2009-07-30 / Schools

Summer school teachers go high-tech

By Stephanie Bertholdo bertholdo@theacorn.com

Summer school at Sumac Elementary in Agoura Hills is coming to an end today, but the lessons learned by students will help them in the coming school year.

Teachers used the latest technology to help about 300 students from throughout the district brush up on basic skills in reading, writing and math.

Under the leadership of summer school principals Carol Martino and Tom Spence, the Las Virgenes Unified School District developed a summer curriculum that was tailored to each child.

"Use of technology has enabled us to truly individualize instruction to a level not seen before," Martino said. Assessment data on each student helps teachers design "targeted instruction," she said. "Best of all, students are motivated to learn, and they enjoy seeing their own progress."

Students were assessed in reading and math at the beginning of the summer session, which started on June 29. The pilot intervention program used two software programs, "Essential Skills" and "Successmaker Math."

Eric Tally, a third-grade Sumac teacher and the computer mentor for the district, was hired to run the lab and manage student data. Assessment data was provided to teachers, who then grouped students for what he called "discreet skill instruction" in both the "skills lab" and the classroom.

The reading and math programs are "selfpaced." Each student starts at a level based on their individual assessment and achievement level, Martino said.

"If there was any doubt as to how the students would react, one need only watch as the students run to their computers, put on the headphones, log in and immerse themselves in an interactive learning experience," Martino said. "Back in classrooms, teachers teach kids in small groups to meet the individual needs of each student."

Specific intervention materials were purchased for this year's program, Spence said. The program was funded, in part, through federal Title I money and the district's technology funds from Measure G, the $128million bond measure approved by voters in 2006.

The summer program also helped language learners become more fluent in English. The district is licensed to use the "Rosetta Stone" program, considered one of the most successful computerbased foreign language programs in the world, Spence said.

The use of technology in tracking the students' progress will provide data not only on the academic progress of each student but on the program as a whole, Spence said.

Martino said summary reports reflect each student's progress, and final reports will be sent to the home schools of all students.

Fabio, 7, said summer school has been "fun, because you get to do a lot of computer games."

Lena, 9, said her favorite subject is math, and she learned division and patterns. Mia, also 9, said she's eLena, 9, said her favorite subject is math, and she learned division and patterns. Mia, also 9, said she was happy that she "learned how to write better."

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