Students whose AIMS scores are lacking will have the opportunity to bolster their test preparedness in a new program offered this summer at Amphitheater Public Schools.

About 3,000 Amphi students in the second through ninth grades have been recommended for the free four-week program, which includes breakfast, lunch and transportation at no charge to students' families.

The program will be funded by a patchwork collection of grants the district already has, said Patty Lopez, the district's director of federal programs. Students who do not qualify for free lunches under the Title I federal grant program or other grants will be covered by Title V money, which subsidizes innovative programs.

"We did not use socioeconomic status as a contributing factor for enrollment," said Cathy Eiting, the district's executive director for curriculum and instruction. "Our funding sources allow us to not do that."

So far, about 1,100 students have signed up to participate. About 50 volunteer student tutors from the University of Arizona will assist the program's paid staff at 11 school sites.

"This is a huge undertaking on the part of our district, and we've had great support," said Patrick Nelson, associate superintendent of school operations, at a governing board meeting April 13. "We've been meeting since November, and this was done at a level of detail that I never imagined when we started putting it together."

The AIMS test is the standard the state and federal government use to judge a school's performance under Arizona LEARNS and the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Schools with low AIMS scores can be labeled as underperforming or failing and face a variety of repercussions if their scores don't improve, which include the state taking control of a school labeled as failing more than two years in a row.

Students will attend classes in reading, writing and math from 8 a.m. to noon for four weeks beginning June 7.

The students recommended for the program did not demonstrate proficiency for their grade level on at least one of three benchmark tests - the Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS) test and Measure of Academic Progress (MAP) test for those in third through ninth grade, and the Diagnostic Inventory of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) test for those in kindergarten through second grade.

Teachers recommended students they thought would benefit from the summer school program, as well.

Four elementary schools are piloting similar programs for students in kindergarten and first grade. The schools - Prince, Nash, Coronado and Holoway - will fund their programs, but will receive district help in developing curriculum.

The district will have no parallel program this summer for 10th, 11th and 12th grade students. That's because the AIMS test has changed since those students took it, so data about those students' scoring potential is not reliable.

"What we want to do is to try this program this year and then, based on the level of success and resources, we would look at trying to continue the program next year and expand it," Eiting said.

Nelson said the principals at the district's three high schools are planning to require low scorers on the AIMS test to sacrifice one elective in favor of an AIMS-prep class.

Participants in the new summer school program will review the specific performance objectives in math, reading and writing that students were found to be weak in across the district.

Class sizes will be smaller than they are during the school year, Eiting said.

"It would be nice if we could have a ratio of 10 to 15 students per teacher," she said.

Elementary students will be at elementary schools, middle school students will be at middle schools, and high school students will be at high schools, Eiting said. Sheltered English Immersion teachers and special education teachers will be available at each site.

The district sent notes to select parents in March recommending that their children participate, Nelson said at a governing board meeting April 13, and about a third of the parents have said they want their children to attend.

"In general, we are receiving very positive comments from the parents," Superintendent Vicki Balentine said at the meeting.

Funding will come from Title I, III and V federal grants for low-income students, students needing English language support, and innovate programming, respectively, Lopez said. It will also come from Project ACHIEVE grant money, which funds after-school programs.

The money will pay for teachers and site principals, materials, breakfast and lunch, and transportation.

"It's exciting because this is really the intent of entitlement funds - to promote the achievement of children," Lopez said.

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