With school budgets tight, the Board of Trustees recently discussed the value of keeping a four-week summer school program for academically at-risk students, sparking debate over maximizing summer school dollars and proper program assessment.
Trustees agreed summer school should remain, but argued over how to measure the program’s success, some noting that without supporting data, spending $10,000 to $15,000 per summer might not be worth it.
“I do want to see evidence that this is the most effective use of those dollars,” said Trustee Davina Drabkin. “Is this the best intervention?”
Although Assistant Superintendent Robert Clark noted that $10,000 to $15,000 is a low cost for such a program, it was unclear whether the $30,000 to $35,000 in state money that supplements summer school could be used elsewhere.
“One of the questions I have is how can we make summer school more effective?” said Trustee Greg Land. “How can we get the most bang for our buck?”
Both Land and Drabkin pushed for some sort of assessment that would measure student progress.
However, Trustee Liz Gindraux argued that the four-week program lacks adequate time for assessments measuring significant change and that the focus should be on learning rather than testing.
“I’m very comfortable leaving it up to the administration to put together the program,” she said. “Our program is incredibly successful…I don’t want this to become a data-driven ordeal for four weeks.”
Gindraux also countered that teachers come to the school board telling members of the program’s success, although Board President Michael Barber pointed out the evidence is solely anecdotal.
What Trustees could agree upon, however, was the need for an effective program and finding ways to make summer school focused on the specific needs of at-risk students and district curriculum, which will allow them continued success in the Burlingame schools.
For now, the Trustees plan to keep funding for the summer school program.