Los Angeles Unified this year more than doubled the number of campuses offering summer classes for high school students, giving those falling behind a better chance of graduating on time.
The expanded summer school programs follow years of cuts that reduced options for both struggling students to make up for poor grades and high-achievers to advance toward college.
Additional state funding from a recovering economy and more Title I dollars targeting low-income students helped 86 LAUSD campuses open up classes this summer from 36 last year. District enrollment for summer school is up 20 percent over 2014.
At Crenshaw High School, one of the campuses offering summer courses, Jaelin Starks is repeating 10th-grade chemistry. He admits he stopped paying attention in class half way through the semester.
“In the middle, I had a A. Now I ended with an F,” he said.
Eleventh-grader Janell Sayre said she’s always gotten good grades. But last year she got Ds in biology and world history.
“It’s just because I kept switching schools so that’s what affected it, and it gave me different classes so, and I didn’t take the finals for it. So I had to make it up,” she said.
Both are hoping to get back on track at a time when LAUSD is ramping up graduation requirements. The so-called A-G classes aim to get students ready for entry to the University of California and California State University systems.
But the requirements, tougher than neighboring school districts, meant students needed to pass classes like chemistry and algebra II with at least a grade of C. Earlier this year, LAUSD's school board was told as many as 22,000 of the Class of 2017 could miss out on a high school diploma because they were not on track to pass the A-G courses with the minimum grade.
A few years ago it would have been hard for either Starks or Sayre to make up their grades during summer. LAUSD was offering high school students summer school at only eight campuses at its recession-era low point.
Both the state's brighter revenue picture and additional Title I funding helped open the classes this year at Crenshaw High.
Victor Gonzalez, summer school principal at the school, said both the state's improved funding levels and lifting of some limits on Title I spending allowed the school to expand its summer program.
Gonzalez said Crenshaw High was able to afford 14 teachers this summer, each teaching two classes.
English teacher Nykia Smith is among them. She said summer school is faster-paced and she’s using that to shake some bad habits out of students.
“I think I’m finally reaching the hardest to reach ones, if that makes sense. Some of them, they come in right away [and] they’re like, ‘I’m not messing up this time. I’m going to do X, Y, and Z.'
“But then other students, it takes them a little while to be motivated and to actually want to do the assignments,” she said.
That’s what happened to Jaellin Starks. He says a counselor convinced him to retake chemistry this summer.
“Chemistry is not hard. It’s just I wasn’t putting in the effort toward the work, to do it,” Starks said.“When they start talking about colleges, [you] look at your junior year and it’s time to take action. I know I’m smart and I got potential so I just did it.”
Summer school at LA Unified runs through July 17.
This story has been updated.