Monday, November 09, 2009

Jazzing it up, summer school style

Jazzing it up, summer school style: "Jazzing it up, summer school style
Pittsburgh Public Schools hopes to attract more middle-schoolers to its program
Sunday, November 08, 2009
By Joe Smydo, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette"
Nice recap in the article.

The deadline for community groups to apply for the afternoon partnering opportunity is this Friday. I'm climbing in my cave to knock off the applications again this week, I hope.

There had already been a RFP (Request For Proposals) from PPS (Pittsburgh Public Schools) with an early October deadline. I call that round one. All of that work ended up to be a meaningless expercise thanks to changes in the Pennsylvania budget. Ouch. The entire RFP was retracted. Sixty two proposals came from community groups then. Now the terms from the PPS have changed in significant ways.

Not only is there a lack of money for field trips, the time of the camp in the afternoon periods was cut by one third. Rather than three hours followed by a full hour for lunch, the afternoon session is with a 45-minute lunch time block and a two hour period. Plus, the budget matters now -- not a sky's the limit approach. The district says it won't allow for any camp to exceed a cost of more than $650 per student. So, the upper limit of $650 covers two hours per day for five weeks for a total of 25 sessions. This investment limit from the school district comes to $13 per hour per kid for total costs incurred by the community partner.

The biggest sticking point for community partners is the hiring of staffers.

A number of hurldles exist for the overall program. I'm not sure the kids are going to attend the camp. Attendance is going to be a huge factor. From July 12 to August 13, most are not conditioned to attend school from 8:30 or so to 3 pm. Sure, they'll get a free lunch and some neat play time each afternoon, but it is still school.

My first round camp applications, mentioned slightly in the past on this blog are posted online. Read about the Olympic Sports Camp, the Junior Lifeguard Camp, the Swim and Water Polo Camp and the Sport Manager and Entrepreneur Camp at the A For Athlete wiki.

There are significant changes to what I'm going to put in for funding now from my end. Gone in full are the Junior Lifeguard Camp and the Sports Manager and Entrepreneur Camp. The kids can't take field trips with the new budget and the two hour day kills them anyway. We wanted to take the kids to Sandcastle for a week of instruction there followed by a week at the Allegheny County Parks pools (Boyce, Settlers, North, South). Can't get there. And, if we did, 120 minutes isn't going to cut it. The Sports Manager field trips were every Tuesday and Thursday to various sports businesses (Pitt, Steelers, Pirates, Penguins, golf course, etc.). We were going to learn about their customer experiences, transactions and even how the coaches take and use stats.

With the Olympic Sports Camp, we'll have to do everything on a school site now. So, golfing at a golf course is out of the question. And, biking at the Washington Road oval is going to be difficult unless we get there either on bikes or magic carpets. We can't really buy new bikes so I'm in the market for 30 or 35 magic carpets, used or new. Plus, helmets, bikes and water bottles would be nice too. Those are big hits to the overall quality of the offering to the students.

Since there are two pots of money, and one source is more definite while the other is not, I'm going to need to make a application for the Title I Literacy Camp option. Stay tuned for Olympicpedia Camp. I started a two hour, drop in, summertime, day-camp in 2008 called Olympicpedia. So, this is familiar ground for me but now there is a bunch of red tape from PPS. Before, I just contracted with the private provider with the computer lab space.

If you want to help, leave me a message in the comments area. Mostly, I've got to re-tool the older grant applications and dream up the Olympicpedia educational rubic justifications. I am turning to Wiki Educator for some assistance.

Back to the drawing board. Deadlines loom large.


Anonymous said...

full article:

Jazzing it up, summer school style
Pittsburgh Public Schools hopes to attract more middle-schoolers to its program
Sunday, November 08, 2009
By Joe Smydo, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Because only a fraction of struggling middle-grade readers sign up for summer school, Pittsburgh Public Schools officials are trying something different to lure them in next year.

The district's central office already is sending employees school-to-school to recruit students for a five-week, Monday-through-Friday program to be organized like a summer camp.

The daylong sessions, to be held at a handful of schools citywide, will begin with camp meetings. Students will learn camp cheers, perform skits and hear from motivational speakers.

Also new is an approach designed to reinforce reading and writing skills while allowing students to explore new interests, unfamiliar topics or career options.

Students will choose which classes and workshops they'll attend, said Tanya Graham, literacy project manager. One proposed workshop is titled "Criminal Mastermind: Writing the Perfect Getaway Scene," and another is titled "Can You Make the Cut? Becoming a Surgeon."

The district announced plans for the camp in spring and provided additional details last week.

While the camp will be open to all rising sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders, the district especially wants to enroll those who, test scores show, are struggling readers.

Yet that group has shown little interest in summer school, officials said, even though it's critical that they raise their game before high school.

The district's traditional four-week summer school, geared to struggling students in the elementary and middle grades, provided three hours of instruction in math and reading daily. Schools with full-day programs offered sports or other activities in the afternoon.

In January, about 2,700 students in fifth, sixth and seventh grades missed the proficiency mark on the 4Sight test, used to predict student performance on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment, or PSSA.

Only 648, or about 24 percent, of those students signed up for summer school, and only 295, or about 11 percent, completed the program.

Because reading is a concern -- on the most recent PSSA, 59.5 percent of middle-grade students scored advanced or proficient in math, compared to 56.7 percent in reading -- the camp will focus exclusively on literacy. And officials hope the camp design and stepped-up recruitment will boost enrollment. Four mornings a week, students will study reading and writing through a theme they select.

Anonymous said...


Tentative options include "McDonald's, Mars and Flying Cars: Spectacular Science," with a look at environmentalism, fitness and the solar system; "Let Your Creative Juices Flow: Exploring the Arts," with units on film production, dance and music; and "It's a Small World After All: Global Cultures," with exploration of food, modern heroes and "surviving disasters around the world."

Those ideas came from student focus groups, said Lauren Meehan, project coordinator.

One morning each week, students will attend a workshop designed to stir a passion or prepare them for college and work. Examples include the workshops on crime writing and becoming a surgeon.

Embedded in the lessons and workshops will be exercises designed to help students better understand organization of text, an author's point of view, inferences, context clues and antonyms -- all areas in which the city's middle-grade students have struggled on the state test.

"It is the higher-level thinking skills that we're hoping to get at," said Nancy Kodman, the district's executive director of strategic initiatives.

Each afternoon, students will participate in an extracurricular activity, sponsored by a community group and related in some way to reading and writing.

The district initially intended to finance the camp next summer and in 2011 with $16.6 million in federal stimulus money passed through the state.

Officials modified the plans after learning they'd be shorted $6 million, part of a pot of stimulus money the state diverted for other education uses. The shift means fewer field trips and a narrower range of afternoon activities for campers.

The district will operate the regular summer school next year for students in elementary grades.

The district traditionally has held summer school in June and July. Next year, the regular program and the middle-grade camp will be held in July and August to gear students up for the school year.

Joe Smydo can be reached at or 412-263-1548.

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