Pick a school district, ask them about summer school, and whether it is a student, a teacher, a parent, a superintendent and you are most certain to see some version of a grimace.
Summer school has a purpose. Our young students suffer summer learning loss. Students already at a deficit miss an opportunity to advance over the summer. Families need a way to maintain some structure to long summer days. But traditional summer school doesn’t work. Attendance is rotten, even if you get kids signed up in the first place. Test scores don’t rise. And, if anything, attitudes toward school deteriorate rather than improve.
That is why the Power Scholars Academy, now wrapping up its second summer, is such a gratifying experiment. An audacious combined effort of the public elementary schools in Forest Park and River Forest, intensively backed by the West Cook YMCA and working from a template from the Building Educated Leaders for Life curriculum organization, Power Scholars saw 84 youngsters complete the program last week.
Enrollment was up. Daily attendance was up. And in a month or so the measures of social and academic progress will be reported out by each district.
But assess results based on the comments of Supt. Ed Condon from River Forest and Lou Cavallo from Forest Park and the results are already known. “I think it has taken what each of the member organizations could do individually and elevated it to a much higher level,” said Condon.
Starting with a daily pledge, our young scholars powered on through classwork and into art projects, music, cake decorating and all manner of field trips. Finally, summer school that beats sitting home doing nothing!
Forest Park’s library, its board and administration, made a difficult but we think progressive choice this spring. With the state approving a new minimum wage law that will, over years, raise the minimum to $15 per hour for any position, the library chose to eliminate four low-paying jobs for staff who reshelve books and other materials, instead distributing those duties to other staff members while immediately implementing a $15 minimum for every remaining staffer.
Hard, of course, to see four positions eliminated. But embracing the more livable wage of $15 immediately will create a more energized and devoted staff. That the book shelving duties can be absorbed by remaining staff – and that has been demonstrated already – indicates the library is working to streamline workloads.
This is a good hard decision.