June 6, 2014: There was a big problem at Clark K-8 School for
the second day of the Summer Reading Academy, a really
nice big problem: an overabundance of students.
And while it was not good news earlier this year to find out
that hundreds of Cleveland Municipal School District (CMSD)
third-graders would be required to go to summer school because
their reading scores were too low to be promoted to fourth-grade
under Ohio’s new Third-Grade Guarantee, it was encouraging for
school officials to see waves of students coming into Clark and
three other District schools this week for an intensive
five-week reading camp.
“In a way it is the kind of problem you want to have, and it’s a
good sign that having it right away in the summer will push our
numbers up,” said Karen Thompson, deputy chief of
curriculum and instruction.
“But it’s also one that we’re addressing right away to get
smaller class sizes for our teachers so that we can get them the
best instruction we can over the 27 days.”
Better yet, Thompson noted: The students crowding into Clark and
three other District sites on Wednesday for the reading program
were not just third-graders, but students from kindergarten
through third grade.
“And that’s the point,” Thompson said. “Yes, this year there is
a sense of urgency for our current third-graders because of the
third-grade reading guarantee, but more importantly,
we have an opportunity to close that summer learning gap for all
grades, and that will make a difference for future
This was the first time in her tenure that the District has been
able to start the reading program the week after school let out,
Thompson said. That likely accounted for what she said was
higher attendance, though not all the numbers were in yet.
“And these are the right students to be here,” she said. “Every
student here has been on a reading intervention monitoring plan
from the fall, and every student here will be on a reading
intervention plan throughout the 27 days that they’re with us.”
The effect of the reading academy will be known in short order,
Not only is there existing reading assessment data from this
spring, but Ohio Achievement Test results are due this month and
the students in the program will be tested as the program
concludes July 11.
“For those of our (third-grade) students who meet the right
score, they’ll be passed to fourth grade," Thompson said. "We’ll
also know exactly where the rest stand.
The academy’s leaders are asking summer school teachers to
quickly get to know students who are from all over the District.
"This is not a time for the faint-hearted or weak-hearted
teacher, and we’ve got some very good ones here,” Thompson said.
Clark Summer School Principal Erin Murphy, who is
assistant principal at East Tech High School during the
school year, said the first two days of the Reading Academy at
Clark energized the staff and students.
“I think we’re going to leap forward because of this," she said.
“This is going to make a big difference."
In Room 104, third-grade teacher Cheryl Panchur first
helped 36 students get situated, get their pencils sharpened and
get back from the bathroom. She then nimbly launched into a
writing exercise to try to affect that very difference.
Students were asked to “think, then write,” on a topic
concerning someone in their family who is special.
Thompson and Academic Superintendent Luther Johnson dropped in
on Panchur’s class to get a sense of how it was going. Thompson
helped one boy tie his shoe and another one to find his right
classroom; she also sharpened a few pencils.
Thompson said her first order of business that morning was to
reallocate teachers from less crowded schools or hire more so
Panchur would have a class size in the low 20s.
“It’s our job to get them the curriculum, get them a manageable
class size and let them go to work,” she said. “Every day, every