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Summer academy keeps Oklahoma City students reading

Oklahoma City Public Schools is hosting a special summer reading academy for students who just finished second grade. Next year, third-grade students who can't read on grade-level will be held back.
BY CARRIE COPPERNOLL Modified: July 17, 2013 at 10:00 pm •  Published: July 16, 2013

“Put it in your own words,” Santizo said. “What is a characteristic of your body?”

A girl with silky black bangs and a long braid over her shoulder thought a moment. “Brown eyes?”

“Brown eyes — very good,” said Santizo, who normally works at Westwood Elementary during the school year.

Students from throughout the district came to five hub elementary schools: Columbus, Heronville, Lee, Stand Watie and Van Buren.

They talked about sequence of events and cause and effect. They focused on things like phonics and vocabulary. Everything was couched around American heroes, such as Abraham Lincoln or Martin Luther King Jr.

They had homework every night, and they did it. They checked out books to take home and read.

Santizo said the teachers are honest with their students: If you can't read on grade level next year, you can't move on.

So the time for encouragement, progress and learning is now, she said. They must have confidence to catch up.

“Some of them shut down because they can't understand,” Santizo said.

Success reported

Enrollment at the five camp sites varied between more than 500 to about 650 each day. Pre- and post-camp tests showed students generally improved and some were bumped across the magic line of proficiency.

Before camp, about 5 percent of the struggling readers were considered proficient. After, about 13 percent were.

“That will help those students be more proficient and have more confidence,” said Wilbur House, executive director of curriculum development for Oklahoma City Public Schools.

Officials already are looking to next summer and hoping twice as many kids come. They may add more time per day or more days total. The camp also might move to the weeks preceding the start of school.

The law puts pressure on teachers and administrators to get it right for students, House said.

“You performance in reading is a direct indicator for your performance in school,” he said. “ ... The pressure should really be on the teachers because we have to do a better job to help these students learn to read.”