U.S. Schools Forced to Cut Programs

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When Wanda Morsell's two older children needed help last year keeping up with schoolwork, the mother of three enrolled them in summer school.

This year, when her third child, 7-year-old Thaddeus, scored poorly on reading and math in first grade, it was a different story.

Because he scored “low-basic'” on skills tests, not “below basic,'' Thaddeus was ineligible for Washington's summer program.
“We were very dismayed,'' Morsell said, because the boy definitely needed the intervention.'

Because of lack of money, the city's program was cut back considerably this year, serving only those children who need the most help. Like Washington's, school districts nationwide are cutting back on summer school, just as academic requirements rise and students in many states are required to pass high-stakes graduation tests.

Added to the mix, the federal government is now tying millions of dollars in school aid to students' scores on standardized math and reading tests.

Summer 2002 represents a departure from the past six years, when school districts across the country spent millions of dollars both to increase academic standards and bulk up their summer programs.

In the nation's capital, summer school enrollment is “considerably smaller than it was last year,” said Roceal Duke, director of the Summer Stars program.

Only about 10,000 students are eligible, compared to 24,000 last summer, she said. While in previous summers the program offered both academic and nonacademic courses, this year it focuses almost exclusively on helping children improve basic skills.