Saturday School a hit at Stowell Elementary

dyawger@mercedsunstar.comApril 30, 2013 

Cesar Hernandez hopes his students do better on the next round of state achievement tests and has tried a new strategy to achieve that goal.

Hernandez, principal of Merced's Stowell Elementary School, said 92 second- through fifth-grade students are winding up the last of four Saturday School sessions this week at the East 11th Street campus before testing begins Monday.

Stowell students spent an hour and 15 minutes reviewing language arts and an equal amount of time on mathematics. These students scored just below expectations on the last round of tests last year and were pinpointed for participation by their teachers.

One might think school sessions on Saturday mornings wouldn't be popular, but Hernandez said students have been enjoying it and parents clamored to get their children in the sessions.

He said the misconception is that such extra sessions of school are for failures, but school personnel went to great lengths to convince members of the Parent Teacher Club and English Language Advisory Council that wasn't the case.

"These students are very close to being proficient. Then they (parents) were eager to get their children in," Hernandez said. "It's motivational. This is giving another nudge so they can be successful on the CSTs (tests). Parents are thrilled with this program."

Hernandez said when Saturday School was tried two years ago, students made considerable growth. The Saturday sessions have covered test-taking strategies because in the past some students haven't been successful in taking these tests.

Stowell teacher Rachel Pryor said she noticed enthusiasm among her students.

"Some of them have had perfect attendance and have shown eagerness to study and refresh their reading and math skills," Pryor said.

"It is great to see them be so motivated for a Saturday," she said. "I have truly enjoyed the students, especially because I am a kindergarten teacher working with fifth-grade students."

Third-grade teacher Chris Montague said students loved the Saturday sessions.

"We give them a push of confidence," Montague said. "It's a wonderful experience. They just needed a little time and attention, letting them know we believe in them."

Hernandez said Stowell teachers have been working hard to meet target scores and improve student performance on the tests.

The Parent Teacher Club supplied pizza and beverages for the youngsters. Montague said students got to the Saturday sessions before some of the teachers and were eager to begin their day.

Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or dyawger@mercedsunstar.com.

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