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New summer school numbers are smaller

By Paul Socolar on Dec 22, 2010 01:13 AM

Ever since former CEO Paul Vallas re-introduced summer school in Philadelphia in 2003, almost every year come the proclamations that the newest incarnation of the District's summer program is bigger and better.

But attendance data for the 2010 District summer programs recently obtained by the Notebook seem to show that District claims about the success of the $42 million program were inflated.

A District report to the School Reform Commission in November on the District's 2010 summer program, S.L.A.M., pointed to record participation and evidence of academic impact but was missing some basic information about how many students actually showed up.

Here are the latest figures on summer school attendance provided by the District, covering grades preK to 12:

  • 58,511 students attended at least 1 day out of 21
  • 40,070 students attended at least 5 days
  • 24,496 students attended at least 16 days.   

The November report to the SRC said that about eight in ten students attended daily. However, a footnote in the presentation clarified that grade-by-grade attendance rates were for students who attended 5 days or more.

A little analysis of the latest numbers:

  • By attending 16 days or more this summer, 24,496 students achieved at least 76 percent attendance. But this group of regular attendees, whose results were studied and provided the basis for District claims of the program's academic impact, represented well under half (42 percent) of the total participants.
  • Somewhere between 33,000-36,000 students attended the summer program daily, we can estimate from the latest data. That is well below an earlier District claim of 42,084 average daily attendance.

The group that attended 16 days or more in 2010 is slightly larger than the District's final 2009 participation figure of 23,758 students - a statistic introduced for comparison purposes in the November presentation.

But last year's District claims about summer school participation rates had diminished over time. After the 2009 program launched, participation for that summer program was estimated at 40,000. Later, according to press accounts, that number was revised downward to 32,000, and now to 23,758.

This year, the downward revising hasn't caught on. It's the 58,000 figure - the number of students who attended one day - that is still frequently cited by both local officials and the local media.

The District explained its use of that figure in a statement by spokesperson Elizabeth Childs, saying in part: "A promotional campaign encouraging students to take part in S.L.A.M. resulted in 58,511 students registering and attending for at least one of the 21 days. This number helps us determine the effectiveness of this campaign and the scope of S.L.A.M. When looking at attendance data, however, the District looked at students who had attended S.L.A.M. for five or more days."

Childs added that "each data set, whether it's a snapshot in time or final tallies, serves a purpose in evaluating past performance, adjusting present activities and/or planning for future programs."

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Comments (11)

Submitted by Meg (not verified) on December 23, 2010 7:24 am

All those kids that attended just one day had good reasons. They walked into confusion, lack of supplies, and tests. Even if their first day was not day one, they were tested.
We lost teachers after over a full week, discouraging the children who had to get to know a new teacher with a much larger group of children. This changed schedules, also adding greatly to the confusion we all felt. We then lost many kids who just did not feel the work of settling in again was worth the coming few days and even more tests.
This is a huge issue to keep in mind. Our children deal best with consistency and this is something the School District of Philadelphia id failing to provide. even now, day 71 of this school year, we are still juggling schedules and trying to accommodate new rules from 440. This confusion drastically interferes with academic growth. Routines matter to our children. We need to keep them in place as much as is humanly possible.

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on December 23, 2010 11:10 am

I'd be interested in a break down for K-5, 6-8 and 9-12. I assume the bulk of the "at least 16 days in attendance" were younger students. High schools were empty and people were paid to sit.

Submitted by teacher in the trenches (not verified) on December 23, 2010 12:00 pm

I was assigned the 1 to 3 enrichment group. I had 18 on roll, all signed up. I met 12 of these children. I had an average of 8 the first two weeks, but this dropped to an average of 6 for the last two weeks.
We were a "high-needs" site.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 23, 2010 2:11 pm

more smoke and mirrors by the district. I hope that the whole sdp gets a proper audit so that we can see what is actually being(or not being) achieved.

Submitted by Race matters! (not verified) on December 23, 2010 5:07 pm

I taught summer school at Bartram. . . I was paid to sit. it was great, for once, I could pretend I was a terrible teacher

Submitted by OMGWhat'sNext? (not verified) on December 23, 2010 7:48 pm

None of these programs are ever ready to go when it's time. The district does everything at the last minute and then they bully those under them when the results are less than ideal. There is lack of coordination between schools and downtown and a tremendous fear on the part of the schools, which leads to paralysis.

As an example, last year teachers were told Saturday school and an extra hour a day were mandatory for those working in Promise Academies. 'But don't worry; every other Saturday worked will be a field trip! And those of you who have families, you can bring your families with you on the trips!'

There are no field trips. There is only more of the same drill and practice they do all week, and no one is attending.

Plus, they had no backup plan for what to do when kids didn't stay after and/or attend on Saturdays, and now people who signed on because they wanted the extra work, some giving up other situations/jobs, are being dropped from the payroll for the extra time. Union representatives asked this question repeatedly last year at the information sessions, but never got an answer. Now they have one....

Of course everyone's job situation can change and no one can wholly anticipate demand in any business. My point is that the district, with all their high-paid man- and womanpower, doesn't seem capable of thinking any plan through or preparing for eventualities.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 24, 2010 10:49 am

This post reveals the crux of the problem with the district. Plans constructed are either hastily made and/or implemented. Another example was last year's Weighted Student Funded pilot program. I was trained on it the same exact month that so many other aspects of the program needed implementation. Very little if any time to plan and communicate to the necessary stakeholders was available.

The 2014 plan is filled with so many good points and ideas. However, the plan appears to come more from an academic setting (nothing wrong with that) but without real understanding of how much time and effort it will take to implement. The reform can become the problem.

I am saddened by the district's progress. There is real energy for improvement in this city that is being squandered by its leaders. Put $$ into projects that engage students grounded in high standards/expectations and support the hell out of it systematically.
And, speak about the people who are performing this work in positive ways.

Finally, keep politics out of the classroom. Test scores, like profits, are not the goals of an education system. They are the result of good teaching and learning just as Ford's profits are a result of selling their cars. The product is the work teachers and students do, not test results. If Ford's business was solely profit they would be out of business.

Submitted by Blondelle (not verified) on December 23, 2010 10:15 pm

Why is this not on Fox news or in some other media in which the public can see that 440 keeps LYING to them?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 24, 2010 9:15 am

What the Ackerman administration is good is putting the spin on everything. How much has really changed since Vallas. What has changed is Ackerman's totalitarian management style. My way or the highway. If only more people took the highway. She'd be gone by now retired in New Mexico.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 24, 2010 10:49 am

This post reveals the crux of the problem with the district. Plans constructed are either hastily made and/or implemented. Another example was last year's Weighted Student Funded pilot program. I was trained on it the same exact month that so many other aspects of the program needed implementation. Very little if any time to plan and communicate to the necessary stakeholders was available.

The 2014 plan is filled with so many good points and ideas. However, the plan appears to come more from an academic setting (nothing wrong with that) but without real understanding of how much time and effort it will take to implement. The reform can become the problem.

I am saddened by the district's progress. There is real energy for improvement in this city that is being squandered by its leaders. Put $$ into projects that engage students grounded in high standards/expectations and support the hell out of it systematically.
And, speak about the people who are performing this work in positive ways.

Finally, keep politics out of the classroom. Test scores, like profits, are not the goals of an education system. They are the result of good teaching and learning just as Ford's profits are a result of selling their cars. The product is the work teachers and students do, not test results. If Ford's business was solely profit they would be out of business.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 7, 2011 10:42 am

Ford did go out of business, but was saved by the government.

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