Sum­mer school booming as kids face grow­ing pres­sures

Calgary Herald - - FRONT PAGE - EVA FER­GU­SON efer­gu­[email protected]­media.com

A grow­ing num­ber of stu­dents are trad­ing lazy sum­mer days for teach­ers and text­books, with sum­mer school pro­grams booming in both the public and sep­a­rate school boards.

As to­day ’s ju­nior and se­nior high stu­dents face more com­plex­i­ties — from busier ex­tracur­ric­u­lar sched­ules to in­creas­ingly chal­leng­ing post-sec­ondary re­quire­ments — more are ex­plor­ing the widen­ing range of sum­mer school choices.

“It can be about up­grad­ing or ad­just­ing course loads, con­tin­u­ous learn­ing if you don’t want to for­get some­thing you’ve just learned, or it can even be English lan­guage ac­qui­si­tion (for new Cana­di­ans),” said Chris Meadon, direc­tor of learn­ing with the Cal­gary Board of Ed­u­ca­tion.

“Our stu­dents are amaz­ing but they live in a world where things are mov­ing very quickly. And when you are con­stantly fac­ing the ques­tion, ‘What are you go­ing to be when you grow up?’ and you’re only 15, that can have a lot of anx­i­ety at­tached to it.

“So if you’ve got a lot of choices, that can re­ally help.”

This sum­mer, more than 9,000 stu­dents par­tic­i­pated in sum­mer school pro­grams at the CBE, from on­line learn­ing to tra­di­tional class­rooms, a huge jump from the 3,400 that par­tic­i­pated in 2003, when the CBE first started col­lect­ing sum­mer pro­gram data.

CBE sum­mer pro­grams were ini­tially only of­fered through Chi­nook Learn­ing, for­merly run out of the old Vis­count Ben­nett high school site in the com­mu­nity of Kil­lar­ney.

But, now, sum­mer pro­gram­ming has ex­panded to sev­eral high school sites, in­clud­ing Sir Win­ston Churchill, For­est Lawn, Lester B. Pear­son and John Diefen­baker.

Other sum­mer choices have also be­come year-round, al­ter­na­tive learn­ing pro­grams, such as Dis­cov­er­ing Choices, which of­fers out­reach ed­u­ca­tion for vul­ner­a­ble teens at unique lo­ca­tions in­clud­ing Marl­bor­ough Mall.

Work ex­pe­ri­ence pro­grams have also ex­panded, of­fer­ing high school credit through in­tern­ships that build re­sumes and life skills.

The Cal­gary Catholic School District has seen a sim­i­lar uptick in sum­mer pro­grams, with more than 5,400 stu­dents par­tic­i­pat­ing in 2018 sum­mer pro­grams, com­pared with 2,200 in 2003.

Steve Petingola, prin­ci­pal at St. Anne Aca­demic Cen­tre, which co­or­di­nates sum­mer pro­gram­ming through six Catholic high schools, said more stu­dents than ever are do­ing what they can to earn the high grades needed for post-sec­ondary pro­grams.

“Sum­mer school can give you that com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage,” he said, adding that many uni­ver­si­ties now de­mand grades in the high 80s to low 90s in core cour­ses.

“The kids in our pro­grams are al­ready good stu­dents. But they’re just hop­ing to beat out their com­pe­ti­tion for post-sec­ondary pro­grams.”

Both the public and Catholic sys­tems have also re­cently in­tro­duced Math 15 for sum­mer, geared to­ward stu­dents who’ve com­pleted Grade 9 and want to pre­pare for Math 10-1, the top level math stream.

But par­ents say in­creas­ing chal­lenges around the math cur­ricu­lum and the way teach­ers de­liver it are also at­tract­ing more stu­dents to this new four-week course.

Ash­ley Jensen says her daugh­ter strug­gled with Grade 9 math, although it was dif­fi­cult to gauge be­cause of vague re­port cards, which only grade stu­dents on a five-point scale in­stead of a per­cent­age out of 100.

“It was hard to know whether there re­ally was a prob­lem. Un­til the teacher sug­gested she reg­is­ter in Math 10-2, and that’s when we re­al­ized that’s just not good enough,” she said.

Not com­plet­ing the dash-one math stream would mean clos­ing doors on many uni­ver­sity pro­grams, Jensen said. So she en­rolled her daugh­ter in Math 15 over the sum­mer.

And while her daugh­ter ini­tially protested, she found it valu­able.

“It’s a great course, be­cause there is rep­e­ti­tion,” Jensen said. “There is home­work ev­ery day and quizzes ev­ery day, so you know ex­actly how you’re do­ing and what you need to work on.”

Now, af­ter a few weeks into Math 10-1 as part of her reg­u­lar high school pro­gram, Ash­ley says her daugh­ter is do­ing well and feel­ing con­fi­dent.

Cherelle Payne said her son also ben­e­fited from the same Math 15 sum­mer pro­gram af­ter feel­ing frus­trated with ju­nior high math.

“Math is such a big con­cern right now, across Al­berta. It’s the dis­cov­ery learn­ing, which means kids can sit in groups and dis­cuss how to ap­proach one prob­lem for the en­tire class,” she said.

“There isn’t enough rep­e­ti­tion in the class­room. But the sum­mer class of­fered that, and fo­cused more on core con­cepts.”

Payne says to­day’s stu­dents can ben­e­fit from more choices in the sum­mer, in­clud­ing get­ting more prac­tice in a sub­ject, get­ting ahead or en­sur­ing they have a lighter load in the reg­u­lar school year.

JIM WELLS

Ash­ley Jensen, left, dis­cusses math with daugh­ter Bradley in their north­west home in Cal­gary on Fri­day. The teen ben­e­fited af­ter a teacher rec­om­mended she at­tend a sum­mer school math pro­gram to bet­ter pre­pare her for Grade 10 math cour­ses. Al­most 15,000 stu­dents took ad­van­tage of sum­mer school pro­grams through two school boards this year.

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