Of all the academic questions they’ve faced, ‘How’d you like to spend three weeks of your summer with your algebra and English teachers?’ probably rates as the easiest to answer for incoming high school freshmen.
Without need of much thought, they’d all answer ‘no.’
However, if they were not given a choice (parents could elect to send them to Early Start, the three-week primer in ), those algebra and English teachers would get the chance to change their minds. Early Start serves students who scored below grade level on their high school placement exams.
While students arrived the first day with the expected sleepy eyes and disinterested expressions, attitudes changed quickly. By the end they all agreed that the program helped them academically and socially.
A bridge program, Early Start helps students with the often-challenging transition to high school. Many ninth graders stumble with the novelty and change of a new building, more rigorous classes, and the myriad personal and social issues that accompany the start of high school.
It’s a critical time: More students fail ninth grade than any other, according to the
Center for Comprehensive School Reform and Improvement.
“Middle schools and high schools operate differently, which often poses challenges to students,” according to the Center. “Summer bridge programs can provide a promising activity as part of a total transition approach.”
And that’s where Early Start helps freshmen in . Scheduled just prior to the start of the new school year, the three-week program focuses on enhancement of reading, math, and writing skills.
“I believe that Early Start prepares students effectively by providing them with familiar faces and allowing them to be introduced to procedures, electives, and
programs. It also allows for students to become aware of how high school works and what expectations they will face,” said English teacher Jennifer Healy.
Teachers expect to see teenagers less than excited on the first day of Early Start. It’s interesting to note, however, how students’ feelings change.
Survey results from the last two years found that 100% of students agreed that Early Start ‘helped them prepare for high school.’ Further, 100% of parents and students said that Early Start fulfilled or exceeded expectations.
When asked if they would recommend Early Start to another parent, 100% of moms and dads said ‘yes.’ When asked if they would suggest ES to a friend, ‘just’ 94% of students said they would.
Looking back after Early Start finished, students acknowledged the wisdom of their parents’ time investment.
“They now feel one step ahead,” said math teacher Haneen Abu-Ajamieh.
In addition to English and math classes, Early Start possesses a component for students learning English. Boosting language abilities provides English Language Learner students with vital prep time for high school.
“They complain a little (at first), but I think most of them like it, really,” said
ELL teacher Cynthia Tebo. “We aren’t taking tests and doing boring work. Teachers try to keep it interesting and fun with games, puzzles, and a relaxed atmosphere where the kids feel comfortable asking questions.”
Early Start also features meetings with social workers to answer commonly asked questions and allow students to discuss any anxieties about the start of high school.
They’ll also get a chance to experience their first day without older students: District 218 will start the school year with a fun freshmen-only day on August 20. All students attend on August 21.