A summertime LEAP

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 30, 2002


LAPLACE – More than 300 students put summer playtime aside each week and attend St. John the Baptist Parish’s Summer LEAP Program in order to raise test scores and move on to the next grade level in the fall.

The program is offered to students who did not pass one or both parts of the LEAP tests, which is given to fourth- and eighth-graders at the end of each school year. Classes began June 3 and will continue until July 10 when students will retest in their deficient area.

Mondays and Wednesdays are math classes. Tuesdays and Thursdays are language arts and reading classes.

Three sites host the program including Glade School, Garyville/Mt. Airy Magnet School, and West St. John Elementary School. Classes hold no more than 18 students.

About 33 teachers are employed during the summer months and many double up, teaching both math and reading classes, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum Wilbert Ocmond, said.

A technology technician is hired at each site to monitor the students’ levels and record their progress, Ocmond said.

Along with LEAP remediation, students can take advantage of free bus service and the Feeding Program that offers hot lunches to students attending the parish’s recreation camp and other eligible students.

Summer students are not allowed to miss more than two days of school, as set by Louisiana Department of Education standards. The state monitors the program, Ocmond said, and the schools abide by those rules. He said because the program runs over a very short time, there is no toleration for students who do not take classes seriously.

“We tell students that we don’t have time to fool around,” he said.

The school system requires that students where their designated school’s uniform to class each day. The rule separates the LEAP students from others attending camp or the Feeding Program.

The teachers are more patient with students during the summer, Glade School Site Coordinator Lannette Perrin said.

“As teachers, you have to be more understanding. Students often come from hard backgrounds and are really trying to do better,” she said.

Between 40 -45 percent of students in the summer program are special education students, Ocmond said.

Perrin said she has found the students’ behavior to be very good compared to the normal school year. This could be due to the smaller classes, the numerous hands-on activities, and the individual teacher instruction, she said.

Perrin said she often asks students if they feel they are improving and most say they have learned new things since classes began.

Technology has played a key role in the LEAP program with software such as the accelerated math program, the accelerated reading program, RiverDeep and Cornerstone. Students learn through academic drills, manipulations such as measuring, workbooks, the Voyager program and direct teacher instruction. A LEAP tutorial guide will conclude the classes and serve as an intensive test preparation during the last 20 hours of class.

Teachers are paid $25 per hour for their summer commitments.

St. John Parish does not offer high school summer school classes.

For years, St. Charles Parish has felt a need to offer summer school programs to students, Ray Poplus, Director of Instructional Support and Restructuring, said.

St. Charles Parish Schools hosts a similar LEAP Program, as well as GEE Remediation and high school classes for deficit credits.

Teachers go beyond the normal standards of the school year and target specific areas of concern during LEAP classes, said Gayle Clement, administrator to Instructional Technology.

Students are grouped in classes of 12 or less at the parish’s two sites Harry Hurst Middle School and J.B. Martin Middle School. There are about 190 students between the two schools, Clement said.

LEAP classes began June 10 and will continue until July 5. Students will retake the test July 8, 9, 10.

There is an afternoon session and a morning session. Classes are Monday through Friday.

GEE (Graduation Exit Exam) classes are given to students who did not pass either the English or math portion of the GEE. Classes are Monday though Friday from 7:25-11:35.

GEE Remediation includes state lessons for improvement and district-set benchmarks in math. Online software is used in computer labs. Teacher-developed materials also aid students in achieving the proper skills needed to acquire the mandated parish standards, Poplus said.

High school classes are offered to students in order to remove a deficiency, not to earn extra credits. Classes include English 1-4, algebra 1 and 2, geometry, biology, chemistry, American history, civics and free enterprise.

Each year the program alternates between Hahnville High School and Destrehan High School. This year’s location is at HHS.

The program is run by two co-principals and taught by nine teachers, each certified in their specific area.

There are two blocks offered. The morning block is form 7:25-11:35. The afternoon block is from noon until 4:10.

The cost of classes is $290 for students attending St. Charles Parish schools and $325 for those attending private schools or from outside the parish.

Teachers are paid $25 per hour.

“Quality is insured at summer school because the teachers use the same standards and benchmarks as those used in the regular school year,” Poplus said.

St. James Parish School Board representatives could not be reached for comment, but the parish does offer LEAP Remediation for eligible students. The two locations are Sixth Ward Elementary School and Gramercy Elementary School.