Several months remain in the regular school year, but Santa Monica-Malibu district officials have already been lining up plans for upcoming summer sessions.

The district is expecting to have more literacy coaches and instructional assistants in summer school classes, officials said during a discussion of the topic at a Board of Education meeting earlier this month.

In addition to improving teaching ratios, having additional staffers will make it more feasible for students to receive mentoring in one-on-one or small-group settings, said Irene Gonzalez-Castillo and Ellen Edeburn, the district’s directors of curriculum and instruction.

The forthcoming increases in summer staffing follow analysis of staff surveys and student test results from last year, when the district hired additional literacy coaches for elementary students. Literacy coaching will be made available at the middle school level this summer, officials said.

Outgoing fifth-grade students will attend summer classes at middle school sites to prepare them for their transitions, officials said. Fifth-graders had previously been stationed at elementary schools.

Some money for the instructional assistants has come from the Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation, officials said. Under recently enacted guidelines, SMMEF oversees fundraising throughout the school district.

Board member Jose Escarce noted that summer school, which in recent years has been shortened from six weeks to four weeks, should not provide “cookie-cutter” services. He said instructors should work with students to see how they’re progressing and tailor lesson plans to meet specific needs.

“The increase in staffing is to support those notions,” Gonzalez-Castillo said. “Adding classroom assistants will help. I think we’re moving in the right direction.”

Instructional assistants could also improve the summer school experience in other ways, officials said. They said aides could make phone calls to students’ parents to promote attendance as well as other special activities.

Board member Maria Leon-Vazquez asked about boosting parental engagement so students can receive help beyond the classroom. She floated the idea of PTA members providing childcare for parents’ younger children so the parents could spend time in the classroom during summer school.

Terry Deloria, assistant superintendent for educational services, offered several other engagement ideas, including home visits and parent nights. She said library visits could help students develop their learning habits.

Leon-Vazquez noted that it might take several summers for the district to see empirical improvement resulting from the additional instructional aides.

“Current high school summer students didn’t have the benefit of literacy coaches in elementary school,” she said. “Hopefully, we’ll see the numbers get better.”

Officials said they plan to monitor instructional assistants’ impact on students’ progress and keep the school board updated.

Before the end of the discussion, board member Craig Foster wondered aloud about how summer opportunities could benefit all students in the district.

“Wouldn’t it be cool to have summer programs for all kids?” he said. “Let’s put it out there on our wish list as a ‘one day’ (in the future) kind of thing. It would give staff more opportunities for the summer. And the county library has all kinds of programs, so it’s really about finding the ribbon to put it all together. It would be a huge service.”

Contact Jeff Goodman at 310-573-8351, jeff@www.smdp.com or on Twitter.

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