That degree of regression means teachers have to spend the first few months of the new school year reteaching what was taught the previous year. Over time, children fall further and further behind.
That is an issue everywhere, but especially in Salem, where more than half the public schoolchildren are from low-income families, where one school was given Level 4 “underperforming” status by the state, and where other schools are trying to raise scores on the statewide MCAS exams.
“Despite evidence of some progress, we are still not bringing our kids to the achievement level I think most people think they are capable of,” the superintendent said.
Tomorrow night, the Salem Public Schools Summer Program Committee will hold its first meeting at Collins Middle School. This task force has been charged with exploring summer programs, including ways to fund them.
“This cannot be sustained by taxpayer dollars alone,” the superintendent said. Grants, corporate sponsorships and sliding fees are all being considered.
On Saturday, a Salem Summer Programs Expo for parents will take place under a large tent behind the Community Health Center on Congress Street.
School officials will be there along with representatives from a number of community organizations that offer summer programs.
While acknowledging that initial summer school efforts are aimed at “high-risk” students, Russell said he hopes, in time, to create offerings for all students.
“When I started, my focus was on all kids and that is still my focus,” he said. “For this to be sustained, it has to be as much enrichment as remediation. ... It’s summer, after all. I’m hoping there can be some kind of balance between having new experiences and the learning that goes with that, and just having some fun.”
This expanded summer program, while stirring excitement, is coming at a cost.