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Crowded hallways

Columbia’s summer attendance explodes thanks to increased interest and a new program
Wednesday, June 20, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 9:33 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, October 29, 2008
The halls at Hickman High School are uncharacteristically packed, with nearly 1,000 students in grades 9-12 opting to take classes in the summer. Most students and faculty attribute the increase to Newton Learning, a program contracted by the district to run summer schools.

It’s 7:30 a.m. While many high school students in Columbia catch up on sleep, nearly 1,000 of their peers are headed back to school.

Although total summer school enrollment has remained consistent, enrollment for high school students in Columbia has nearly doubled during the past two summers. Enrollment for grades 9-12 has grown from 517 students in 2004 to nearly 1,000 students this summer.

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The increase in enrollment is a result of a number of changes, said Ann Landes, director of guidance at Hickman High School. One of the main changes came in 2004 when the district first contracted Newton Learning for summer school classes.

“Newton really promotes summer school,” Landes said.

In addition to providing curriculum and materials, Newton Learning offers $100 incentives for students who have perfect attendance at the end of the summer. Last year, 2,785 students, or 51.8 percent of summer school students, received $100 debit cards.

“Our enrollment has certainly increased since we switched to the Newton program,” said Mary Humlicek, who serves as a liaison between the district and Newton Learning. “The incentives are motivation for some students. The program runs the full day and appeals to parents who are working.”

Attendance increases in grades 9-12 from 2004 to 2007 might also be explained by literature and math preparatory courses, said Diane Bruckerhoff, summer school principal at Hickman. The two courses were introduced in 2006, and they were strongly suggested to students looking to qualify for higher-level literature and math courses during the normal school year, or to make up credits they missed for a variety of reasons.

However, the increases are also the likely result of population growth in Columbia, students taking courses not offered during the normal school year, or students looking for exercise and to free up schedules by taking summer physical education (P.E.), she said.

“Students like to take (P.E.),” Bruckerhoff said, adding that P.E. is one of the summer program’s most popular courses. “Others just like to stay fit in the summer.”

The growing rate of enrollment has also been seen in the English Language Learners Program, an educational program for students whose native language is not English. This summer, the program is offering three different high school credit classes for ELL students. Last year, only two high school classes were offered.

“Summer school is really important for ELL kids,” said Judy Trujillo, coordinator of the ELL program for the district. “There are so many living in a home where English is not spoken. The kids can lose ground on their English skills during the summer.”

Better communication with parents may have played a role in the increased number of ELL students, according to Trujillo.

“We created a letter last year to send to parents that was translated into several different languages,” she said. “The letter was sent around the same time as registration and explained the program.”

Several summer programs for high school students have also experienced record enrollment this summer. Sharon Williams, Minority Achievement Committee Scholar Program facilitator, said this has been the program’s largest year ever, enrolling 48 students, all of whom are going into tenth grade.

MAC Scholars is a 12-day residency program that partners with MU to give minority students an opportunity to experience the rigor of advanced courses.

“When they’re done with the program, we definitely want them to take honors and AP classes,” Williams said. “They are better prepared for college entrance exams and have a discipline for working at that level of rigor.”

The district’s Minority Intern Program boasted a record 50 participants this summer. The program gives students the opportunity to work alongside teachers and to try teaching as a profession. Students may apply during their freshman year and can continue with the program until the summer after they graduate. Students are paid by the hour for their work.

“Last year, I struggled to get 48 applications,” said program coordinator Bobbie Pauley. This year, 72 applied.

Alyssa Monroe, a recent graduate of Hickman and an intern at Paxton Keeley Elementary School, said the program’s success is due to the fun atmosphere that Newton Learning provides students.

Monroe, who is in her fourth summer as an intern, said she decided she wanted to pursue a teaching career after Newton Learning was contracted by the district.

“(Before) the program was so chaotic,” Monroe said. “Then it was switched to Newton and it’s just an awesome program that helped push me in that direction.”


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