Summer program gives students chance to catch up

Ninth- and 10th-graders unsuccessful in math or science courses can fall behind and on opportunities during their remaining years at McMinnville High School.

But a summer catch-up program allows them not only to make up credits and improve their grades, but also to gain confidence and get back on track to graduate and go on to higher education.

“It’s pretty effective for students,” said Ramon Alvarez, a Mac High math teacher who is helping students with geometry in the summer program. “And it lets them know what they’ll need for college.”

The program, which offers much one-on-one attention, also develops relationships between students and teachers, including several new math instructors who will join the MHS staff this fall.

“Students become more comfortable with the teachers and more comfortable in the classroom,” Alvarez said, noting that they become used to asking for help when they need it, as well as to staying on task and being persistent.

“They’ll be more confident going forward,” he said.

Math teacher Pam Canady, who’s in charge of the voluntary program, said teachers encouraged freshmen and sophomores to sign up before the regular school year ended. About 60 preregistered, but 84 showed up on the first day, June 19.

Some have already finished. Others are still working on their goals today, the final day of the session.

The program, which meets in the Adams Campus building, is individualized. Students can practice and get help with Algebra I, biology and physical science, in addition to geometry.

They work on only the skills, called targets, with which they’ve been struggling. They might need help with angles, for instance, or with several geometry concepts, but not need to cover the entire course.

Once they’ve completed worksheets in one target area, they take a test. When they’ve successfully passed, with a C or better, they move on to another target.

Changing a D or F to a C raises the GPA a bit, Canady said. More importantly,  she said, “it gets you back on track and sets you up for future success.”

In their first two years of high school, she said, students may not realize how strong their grades must be for them to qualify for college. And they may not have college on the mind yet, either, no matter how often their teachers bring up the subject.

By the time they realize colleges want at least a C average, it might be too late, she said.

“We want them to keep the doors open always,” Canady said.

The summer catch-up program started four years ago when the district has a grant to increase science, technology, engineering and math-related studies. Now an after school program grant covers the cost.

It works, Canady said. In 2017, 89 students took part and they changed 139 grades — many improved their grades in two or more courses.

They returned to school in the fall ready to move forward, rather than needing remedial work. They were more confident and more willing to tackle math or science again, she said.

“We know it makes a big difference,” she said.

Students know it, too.

Jennifer Lopez, who’ll be a junior at Mac High this fall, said she signed up because she doesn’t want anything to impede her progress. She wants to stay on track to graduate — she’ll be the first in her family to do so — and continue on to a four-year college.

“That’s a big deal for me,” Jennifer said. “I try as hard as I can.”

Early this week, she took a test about scatter plots, one of several geometry targets she aimed to complete. “I felt pretty confident,” she said.

She noted the individualized attention from Alvarez and other teachers has been a big help. “I get it more now,” she said.

Then she headed back to Alvarez’ classroom, to apply herself to other targets.

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