CPS summer school mostly for failing students

May 25, 2012

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Summer school is less than a month away for lots of students in the area, but probably not if you go to Chicago Public Schools.

Only students who fail reading or math in third, sixth or eighth grade are required to go.

Bad attendance no longer lands you a seat, CPS chief Jean-Claude Brizard said last week.

"We do care about attendance, but it should not be the sole requirement for forcing a child into summer school," he said.

The district is also doing away with seven special schools, called “Achievement Academies,” which served kids who could not pass eighth grade, but were simply too old for grammar school.

Now, those students will attend a four-week intensive summer course before entering high school.

The focus on failing kids is a recoil from last year, when, for the very first time, CPS talked about expanding summer school to everyone.

"Summer should be a time for students to become more advanced versions of themselves entering the new school year," said Paige Ponder, the district's then-head of student engagement.

At last year's April Board of Education meeting, Ponder rattled off a list of new and expanded programs she collectively called, "UpGrade." It included: Next Grade Prep, Summer of Reading, Freshman Connection, Chicago Debate Institute and Lawndale Summer Camp.

CPS spokeswoman Marielle Sainvilus said the change this year isn't about the budget, though last month district leaders did say Freshman Connection, the popular elementary to high school transition program, would no longer be listed as a separate line item in school budgets. Some high schools will continue to offer it with discretionary money.

Sainvilus said the expanded programming was offered last money with federal stimulus money, which is now gone.

Individual CPS schools do offer summer programs with a price tag.

Disney Magnet Elementary School has several two-week sessions, each costing $460. At South Loop Elementary, parents can send their child to an eight-week summer session at a cost between $2,300 and $2,450.