Kids devote summer to reading, writing English

Simi Valley students who need help learning English are enrolled in a new summer school program designed to teach youngsters the basics in reading and writing.

The Simi Valley Unified School District recently received about $385,000 in state grant money to fund an English Language Literacy Program. It is now offered to about 512 English language learners in elementary summer school, and about 178 students enrolled in middle and high school, said Becky Wetzel, the district’s director of elementary education.

“With the advent of Proposition 227, it’s important that children are instructed in English to have them ready to transition into an English curriculum,” Wetzel said. Proposition 227, which became law in California in 1998, requires all students be taught “overwhelmingly” in English.

“This grant will allow us to give them a concentrated effort in reading and English,” she said.

The grant helped pay for classroom materials and hiring additional teachers at every grade level, so the ratio of teachers to students is 1 to 10, Wetzel said.

Classes at the elementary level are four hours a day, five days a week for six weeks, and focus on listening to and speaking English. Students enrolled in the program in middle and high school attend classes five hours a day, five days a week for six weeks and spend most of the day focusing on reading and writing in English, Wetzel said.

“Hopefully, this will jump-start a lot of kids into English reading,” she said.

English is one of the key subject areas for future growth in terms of academics, said Steve Gould, Simi school board member.

“If they have trouble reading and writing, they’ll have trouble with science and history,” he said. “So, we’re trying to get everyone up to par in terms of English skills, and this is going to help bring them up to grade level and make sure they’ll be able to pass all the proficiency tests and the high school exit exam.”

English language learners now enrolled in the program were pre-tested in the spring, and will be re-tested at the end of the summer to gauge their progress.

“All that information will be passed along to the children’s teachers in the fall, so every teacher knows where the students are at,” Wetzel said.

The district’s new English Language Literacy Program is part of the reason why summer school enrollment has soared from last year, Wetzel said.

There are approximately 1,762 students now enrolled in high school summer classes, compared to about 1,400 last summer, officials said. In middle school, there are about 376 students enrolled, and in elementary, about 1,319 — a jump of several hundred students compared to last year, Wetzel said.

The rise in enrollment is also due to the fact that the middle schools have implemented a full remedial program this summer, Wetzel said.

“Parents are very in tune with all of the standards that we’re using, and the fact that we’re very serious about retaining students if they’re not being successful,” Wetzel said.



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