With just more than a week of summer school left for Pleasanton youngsters, summer school coordinator Ben Fobert sat down to share a few details about what goes on in the session.

"We offer four different remedial programs for students from prekindergarten to the 12th grade," he said, adding that about 1,000 students are enrolled this summer.

The four programs are classes for special education students of all grade levels, academic support for students from kindergarten through eighth grade, high school academic recovery courses and a "virtual academy" where some high school students can go online to make up credits missed from last year in lieu of attending class in person.

Classes, taught by some 60 teachers, take place in several schools around Pleasanton, including Amador Valley High, Harvest Park and Pleasanton middle schools and at Valley View Elementary. New this summer semester, which runs from June 24 through Aug. 2 every Monday through Thursday, Fobert noted that four innovative approaches to teaching have been incorporated.

"Math support classes up to eighth grade are using online programs to target students' specific needs." Fobert said. "Elementary students are using a program called MathWhizz, and middle school students are using ALEKS."

Fobert explained that these programs give each student a pretest to determine areas in need of improvement, at which point the program then chooses lessons and activities to improve these areas.


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"As students learn, they are reassessed," he said. "Teachers assess student progress, determine which students are struggling, and then select students for small group or one-on-one interventions."

A second innovation is an English program called Summer Success, published by National Geographic. Fobert said this program has a rich set of materials aimed at increasing vocabulary and phonemic awareness and boosting comprehension strategies.

"Students in elementary and middle school get approximately two hours every day of instruction in math and English," Fobert said.

The third innovation involves teachers at all levels who are starting to incorporate the state's new Common Core Standards and 21st century methodologies into their teaching practices.

"New instructional coaches are providing staff development for our teachers," Fobert said, "and teachers are feeling the freedom to explore new teaching methods outside of an environment so driven by standards-based, high-stakes testing."

Fobert said this allows students to participate in project-based, cooperative learning strategies that not only will help them, but will help the teachers become more familiar with new ways of teaching. Finally, incoming freshmen are participating in a math program called "Steppin' up to Algebra" developed by the nonprofit Silicon Valley Math Initiative, Fobert said. The curriculum is specifically designed for students to be ready for math in the fall.

"Pleasanton is on the cutting edge of piloting new curriculum and new methodologies that will bring teaching and learning into the 21st century," said Fobert, noting that more technology integration and differentiation will deliver instruction to students in ways that engage them outside of the typical four walls of the classroom.

"Summer school is the perfect laboratory," he said. "If we can get kids excited and engaged in the curriculum during the summertime, imagine what we can do during the course of the regular school year."

Reach Jim Ott at jimott@sbcglobal.net.