Kids on Course University tees it up for another summer of extra help

By  | 

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- A unique summer reading, writing and math program in Cedar Rapids is helping about 850 lower-performing students catch up with their classmates once again this summer.

And with state lawmakers opting out of a third grade reading retention rule this year, you won’t find anything else like it statewide.

Iowa was supposed to have a lot of kids in summer school this year. Twenty five percent of Iowa’s third graders don’t do well enough on state reading tests.

The solution, starting this summer for those third graders, was supposed to be an intense summer reading program, or no promotion to 4th grade. State lawmakers killed that plan due to state budget concerns.

So the Kids on Course University, beginning a 5th year this summer, still stands alone as a large scale summer learning program, and is hoping to show good results on test scores for participants.

Last year, 89 percent of kids attending the program reversed or eliminated the typical slide in summer reading skills. A full 60 percent started classes in the fall at a higher reading level compared to where they ended the previous school year.

Program director Amy Evans says there’s no reason to suspect results this fall for the kids who participate will be any different.

“We have found a really great recipe of engagement, innovative teacher styles, so we expect that we will see the same results we have for the last several years,” she said.

Students grades one through five in need of extra instruction are invited, but not required, to attend the seven week summer school session.

So teachers have to keep it entertaining to keep kids wanting to come back. The program mixes weekly class outings with lessons and lots of individual attention.

Teacher Melissa Huff says it’s a plan she’s seen work.

“A lot of kids who don’t feel they are learning, they can learn here. For instance, in my class the kids (building toothpick bridges) have no idea we’re doing math right now,” Huff said.

Kids on Course University was one of the summer programs where state educators tested out ideas in anticipation of a statewide summer reading retention requirement for lower-performing third graders.

Lawmakers may have scrapped that idea for now.

But Kids on Course leaders will keep working on reading, writing and math and keep hoping the kids who come enjoy themselves and see academic improvement in the fall.