MANKATO — During the regular school year, it’s tough for a single elementary school teacher to spend a significant amount of time with each individual student in a class of 25 kids.
That was one of the obvious benefits of a summer school class finishing up this week at Rosa Parks Elementary School.
In one of the rooms, a teacher was reading a book with three kids, laughing about the story and improving their reading skills at the same time. In the first- and second-grade reading room nearby, one teacher was reading a book with two kids, while another worked on flashcards.
As Kristin Bleick held up cards with “sight words” (words readers should know by heart without sounding them out), three boys shouted out the answers.
“Awesome! That was the hardest list,” Bleick said before moving onto another stack.
Other teachers at the school were working on progress assessments, as summer school reading and math sessions for Mankato Area Public Schools ended. The 500 students who participate in Reading Academy, Math Academy, the summer service-learning program Learning in Deed, and English Language Learners (which continues for another three weeks) are assessed at the beginning of the summer. Five weeks later as the math and reading components are wrapping up, teachers look at how far the students’ skills have progressed.
In such a short amount of time will the gains be extraordinary? Probably not, said Mike Fugazzi, summer school administrator. But any amount of progress to help prepare kids for the upcoming school year is a good thing, he said.
Julie Dlouhy, a teacher in the third- and fourth-grade reading group at Rosa, said she has seen improvement this summer.
“You can tell off the cuff, really, with the kids as we’re reading (around the table),” she said.
Students are identified for summer school programs through standardized tests, and participation is optional. About 500 students in grades K-6 are split between Rosa Parks, Washington, Franklin and Monroe elementary schools.
“It’s like running a huge elementary school that’s spread out over town,” Fugazzi said.
The sessions provide more than three hours per day of lessons in either reading or math with both large-group lessons and smaller breakout sessions. The children also are served breakfast and lunch.
Fugazzi — on his 10th year working with the summer school program — said a huge part of what makes the program so successful are the “ridiculously passionate” teachers.
“I’m so spoiled. ... I get to work with rock star teachers,” Fugazzi said. “It’s just amazing how they rally around the kids.”