Dysart District offering unique take on summer school

Options vary based on student need

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Traditionally summer school calls for students sitting in a classroom over summer break. And while that is good for some, others may prefer to attend school online. The Dysart Unified School District offers both, and provides a learning platform to give students choice.

Shelley Isai, Administrator for Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment for grades 8 to 12, said the district is starting a small competency-based model targeting students with grades between a 45 and 59 percent, taking a look at standards they are competent in and those they are not.

“The first year we will offer English 9, English 10, Algebra, Geometry and integrated science, which are all freshmen classes,” she said. “The highest failure rate is always with freshmen because they come in and are not used to the high school system. The competency-based approach works in a way where you show me you are competent in the standards you weren’t coming in and that can take three weeks or one week and it just depends on when you can show competency.”

Cristy Diaz, iSchool Coordinator for Dysart Unified, said ground summer school will run in two sessions including Monday through Thursday from 8 to 11 a.m. and 12 to 3 p.m.

The cost is $150 per credit and half the cost if you are an employee of the district or on free and reduced lunch.

“Ground summer classes are limited to 15 students and we really want a particular style of teacher that can connect with kids and motivate them and get them through,” Ms. Isai said. “I don’t know how large it is going to end up, being that we want to make sure kids that already failed once have success this time around.”

The district focuses on family choice. Some students may need credit recovery in one subject and then want to get ahead in another area. Even 8th graders have the opportunity to get ahead with school credit. Algebra, geometry, Spanish and physical education are all offered.

“We really do think it’s a family choice as there are a lot of different things that play into some kid’s path. At Shadow Ridge High School, students can get an associate’s degree by the time they graduate,” Ms. Isai said. “With our four comprehensive high schools we have so many things available and lots of times kids are bogged down with four years of math and English, and this option gives them open career pathways for CTE or arts. And they can design their plan the way they want.”

Dysart Unified has set a goal for every high school student to complete a college class by graduation, as data shows kids who do go on to higher education and the rigor helps prepare the students.

Ms. Diaz said five years ago summer school had 200 students enrolled and last summer between 600 and 650. While numbers for this year are not yet available, registration is open and ongoing.

“We already have multiple 8th graders enrolled in Spanish and geometry and PE  and already have a high enrollment for social studies and math will vary this summer,” Ms. Diaz said. “But we will know what our numbers look like after spring break.”

Ms. Isai said Dysart Superintendent Dr. Quinn Kellis is leading the high schools in looking at how to do things differently to meet student needs, and changing the high schools to fit he needs of the kids and learning how to leverage technology to benefit students.

“A student may have to work late into the night to support the family and could go to iSchool from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. instead of traditional hours,” she said. “And there are even more things we can do. It is an exciting time to hear kids and stakeholders’ voices.”

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