The Payette School District is rethinking summer school through its fledgling Summer Academy, a program designed to simultaneously train teachers and expand opportunities for students working to catch up on credits.
The academy is a product of the district’s six-year partnership with Teach for America (TFA), a national nonprofit that recruits and trains teachers and educational leaders, and works to reduce inequity in the schooling system.
The academy started this year, after around six months of collaborative planning between Payette and TFA Idaho. While incoming TFA Idaho teachers are usually trained at out-of-state summer institutes, Payette’s five-week program places them in classrooms alongside local teachers to receive in-state student teaching experience. In return, Payette teachers gain mentor experience, and students benefit from reduced student-teacher ratios in the classroom.
The program includes three main goals for students: an improved attendance record, evidence of academic progress throughout the summer, and an understanding of post-secondary education options.
“(The program) has helped us rethink how we work together in a way that’s really honest about students and where they are” said TFA Idaho’s talent manager Adam Schasel.
Marci Holcomb, assistant principal of Payette High School, has led the program through its first year alongside TFA Idaho leadership and Payette teachers.
“We really appreciate our partnership with Teach For America,” said Holcomb, “Not only does it help us find really quality educators…with good content knowledge and good classroom management, but they also have a lot of passionate and enthusiasm for kids.”
Estefany Dorado, a TFA corps member from Texas, taught English language arts for the program. She said the experience allowed her to build strong relationships with the students and work with them to remove mental barriers.
“I had a lot of students hit me with ‘Ma’am I can’t do it, I don’t understand. I didn’t get anything,'” said Dorado. “And then at the end of class they give me their assignments, I grade it and it’s a perfect score. They understood it, it’s just that internalized voice they have in their head.”
Out of the 13 TFA corps members teaching at the summer academy, two will remain in Payette for the next two years. The others will head to schools across southwest Idaho. Dorado will teach at Caldwell High School.
Summer Academy students visited Boise State for a taste of college life
As a part of Payette’s summer program, around 60 middle and high schoolers visited Boise State University on Friday. Most had never seen a college campus before and many had never been to Boise, according to Holcomb.
Students toured campus, walked along the greenbelt and sat in on an admissions presentation. The most popular activity was a trip to Albertsons Stadium to sit in on football practice and meet the Bronco.
“There were two young men we really had to talk into…going,” said Holcomb. “But they were the first two kids to jump in front of the Bronco to get their picture taken.”
Payette and TFA Idaho leadership said they wanted to invite the students to imagine themselves in a college setting, and open their minds to other post-secondary experiences. Many students at the summer academy come from low-income families and would be first-generation college students, according to Schasel.
“This is the beginning of connections that they’ll have as they start to build their future,” said Holcomb. “Those are the kinds of experiences that we need to give kids, especially in rural and low-income communities.”
Idaho Education News and Teach for America are funded on grants from the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation.