Kids all over the place go to summer school; for many, it's a hot stretch in a warehouse-like school where very little is learned.
But in District 102 in the western suburbs, summer school is just one part of a comprehensive, three-year-old plan to close the the minority achievement gap, and it's working.
Since 2009, the performance of African-American and Hispanic students in District 102 (covering Brookfield, LaGrange, and LaGrange Park) has surged. Sixty-eight percent of African-American students here now meet or exceed state standards, and 85 percent of Hispanic kids now do. By comparison, 93 percent of white students meet state standards.
Summer school is just one part of the district's plan targeting minority students. Other strategies include the option of all-day kindergarten, which has improved reading skills; after-school programs to help struggling students with homework; and extra time and emphasis on reading during the regular school day.
Parent Ronald Phipps said that his daughter and three sons were struggling in math until they went through the summer school program.
"Now that they've all gone through the program, they all seem to be doing much better in the academics," said parent Ronald Phipps. In fact, his daughter, sixth grader Sunsiree, said the extra help this summer has turned math into her favorite subject.
The District acknowledged that minority issues can be delicate.
"Some people might have decided that they wanted to stay away from the issue of minorities not doing well, but we simply embraced it," District 102 Board Member Joyce Fitch said. "We've provided them with absolutely everything we can think of to provide them with, and it's paid off, big time."
Cheri Gibbs runs the summer school program, and when kids don't show up, she goes to their homes to find out why.
"When you stand on their step, it's kinda hard to reject you," summer school principal Cheri Gibbs said. "When the community buys in to the importance of achievement, then we can get greater success with our students because everyone is on board."
205 N. Michigan Avenue
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