This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Getting detailed and accurate numbers for summer school participation in Philadelphia has long been a challenge, and yesterday was no exception.
District Chief Academic Officer David Weiner presented a report to the School Reform Commission on the success of the District’s 2010 summer program, S.L.A.M., pointing to record participation and evidence of academic impact but lacking important information about how many students actually showed up.
The presentation highlighted the fact that "58,511 students … participated in this year’s summer programs – 33% of total enrollment." Weiner went on to say that "eight in 10" students attended daily.
But his presentation includes a footnote that these attendance rates were among students who attended five days or more.
Weiner clarified afterward that students who don’t show up should be considered essentially dropped from the rolls and hence they were not counted in the attendance rate. He said the pricetag of the program dropped from $47 million to $42 million in part due to no-shows.
How many students actually did attend summer programs for five days or more? The District has not yet responded to the Notebook‘s request for information on that.
An earlier estimate of summer attendance provided by the District to the Notebook in August was that 42,000 attended daily.
Similarly, the presentation notes that "participants in both Empowerment and Non-Empowerment schools evidenced significantly greater gains in reading and math achievement than matched comparison peers who did not participate in summer programming," but qualifies that statement as only applying to students who attended 16 days or more. The Notebook requested but has not received data on how many of the summer school participants met that criterion.
Comparing this year’s participation to last year’s, Wednesday’s District presentation cited a figure of 23,758 participants in 2009. Last year, after the program launched, participation for that same program was estimated at 40,000. Later press accounts downgraded that number to 32,000.