Students desert summer school

28th July 2000 at 01:00

New York school officials have been embarrassed by lack of enthusiasm for the pound;100 million new remedial classes

High-school students in New York are spurning the pound;100 million summer schools intended to ensure that they do not have to repeat a year of study.

More than 325,000 elementary and high-school students were registered for summer classes as America's largest city attempts to prepare them for more rigorous graduation standards. But 130,000 were reported missing.

The widespread absences mark a setback after the city's schools had scrambled to find the 15,000 teachers thought to be needed.

As it turns out, many of those teachers have been standing in front of classrooms with as few as three students, despite intensive efforts to track down truants. School officials have even telephoned and visited parents at home. There were also reports of cases where two teachers were in charge of the same class.

One of the problems is that most American children are used to taking the summer off and the new classes are not compulsory. <> In the wake of the embarrassment, Harold Levy, New York city schools chancellor, said he would ask the state legislature to make summer school mandatory for students failing their regular courses of study.

"We should have 100 per cent attendance," Dr Levy said.

About two-thirds of the children registered for summer school were required by the city to attend because their grades were so poor they are likely to be held back a year. A quarter of those have not shown up. The absentee rate was even higher among children who had chosen to attend the summer classes voluntarily.

Even so, record numbers of children are spending the summer in school this year because many states are ending the automatic promotion from one grade to the next. While New York's programme is the most ambitious, 25,000 students are enrolled in Chicago, and 12,000 each in Atlanta, Boston, and San Diego.

New York teachers initially boycotted the summer programme demanding that the work be refelcted in their pension entitlement. The dispute was settled at the last minute.

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