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Re: Test-Prep Summer Camps

Absolutely. That's what they are.
Gotta git them kids' minds right, you know.
Hup, two, three, four...
Demoralization by design. Boy oh boy...


On Monday, May 26, 2003, at 12:07 PM, gerald w. bracey wrote:

If the students get intensive reading instruction in these camps, should we
then refer to them as reading concentration camps?

----- Original Message -----
From: "Bob Schaeffer" <bobschaeffer@earthlink.net>
To: "FCAR list" <FCARFORUM@yahoogroups.com>; "ARN Main List"
Sent: Monday, May 26, 2003 9:27 AM
Subject: [arn-l] Test-Prep Summer Camps

Third-graders statewide who failed the reading section of the exam hope

to improve their reading skills during a new summer camp
St. Petersburg Times -- May 26, 2003
by Stephen Hegarty

Last week, 9-year-old Jordan Sanders got out of school for the year.
He's already headed back.

The St. Petersburg third-grader will be one of the first children in
Florida to participate in one of the summer reading camps soon to be in
session around the state. For four weeks he will head to Lakewood
Elementary for summer camp. Each day he'll get an hour or two of
intensive reading instruction.

Jordan's father hopes the camp is what his son needs to pass a reading
test and earn passage to fourth grade. He's one of the 43,000 children
statewide who failed the reading section of the Florida Comprehensive
Assessment Test and now might have to repeat third grade.

"I don't want him to lose focus on the reading," said Tommy Sanders,
Jordan's father.

The camps have been hastily arranged and will be decidedly brief. School
districts had little more than a month to organize them, learning in
April that the governor and education commissioner wanted the camps held
across the state. By the time notification came, most districts already
spent the money that might have gone to pay for summer school.

In most districts, the lengthy reading camps envisioned by Gov. Jeb Bush
and Education Commissioner Jim Horne will be something smaller, more
brief. The Pasco and Hernando county districts, for instance, will hold
two-week camps starting June 9.

Pinellas will hold a four-week camp starting Tuesday. The cost has been
estimated at roughly $250,000. Depending on how many children show up,
the Pinellas third-graders could get an hour, maybe two, of intensive
reading instruction per day, usually in groups of three kids per teacher.

"We're going to do everything we can, but this is very short notice,"
said Elaine Cutler, assistant superintendent in charge of elementary
education for Pinellas County schools.

Although the reading camps are free to families, the last-minute nature
of the camps also has put a strain on some parents. Some had already
paid deposits to secure spots in recreational summer camps. Some had to
adjust vacation plans.

Not surprisingly, there was some confusion about how and when to sign up.

"There are a few details I still don't know about," Sanders said.

Like many parents, he is prepared to send his son to the daylong camp
but wants to know what time of day the reading instruction will take
place so he can make sure Jordan doesn't miss a moment of that. Those
details should be available by Thursday. Wednesday will be devoted to
assessing the children and scheduling the reading sessions.

Tuesday will be a day for the teachers - who were selected because of
their experience and ability as reading instructors - to train and

One obvious goal of the camps will be to prepare the children to pass a
tough reading test to earn their way to fourth grade. For some children
that extra boost will do the trick; the FCAT test was back in March and,
especially for young kids, a lot can happen academically in a few months.

But the standard on this test is higher than the FCAT passing score, so
many children still will struggle.

Some educators insist that passing the test is not the only goal.

"Our goal is to make sure they're much stronger readers at the end of
the summer," said Joyce Haines, general director of elementary education
for the Hillsborough County schools. "We're not just preparing them for
a test."

In Pinellas, roughly 700 students have signed up for the camps. That's
out of the 1,800 third-graders who failed the reading section of the
Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.

What are their prospects?

Educators and parents are hopeful. They have reason to be: Some kids
already have passed the test.

At the end of the school year, 300 Pinellas third-graders facing
retention took the reading test that could earn them a promotion to
fourth grade. Historically, only about 5 percent of the children who
fail the FCAT reading test pass the other test. This time, about 7.5
percent of the Pinellas kids passed. That's 23 out of the 300.

Given the cost and effort devoted to the reading camps, is that kind of
passing rate worth the effort? Educators prefer to shift the focus.

"If you just look at the pass rate - 10 percent, 15 percent - maybe it
won't be that successful," said Cutler, the Pinellas assistant
superintendent. "But it is never a waste of time or money to have kids
reading with good teachers. So long as they're making progress."

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