By Mike Linn: CNJ news editor
Game-oriented teaching, three hours a day of music and fine arts, and new computer-assisted curricula helped increase school attendance this summer at Clovis schools.
There were 411 students grades 1-12 who attended summer school this year, up from roughly 240 students in 2003, records presented at Tuesday’s Clovis Municipal Schools board meeting show.
A new computer-assisted curriculum, obtained through a national company called PLATO Learning Inc., allowed students who needed credits to complete course work in any subject. In the past, high school students could only take summer classes if there were enough students needing the same credits, enough to warrant a summer class.
With the new program, which allowed students to work on course work via a computer rather than the traditional school setting, a single student took an Algebra II class this summer.
“Probably the most exciting change for me that I’ve seen in my time with Clovis High School is the move into the Plato program,” Clovis High head counselor Jerry Odom told the board.
There were 134 high school students to complete summer school this year, a 47 percent increase from 2003, school statistics show.
School officials working with students in grades 1-8 shared Odom’s excitement, but for different reasons. In those grades, there were 277 summer school students, up from about 150 last summer, school officials said.
This year students were in class from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. for seven weeks, and had three hours a day of fine arts classes.
Last summer students were in class for three hours a day for four weeks.
David Breseno, director of federal and bilingual programs for Clovis schools, said new teaching styles that allowed instructors to teach math with the use of dart boards and dice were popular among students.
“I saw just a few of the games, where they multiplication and some of the other stuff … the kids were just so engaged,” Breseno said.
Breseno said the three hours of fine arts in the afternoon allowed students to use a different part of their brain, which aids the learning process.
“It’s difficult if a child can’t skip for them to read,” said Breseno, referring to the rhythm of reading. “We wanted to create an environment where students wanted to come.”
Breseno added that this year’s teaching staff was about four to five teachers per grade level, up from between one and two per grade level last summer.
Also at the meeting:
• For the first time in at least 30 years — according to Assistant Superintendent Jim McDaniel — the board placed an item on the agenda inviting public input on any matter relating to Clovis schools.
“It allows public access to the board, brings public accountability to the board and allows the public to have a voice in the government of the public school system,” board member Mark Lansford said.
• The board approved a policy for student publications that gives student editors of school publications the responsibility of determining news, opinion and advertising content.
Editors of the student newspaper won’t face prior review of their articles by the school principal and students will be allowed to produce “an underground student press,” the policy shows.
The new policy is a change from this past year at Clovis High, when Purple Press writers faced review from the school principal, at Superintendent Neil Nuttall’s request.
Three of the students protesting the censorship received in-school suspension in April after passing out fliers on campus.
Nuttall said at a board meeting in July that journalism teacher Carol Singletary, who also serves as the publications advisor, was the “driving force” behind the new policy.