Bonneville Joint School District 93 changed its Title I summer school program this year to accommodate more students, improve student retention and give college students opportunities to practice teaching.
District 93, which normally hires about a dozen district teachers for the 16-day program, this year replaced them with 24 Brigham Young University-Idaho seniors. The students are part of the university’s elementary education program.
The move saved the district roughly $20,000 in Title I funds, Title I coordinator Clarice Miller said, which in turn, are being used for the first time to bus students to and from school.
It is hoped that busing students, rather than relying on parent transportation, will improve student retention, Miller said.
“A lot of these parents of kids are working,” she said. “We go from 8 (a.m.) to 12:30 (p.m.) and they may be at work all day. They have no way to pick their kids up at 12:30 and no way to get them back and forth. This way, the students have transportation.”
Cost-saving mechanisms also have allowed more students to attend.
Enrollment this year is around 200 students, Miller said. In previous years, enrollment hovered at about 90.
“When you have to pay teachers and pay for busing and things like that, you really have to limit how many kids you can have, just because of money,” Miller said.
The district’s summer school program is paid for with Title I funds, a federal program designed for struggling students. Schools invited to participate in the district’s summer school must be Title I schools, meaning at least 30 percent of the students are eligible for free or reduced lunch, Miller said.
Students invited from those schools score in the bottom 20 to 25 percent of reading scores or are recommended by teachers.
About 20 of the BYU-Idaho students are in the senior practicum semester of their elementary education degree program. The remaining four students are a semester ahead — in their student teaching semester — in which they teach for a semester locally or in other areas, including Las Vegas, Salt Lake City and Mesa, Ariz., said Karla LaOrange, BYU-Idaho elementary education professor.
During a typical school year for a practicum student, the student usually would teach two days per week under a teacher’s wing, LaOrange said.
The Title I teaching opportunity offers more hands-on teaching practice, as well as an opportunity to teach a diverse body of students, many of whom come from low-income families or speak English as a second language.
“(Normally) they might teach one subject, and, over time, pick up a little more, but it’s under the director of that teacher,” LaOrange said. “And that’s good — we like that mentoring — but the students don’t have the autonomy to try things they’d like to try, their own management system or their own way of grouping students. So here, they get the opportunity to do that. And they really love that … it’s really giving them truly authentic teaching experiences.”
With BYU-Idaho students teaching, certified teachers float through classrooms to offer guidance and help supervise.
Allison Ferrell, a 22-year-old BYU-Idaho practicum student, said teaching her own class of second-graders has helped her build confidence and map out her own teaching strategies. It’s also an opportunity to continue teaching. The BYU-Idaho semester ends in mid-July, while most schools get out by early June.
“Normally, I’d just teach one lesson and then the teacher would take over,” she said. “But this way, I’m learning transitions and how to plan everything, too … the first day was a little bit scary, but now I love it. Normally in a classroom, you have to follow the teacher’s rules … where I wouldn’t necessarily do that — now it’s like, I can pick and choose things I like … and I feel a lot more confident going into student teaching having had this opportunity.”
While larger enrollment was a good sign this year, Miller said officials hope to expand the summer school program even more next year.
“We have a lot of parents who would have liked to have come to summer school, but we’ve had to cap at certain numbers and limit it until we could see how it would all work,” she said. “Hopefully, with this partnership with BYU-I, we’ll be able to reach more students, enlarge it and invite more students to come.”