Arizona students can attend 'summer camp' to catch up on what they missed due to COVID
By Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services
PHOENIX -- Citing newly released test scores, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey is setting aside $100 million in federal funds to conduct a second year of "summer camp'' to help youngsters catch up on what they missed in due to COVID.
Tuesday's announcement, just months into the school year, comes on the heels of the release of data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress which found there was "no significant change'' in the reading skills of Arizona students.
And the state Department of Education said math scores of Arizona eighth graders reached their lowest level since 2003.
"In light of this barometer of our kids' success, there's no time to waste to catch our kids up,'' the governor said in a prepared statement. "We must continue to pour on the gas in our efforts.''
The program is being modeled after the OnTrack Summer Camp operated at 685 schools, community facilities and other sites earlier this year. The governor's office said more than 70,000 youngsters participated in programs designed to help them catch up on read, math and American civics.
And while the programs were designed to let students have fun, Ducey's office said 86% of the students either made progress toward, met or exceeded the learning goals set for them at camp. It also resulted in recovery of more than 5,300 academic credits, a move the governor's office said ensures that more students will be on track for graduation.
Ducey said there are "some silver linings'' to those NAEP scores for Arizona, noting that students here closely followed the national decline in math. And he said the state held its ground in reading scores with little to no change since 2019.
"It's encouraging that reading scores remained level,'' the governor said.
"Kids have to learn to read before they an read to learn,'' he continued. "With critical investments like AZ OnTrack summer camp, we intervened and helped kids reignite their love of learning that was disrupted by the pandemic.''
There were no immediate details on when and how parents can sign up for the summer programs.
But the decision by Ducey to earmarked the COVID relief funds now allows him to cement the program in place -- and take the credit -- no matter who is elected governor in November.
Gubernatorial press aide C.J. Karamargin said the rules will remain the same this coming summer as they were for last summer.
Enrollment will be open to students as young as those just entering kindergarten this year. And even high school seniors who don't get all the credits they need to graduate will find programs.
Schools and other organizations that offer the programs will provide transportation.
But there is one restriction: The program is open only to students in traditional public and charter schools. Youngsters are private or parochial schools are ineligible.
Karamargin said that YMCAs across the state were some of the key hosts of this year's summer camp.
Damion Olson, CEO of the Prescott YMCA of Yavapai County, called it a "game changer'' because the funding help them to hire certified teachers.
Ducey and Hoffman ordered all public schools closed in March 2020 following federal guidance. That eventually was extended through the end of the school year.
The following school year, as COVID levels remained high, some districts kept schools shut and went to full-time remote learning. Others either opened their doors or enacted hybrid programs.
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