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MMSD will no longer consider attendance as a factor in which students are invited for summer school.

The Madison Metropolitan School District will no longer consider attendance as a factor in which students are invited for summer school.

Earlier this spring, some school staff received a memo that indicated the district would only include students with a 90% or better attendance rate for the school year on its automatic invitation list. That was an increase from the 80% rate from past years.

Schools were still allowed to identify and invite specific students who didn’t meet that metric, but they would not appear on the district’s automatically generated list based on grades and attendance.

Late Wednesday afternoon, MMSD spokesperson Tim LeMonds told the Cap Times in an email that district administrators have recently “been taking a very close look at our summer school programming and enrollment requirements.”

“After deep consideration of district goals and the intent of our summer semester program, we have decided to move away from the district’s practice of incorporating attendance rates as a factor for invitation and enrollment, beginning this summer semester,” LeMonds wrote. “This decision was made to be more aligned with supporting the needs of our students and ensuring every student who could benefit from summer school programming has an opportunity to have access and attend.”

The document sent to staff members indicating the earlier change to 90%, screenshots of which were shared with the Cap Times, stated that “Attendance in summer programming is critical to student success, therefore, recommendations should include students who have demonstrated that they will attend everyday!”

Students can miss 18 days of school to have a 90% attendance rate.

Even if invited, families still have to enroll students in the optional summer program.

Last month after the initial change, the Cap Times asked LeMonds whether there was concern that it could cause students most in need of summer learning opportunities to miss out. LeMonds wrote that the change was made to "identify those students who are in need of summer learning paired with regular attendance.

“If a student is not attending during the regular school year with a full support staff to intervene, data tells us that they don't attend in summer with limited support staff to support AND summer is 6 weeks,” LeMonds wrote.

In a report on last year’s summer semester, which was shared with the School Board in a Jan. 12 weekly update published on the district’s website, officials noted that “volatile attendance rates” were among a set of factors that “posed challenges for identifying trends in outcome data.” The report specifically focuses on the morning summer semester program, and does not include data from Madison School & Community Recreation or the Summer Arts Academy.

Attendance in last year’s summer semester was 74% for grades 4K-12, down from 82% in summer 2021. The district’s goal is 90% attendance “for academic programming to meaningfully impact student achievement,” according to the report.

By grade level, first and third grades had the highest attendance rates at 81%. Middle-schoolers had the lowest attendance rates, with grades 5-8 all having rates under 70%.

“These attendance data highlight some of the challenges faced in meeting district academic goals for summer semester programming; low attendance rates will limit the extent to which summer semester programming can impact student growth targets,” the report states.

Total enrollment last summer dropped to 2,113 students from 2,303 in summer 2021, despite the district inviting more students to participate last year. A significant factor was the summer school staffing shortage, which forced the district to unenroll hundreds of students in late spring.

The School Board, with the administration’s recommendation, voted to increase summer school pay to $40 an hour for teachers this summer in hopes of avoiding a repeat situation.

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