FLORENCE - Since the threat of being labeled a "failing school" came along with the passage of No Child Left Behind in 2001, schools have taken steps to get students to make the grade.
One method is teaching to the test - that often-maligned instructional mode of bearing down on what standardized tests will ask.
At Florence-Carlton School District, where the superintendent said preliminary numbers show its schools made the so-called adequate yearly progress benchmarks set by the state, students on the cusp are being offered another option for bringing up their scores - drilling in math with a tutor during the summer.
Florence-Carlton Superintendent John McGee said the school takes pains to assess how individual students are faring, so it only makes sense to make use of the summer to bolster students' scores.
"We're just trying to do the things that are necessary to assist the students that need a little help," McGee said. "Plus, we don't want the summer break to be an issue of regression for these kids. We want them to stay on track and continue their progression."
After seeing some rebound on the district's scores in the math arena, McGee said the idea was to keep pressing forward, knowing that the state will continue to raise the bar by increasing the required percentage of students who make the testing grade.
So, this spring, McGee asked first-year middle school math and science teacher Marlyce Anderson if she would take on the math tutoring program. Word was then spread to parents that help would be available in the form of tutoring.
The schools also sent packets to parents with summer study kits designed to keep students from regressing, McGee said.
"The sad thing is a lot of them don't even touch it," he said. "But some parents are concerned and try to help get some work in over the summer."
McGee said a number of parents were obviously motivated enough to take the school up on in-school summer tutoring.
The five-day-a-week program, which began last week and will run into early August, puts small groups of no more than 12 into each session with Anderson.
For an hour, she runs them through a review of the basics and together they work on some problems. There are also more than a few quizzes, she said.
"Any review is good review," Anderson added. "And that's true for anybody."
Anderson, who so far has averaged about 30 kids per day, said the parents' motivation seems to be rubbing off on the kids.
The first proof of that drive appears at 8:30 a.m. for her first session. The group - a mix of fourth and fifth graders - shows up in a frenzy, Anderson said, competing with each other to see who can get there first.
"The students are really with it," Anderson said. "I think they really are here to learn. They want to do better and they want to learn, not just because an adult is pushing them to succeed, but because they want show they can do better."
Anderson said that drive from the students is reinforced because the parents are bought into the idea of doing well on the tests.
"It is really important that they have that support from their parents," she said.
"At the end of the day the key is that you have strong parent involvement and interest at home in addition to having strong teachers like Marlyce," McGee said.
Reporter Sepp Jannotta can be reached at 363-3300 or firstname.lastname@example.org.