Summer Bridge breeds success in FW schools

Maintenance crews recently completed a much-needed new roof at Decatur High School.

An electronic bell chimes as part of its annual check. The morning clouds and periodic rain offer nothing to suggest that summer is here.

Over the past six weeks, several sites across the Federal Way School District have offered students who are behind in their credits a chance to either catch up or “store up” a half credit for use during the normal academic year. Periodically, stories surface on how students don’t know their multiplication tables or how to write an effective paragraph. These students have chosen to give up a large block of their summer to take a course that builds on their prior learning and earn a credit toward their high school graduation.

Welcome to the Summer Bridge program. Summer Bridge was created as an additional opportunity for students with minimal academic or behavior disruptions to get ahead of the curve by taking a class in either math or English. By taking a course (several students took both), they were able to work diligently toward a passing score that allowed the flexibility to advance to a challenging class in the fall, or take an elective late on in their high school career. With repetition and drill, students made incremental growth that directly impacted their own recognition that “Yes, I can do this.”

Let’s face it, our district, when compared to surrounding districts, has a higher standard of academic expectations (ranging from the “C-” policy to 23.5 credits required for graduation). These students not only know, but are expected to meet them. Recently, the state board of education recognized that in a few years, all students across the state will be expected to have not just 18, but 23.5 credits to graduate. Employers and colleges want students to show additional courses in the traditional “three R’s” and Federal Way continues to show proof of that concentration with the Summer Bridge program.

Change in our democracy comes very slowly, but rest assured: We are moving away from an agrarian society when students were released to work in the fields. Have we reached all students this summer? Obviously, no. But for those who chose to participate and miss no more than two days over the six weeks, they showed the diligence and stamina to take a math or English course this summer. Their choices to get to school on their own accord, like the clouds and rain, have parted to show they’ll eventually reap what they sow when school resumes in a few weeks.

Ron Podmore, M.Ed, teaches math and American Sign Language for college credits at Decatur High School. He has been affiliated with Federal Way Public Schools since 1995.

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