Chicago summer school to get a makeover

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CPS is revamping its summer school program to focus more on students’
individual needs, rather than the one-size fits all approach it has
previously offered.

In the past, 3rd-, 6th- and 8th-grade students who failed to meet
promotion requirements all attended the standard Summer Bridge program
that focused on reading and math.

CPS is revamping its summer school program to focus more on students’ individual needs, rather than the one-size fits all approach it has previously offered.

In the past, 3rd-, 6th- and 8th-grade students who failed to meet promotion requirements all attended the standard Summer Bridge program that focused on reading and math.

This year, school staff must assess each student to determine whether they need additional reading or math instruction, says Erin Ramsden, a project manager for CPS. For the first time, each Summer Bridge site will have a teacher dedicated to making sure students receive differentiated instruction and curriculum; that teacher will analyze each student’s performance to get the effort off on the right track.

The effort is aimed at “recognizing [students] are there for different reasons and each of them has their own unique needs,” Ramsden said.

In addition to students who are struggling with reading and math class work or who failed to meet the benchmark scores on the ISAT, a third group of students will also have their own curriculum: those who meet the academic criteria for promotion but have more than nine unexcused absences.

These students will take part in project-based learning. The goal is to build civic engagement and social development skills with activities that involve teamwork and multiple disciplines.

One example is Project Citizen, in which students will learn public policy by identifying a need in their community and creating and implementing a solution.

Ramsden says that the revamped program won’t cost additional money. CPS spent about $50 million on its summer school programs last year. The same number of children will be served, but summer school will run at about 40 fewer schools with more classrooms at each site, making it more economical.

CPS will continue to offer busing to the children who live more than 1.5 miles from a summer school site.  

For students who will not be part of Summer Bridge, Mayor Richard M. Daley announced last week that the city is offering 250,000 slots in various programs, from day camps to jobs programs.

That figure, however, is 35,000 fewer slots than last year, when the federal stimulus program provided $16 million dollars for such programs. The city is making up for some of this loss with $6.1 million left over from Chicago’s unsuccessful bid for the 2016 Olympics.