School on a Saturday: Changing Perceptions
By Valeria S. Silva
Superintendent, Saint Paul Public Schools
St. Paul, Minn. (December 7, 2010) – Our new Saturday learning tradition creates community and helps students succeed. Most of us know someone who has ‘pulled an all-nighter’ with the hopes of passing a test. A student doesn’t achieve or effectively learn using this strategy. Schools don’t achieve using a model like this either. Knowing that last minute studying doesn’t help our students, we should do everything in our power to avoid offering an educational equivalent of an ‘all-nighter’ to struggling students late in their academic careers and hope for the best.
We need to start early.
Preparing struggling students for college and career begins in our elementary schools. We can provide learning opportunities that extend beyond the traditional hours of Monday through Friday.
Supporting students can include having school on a Saturday. But it’s not the punitive Saturday schools of the past. Saint Paul Public Schools is helping forge a new Saturday tradition with its first-ever Saturday Extended Learning Program for elementary school students.
These courses are elective, enriching, interactive and, most importantly, fun for students. For four hours on Saturdays during a trimester, enrolled students receive support in math and reading from licensed teachers. Students use interactive computer programs, integrated arts coursework with community organizations like the MacPhail Center for Music and enjoy planned time for physical activity.
And unlike an educational ‘all-nighter,’ students are identified as early as possible during a student’s time in our elementary schools. The earlier we can increase the amount of time a struggling student spends in an academic setting with licensed teachers teaching core subjects, the better we can prepare that student for success not only in middle school and high school, but throughout life.
And our teachers are dedicated to creating a classroom that helps our students learn. In each of our Saturday Extended Learning courses, students increase math and reading skills with high-quality, passionate teachers who want to help our students reach his or her full potential.
With community support from teachers and parents who have enrolled their students in the Saturday Extended Learning courses, we continue to enrich relationships that keep our schools and our programs at the heart of the community.
In fact, students in Saturday Extended Learning courses have already found pride in their learning environments. In one of my visits, I’ve heard students proudly proclaim that she is a member of one of four sites within our district: Bruce F. Vento Elementary, Barack and Michelle Obama Elementary, World Cultures Magnet School or Hancock-Hamline University Collaborative Magnet.
Saint Paul Public Schools is pleased with its first trimester of Saturday Extended Learning Program, which ends December 18. As our community begins its second trimester in January 2011, we will build on the successes of our new Saturday tradition.
For our community members, parents, students and staff that are part of our Saturday Extended Learning courses for elementary students, thank you.
Your dedication is a testament to the idea that educational relationships that help our students succeed don’t happen overnight.
With that, we’ll see you in class on Saturday!
For more information about Saint Paul Public Schools’ second semester Saturday Extended Learning Program, please call Traci Gauer at 651-744-1212.