The San Diego Unified school board decided Tuesday night to spend $4.6 million to keep its summer school programs intact this year, providing classes to all high schoolers who need to make up Ds and Fs, students at risk of being held back in grades 1, 3 and 8 and kids entering algebra at schools in a special math transition program.

But the school board also debated how well summer school worked. I recently wrote about its impact on grades. Though many teens benefit, one in three high schoolers who shows up to summer school doesn’t improve his or her grades at all.

School board member John de Beck complained that he had no evidence of its effectiveness. Lots of students go through summer school to avoid being held back in eighth grade, but they don’t seem to do any better in ninth grade after doing so, de Beck argued.

“Why are we in the business of spending money on unproven programs?” he asked.

Interim Deputy Superintendent Nellie Meyer said there is definite evidence that summer school works. Students in elementary and middle school took tests before and after the classes and showed improvement. De Beck complained that the tests don’t necessarily match their scores on state tests. What the school district needs to do, Meyer said, is compare the success of students who didn’t go to summer school at all, those who went and did well, and those who went and failed.

De Beck ultimately voted along with the rest of the school board to fund summer school at the same level as last year, despite his concerns.

After deciding to keep summer school, the school board put off deciding whether or not to suspend a policy that requires students at risk of being held back a grade to go to summer school. School officials had recommended temporarily pausing the policy because summer school might not be available, but the school board decided to wait and see whether that happens next year before changing the rule.

— EMILY ALPERT

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