Friday, March 2, 2007

D.C. Public Schools officials are offering students extra help in reading and math to reduce the number of students performing below grade level.

Today, the school system begins a four-session Saturday Academy that will give students more classroom time and better learning strategies.

“Study after study confirms the fact that students who spend more time in organized classroom learning improve their chances for success,” said Schools Superintendent Clifford B. Janey.

In 2005, 67 percent of the city’s fourth-graders and 55 percent of eighth-graders tested below basic in reading, according to the 2005 National Assessment of Educational Progress. In math, 55 percent of fourth-graders and 69 percent of eighth-graders scored below basic.

Under the No Child Left Behind Act, third- through eighth-graders and students in one grade in high school must be tested annually and make “adequate yearly progress.”

School systems failing to comply risk progressive sanctions, such as giving parents the option to choose another school or total restructuring of the school’s staff.

The academy is for students in grades three through eight and grade 10 who attend about 60 city schools that fell out of compliance last year after students scored adequately the prior year.

Vicki Robinson, D.C. school performance officer, said those schools are expected to reach compliance this year with added support from the school system.

About 3,600 students were eligible for the program, which will be held at about 30 locations.

Students are selected for the voluntary classes on the basis of their need for academic support. Miss Robinson said the school system projected about 15 students per classroom to attend the weekend classes.

Students will receive an hour of reading, writing and literacy instruction, and an hour and a half of mathematics.

The students will be evaluated throughout the program to track their progress.

Miss Robinson said the school system has several similar weekend study programs but their effectiveness has not yet been determined. She said she anticipates a final report on the progress of students in this program after its completion.

“It’s hard to say if the Saturday Academy is going to boost the academic achievement,” Miss Robinson said. “We haven’t looked at the data yet.”

The academy will run from 8:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. every Saturday until March 24.

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