Program aims to ease transitions at schools

It will identify and help struggling fifth- and eighth-graders adjust to life in new schools.

Published April 10, 2007

LAND O'LAKES - Pasco schools superintendent Heather Fiorentino worries that too many fifth-graders struggle through their move into middle school, and eighth-graders into high school.

She hopes that a new summer school program will help them cross the divide.

"The transitions can be a real jolt," Fiorentino said. "We're hoping to smooth the transition for them."

Starting this June, the school district will identify fifth- and eighth-graders most at risk of falling through the cracks and bring them to the schools they will attend in the fall for some remediation and acclimation. No one knows exactly how many students will get the invitation, as the FCAT results will play a large factor in that decision.

The students will preview the coming curriculum, particularly in math and reading. And they will get some time without all the older kids around to explore the new campus.

"We certainly want to help the kids academically, but we also want to adjust them to their new environment," assistant superintendent Sandy Ramos said. "This will help them learn their way around as well as understand some of the expectations of them."

The program is to run 12 days - that's two days longer than past summer sessions - and it will include transportation.

That's just one of the big changes coming this year to Pasco's summer program. The district also is broadening the scope of its six-week intensive reading camp, initially for third-graders who failed the FCAT reading portion and other alternate methods to move into fourth grade.

The goal is to open the program to low-performing first- and second-graders, too. Even though they haven't taken the FCAT, second-graders have taken the Stanford Achievement Test, which will serve as a gauge for their progress.

First-graders would be evaluated on their classroom performance.

The school district curtailed its summer programs about five years ago, as all the remedial work and funding got targeted to school year assistance. The idea was that it's better to help a student as soon as the weaknesses are identified rather than wait until the year is up.

Fiorentino saw the need to serve the students who were ready to move on, but needed a summertime boost.

Students should get their notification whether they are recommended for the summer programs later in the spring. Attendance is not mandatory.

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at solochek@sptimes.com (813) 909-4614 or toll-free 1-800-333-7505 ext. 4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.