax summer school, summer school, summer school cuts
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