Program will help students with reading

Costa Mesa fourth- through 10th-grade students reading at least two grade levels below expectations will have an opportunity to level up their reading skills at a new summer program that combines academics with activities.

A newly purchased reading curriculum will be one of the tools used during the program July 16 to Aug. 16, according to Newport-Mesa Unified School District Director of Elementary Education Kurt Suhr.

Fourth- through sixth-grade students from the district's Program Improvement schools — schools that have not met No Child Left Behind standards for two consecutive years — will be introduced to Language! at the Eagles Academy at Estancia High School and Camp Mesa at the Costa Mesa High School.

Suhr said Language!, which costs $263,000, is a different curriculum than what the students have been taught throughout the year. It is designed to meet students' specific needs and catch them up to district standards. The students will also use a computer lab for added reading lessons and basic math.

Suhr said the summer program is only the beginning of changes at the Program Improvement elementary schools.

"The majority of the program will be implemented in September and for the rest of the year," he said. "[The summer program] will give teachers a jump-start."

Suhr said there will be about 400 fourth- through sixth-grade students at the Eagles Academy and about 150 at Camp Mesa.

Middle and high school students will also have access to the summer program, where they will use Language! along with a curriculum called Reading Plus, according to Mesa High Principal Phil D'Agostino.

He said Mesa has invited more than 250 students to attend and hopes to get about 200.

It won't be all academics for the students. Of the four periods each day, one is designed to bring summer into the mix.

"The focus will be on reading but we also want to make it an enjoyable experience for youngsters," Suhr said.

The activities directors at each campus are expected to design a program for the students.

"There will be karate, the pool, gym, dodge ball and kick ball for the younger kids," D'Agostino said.

The school board wants the staff to look into the program's effects. Educators will administer a fluency test to students at the beginning and the end of the program. Staff will also evaluate the difference between students who attended the summer program and those who did not.

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