With summer-school registration opening this week in Worthington, school board members learned how to slow down the "summer slide" that is believed to widen the achievement gap between richer and poorer students.

With summer-school registration opening this week in Worthington, school board members learned how to slow down the "summer slide" that is believed to widen the achievement gap between richer and poorer students.

Kelly Wegley, coordinator of academic achievement, presented the district's goals for preventing summer learning loss during a school board workshop March 23.

"Research shows most students lose math skills over the summer -- up to two months of grade-level equivalency in mathematical computation skills," she said. "Mostly because families tend to offer literacy and reading opportunities but not activities to boost math skills."

She said the losses are worse for lower-income students, saying they tend to lose both reading and math skills during summer break.

"The lower-income child keeps falling behind because they won't have as many opportunities for camps, summer reading and enrichment activities as a middle-income child," she said. "By the time a child reaches fifth grade, the achievement gap between both groups could be two-and-a-half to three years."

Wegley said research from the National Summer Learning Association has determined that about two-thirds of the ninth-grade achievement gap between lower- and higher-income youth could be explained by unequal access to summer learning. Because of that gap, low-income students are less likely to graduate from high school or enter college, she said.

"What happens in the summer is a really big deal," she said.

Worthington's summer learning program is geared to preventing that summer slide, promoting improved academic achievement by encouraging small-group and individualized instruction, early intervention for primary grades and parent involvement and participation, Wegley said.

The district's summer opportunities for students cover three areas: intervention, support/skill building and enrichment.

Under intervention, Worthington offers a summer reading camp through Leveled Literacy Intervention and Credit Recovery.

LLI teacher Abby Miller said the summer reading camp began as a strategy for struggling readers in danger of not meeting the Ohio Third Grade Reading Guarantee.

"We took elements of our reading-recovery program and began LLI and the summer reading camp," Miller said. "We try to make sure students come back to school at the same reading level they left, but many come back at a higher reading level."

She said the district served 200 students in summer reading camp last year at no charge to parents.

Teacher Dan Sparks said a big part of summer learning is credit recovery for high school students.

"Counselors are talking to kids right now about signing up for our recovery classes," Sparks said.

Credit recovery is for students who need to catch up on the number of credits they should have for the grade level they're in. They could get behind because of a bad semester or because they didn't earn enough credits in previous academic years.

Sparks said 156 students took credit-recovery classes last summer and recovered 201 semester credits.

Wegley said the district offers support classes in reading and math at elementary and junior high school levels to prepare students for higher-level math classes. Classes also are available for English Language Learners.

The district's enrichment classes include such courses as meteorology and weather forecasting; drama classes such as Curtain Call and Musical Theater; and science classes such as An Exploration of Ecosystems.

The district charges about $115 to $135 for the support classes and about $90 for enrichment classes, but students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch are offered reduced fees, Wegley said.

Other enrichment programs include Camp Invention and Gateway Academy Summer Camp.

Wegley said the summer-school program once strived to be cost neutral, but the need for intervention classes made that impossible.

District treasurer Jeff McCuen said the budget for LLI is about $215,000 per school year.

"The need for that kind of reading intervention is not going away," McCuen said.

He said even the support and enrichment classes that parents pay for do not result in a cost-neutral program because revenue was about $75,000 last year, compared to expenses of nearly $100,000.

For more information about the district's summer learning opportunities, visit worthington.k12.oh.us.