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Students failing twice to get study packet

Baltimore schoolchildren who have failed a grade for at least the second time are not being invited to attend summer school, but instead will be offered a packet of learning materials they can work on over the summer, school officials said yesterday.

The issue was discussed at a school board meeting Tuesday when board members questioned why 994 students who have failed multiple times were not being invited to summer school.

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"Aren't those the students we would most want to go to summer school?" board member Sam Stringfield asked at the meeting. "To me, logically, they are the ones that are most deserving."

The school system has invited more than 39,000 students to attend summer school, saying that if the children did not attend they could not move on to the next grade.

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However, the system did not invite those who had failed twice because the district is not having them repeat a grade again. Teachers and principals have expressed reservations about children spending three years in the same grade or being held back more than once during their elementary or middle school education.

Some board members suggested that the students who had failed twice might still be invited - five days before the start of summer school Monday - although the officials acknowledged they had concerns about the financial ramifications of such a move during a tight budget year.

Chief Academic Officer Cassandra Jones recommended that school officials meet yesterday to come up with solutions.

"We wanted to find the most appropriate way to reach this population," Jones said yesterday. She said a committee decided to offer the children the packets, which could be picked up at their schools between 9 a.m. and noon July 21.

Those packets will include materials the children can work on at home during the summer. If the students or their parents have questions, Jones said, they will be provided a telephone number to call between July 21 and Aug. 15.

In the fall, the children will be given extra help, such as after-school programs or tutoring as they continue to the next grade.

"We are looking at this being a yearlong process for this population," she said.

Jones said the decision was not an economic one, but was based on what district officials believe is good for the children.

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The system would have had to hire about 35 to 50 more teachers this week to handle the nearly 1,000 more students.

Interim Chief Executive Officer Bonnie Copeland, who started work Tuesday, acknowledged that the approach might not be ideal.

"I can't say to you that this is the best possible solution of all solutions," she said. "Given the other factors, it is the best we can do."

Copeland wants to initiate an analysis to determine the best way to help children who have failed more than once.

"The packets are not as significant as making sure they will have interventions in the school year," she said. "We haven't had time for thoughtful discussion of this. But we will."


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