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Marin Independent Journal: Editorial: San Rafael reaches students who need help

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Posted: 10/29/2014 12:12:59 PM PDT

The San Rafael School District's summer school program is paying impressive dividends.

The district started a summer school program for elementary and middle school students who needed additional classroom time to catch up. A district survey of 491 students involved in the program showed an impressive attendance record and that their extra classroom time has paid off.

When fall classes began, those students were more confident about their academic skills, according to Superintendent Michael Watenpaugh, who said the program made "a huge difference."

The summer program is a partnership with Building Educated Leaders for Life - or BELL - a nationwide organization. It was started in the early 1990s as a small tutoring program led by African American and Latino students at Harvard Law School where they worked with struggling students.

San Rafael students - mostly English-language learners - took classes in literacy and math for five weeks at Davidson and Bahia Vista schools. Besides academics, the summer programs include physical fitness, guest speakers and community service projects.

The district's investment last summer was $322,000 in grants and state after-school program funds. The students' investment was showing up five days a week, ready and willing to learn and achieve. Attendance was 93 percent, a reflection of the commitment of students and their families and their will to learn.

The program is a sizable public investment, but the students' participation and success makes it look like a bargain.