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Revamped Jump Start summer school program excites educators, kids

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Educational research indicates that children can lose one to three months of learning over the summer. But that phenomenon is particularly troublesome for students who are already performing below grade level.

Like many districts, Woodstock Community Unit School District 200 educators are always looking for ways to improve learning and believe a newly revamped Jump Start summer school program is a step in the right direction.

Rather than stay with the same teacher for four hours a day, students in Jump Start now alternate teachers three times a day spending two hours on literacy, one hour on math and one hour on an enrichment activity such as coding, art or a STEM project.

“We are very excited about the changes made to our summer school program. Teachers have commented that the new format has led to increased student engagement and more opportunities for students to learn new skills across multiple disciplines,” said Keely Krueger, assistant superintendent for early childhood & elementary education.

The shifting of teachers and the enrichment education are new components to summer school. District 200 also added fourth and fifth grade this year instead of capping it at third grade.

Classes began July 9 at Verda Dierzen Early Learning Center for pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students and at Prairiewood Elementary School for students in first through fifth grade. Classes in the free, voluntary 4-week program conclude on Aug. 2.

Nearly 400 District 200 students have enrolled in the Jump Start program at both schools, and there was definitely an increase in interest among parents this summer.

Jennifer Malecke, principal of the Jump Start program at Prairiewood, said she also appreciates how this year’s program has some intermingling of different grade levels. Students are grouped according to where they are academically in math or reading as opposed to in one chronological grade.

“It’s geared more toward their instructional ability,” Malecke said. “This way we’re focusing more on the skills they need. It’s more individualized.”

Malecke also said the students love the added enrichment curriculum and said behavior issues are way down, which she attributes to the faster pace, class changes and the excitement over the enrichment portion of the program.

“The projects are worthwhile, and they’re really ready to dive right in,” she said.

District educators are eager to see what impact Jump Start has on students, particularly since testing has shown a dip in students progress after the summer.

“I’d really like to see those MAP scores in the fall to see how they’ve maintained,” Malecke said.

 

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