Schools to invest in under-achieving students

Several Costa Mesa schools will keep struggling students after school for two hours and over the summer for 20 days to help them catch up.

The Newport-Mesa Unified school board trustees voted Tuesday to allocate $1.1 million for curriculum replacement, staff development, and an extended school day and year to help the 11 Program Improvement schools bring their students up to grade-level proficiency.

"It's nice to see everyone adhering to a sense of urgency to get this done in time for summer," said Trustee Katrina Foley.

The principals of Costa Mesa and Estancia high schools, TeWinkle Middle School and Adams, College Park, Rea, Killybrooke, Paularino, Pomona, Whittier and Wilson elementary schools met with the board last week to present proposals on what they want for their individual schools.

For two consecutive years, each school missed annual progress benchmarks required by the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

The district didn't give the schools everything on the proposals, but found money for much of what was requested.

"Funding is not going to be taken from other important programs," said interim Supt. Rob Barbot.

The extended school year will take place in a 20-day intervention camp for 1,350 students in grades 4 to 10 who have reading levels at least two grades below where they should be.

Eagle Academy and Camp Mesa will be at Estancia and Mesa, respectively, for four hours daily and are referred to as "voluntarily mandatory."

Barbot said the district can't legally compel students to attend, but he doesn't think it's going to be a problem to get students to come.

The camp is still in the planning stages, but it would provide students with math, reading and literacy help as well as fun activities like swimming and basketball, said Mesa Principal Phil D'Agostino.

The camp will also provide students with breakfast and lunch, said Susan Astarita, assistant superintendent of elementary education.

"The idea is that we care so much for your kids that we're going to provide academic support, but we also want them to get a taste of all these great activities," D'Agostino said.

In late May or early June, the district is planning on meeting with parents to invite their children to the summer camps.

The district is also allocating $263,980 to implement Language!, a comprehensive literacy curriculum. The program has to be taught for 120 minutes a day, five days a week to work, Astarita said.

Money will also go toward two reading coaches at both Estancia and Mesa, starting to fund a new intervention system at Whittier, and making the Killybrooke, Paularino and College Park campuses No Excuses University schools.

Twitter: @britneyjbarnes

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