District has lots to prove this summer

As the School District of Philadelphia wraps up its greatly expanded — and expensive — experiment called the Summer Learning and More program, teachers and district officials hail it as a success.

But the noticeably higher price tag this summer also has many hoping for tangible results in th-e classroom in the fall. “Empowerment” schools now have full-day instruction and all eighth-graders in the district must take part in the Bridge program, preparing them for high school. Enrichment courses like dance, chess and forensics are now five days a week, up from three.

The district, which began expanding summer school last year when it spent almost $20 million, could not provide any specific improvements among S.L.A.M. students in 2009. But test scores at Empowerment schools, which received a lot of S.L.A.M. funding, did increase overall, officials said.

“My biggest surprise was the number of parents that were reached by our advertising and the high number of parents that were interested in having their children participate,” said Denise Wing, the district’s school operations chief.

Teacher Renay Mahady said she was initially reluctant to take part this year after a bad experience last time. Mahady said she was teaching sixth, seventh and eighth graders then, though only certified for sixth. “There’s been a dramatic change,” she said.

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