FORT WORTH -- Forget that spring break trip to the beach or catching up on your favorite television shows.
Some Fort Worth high school students will be spending their spring break brushing up on algebraic equations and biology.
The Fort Worth school district is launching its first-ever Spring Break School, offering students four days of intense study to prepare for high school End Of Course exams required for graduation.
Students have until Thursday to sign up online for free classes March 11-14. Classes will be offered in algebra 1, biology, English 1 reading, English 1 writing and world geography. Meals and transportation will be provided.
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"This is an excellent opportunity for students to review skills from a course they took last year or to reinforce skills from a course they are currently taking," said Michael Sorum, deputy superintendent for leadership, learning and student support services.
The standardized EOC tests for the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) will be given in April and May. The STAAR tests are replacing the grade-based exams given under the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills program, which is being phased out. Students must pass 12 EOC tests before they can graduate.
Last year, only high school freshmen were required to take EOC exams. Students who did not pass must retake the tests. This year, all ninth- and 10th-graders will take the tests. The state has deferred the requirement that the EOC count as 15 percent of their final course grade for the 2012-13 school year.
Bills have been filed in the Texas Legislature to do away with the 15 percent rule and cut the number of EOCs required for a diploma.
Students in the Spring Break School can register for a full- or half-day session and will be tutored by teachers in the district. They will review course material and practice for the tests.
The number of classes and the Fort Worth high schools where they will be located will be determined after registration ends, district spokesman Clint Bond said.
"Everything is contingent on the number of students who sign up. Although we have students who have been identified as having failed the EOC the first time, they are not required to go to this," Bond said. "This is just another opportunity for them to brush up because they haven't been thinking about this information for a while."
Maggie Hall, who owns a Fort Worth company that provides year-round tutoring at several Boys & Girls Clubs, has a few strategies for holding a student's attention during vacations. Study breaks are helpful, and she allows students to shoot some hoops to burn off energy or to socialize.
Hall said she has had the best results by clarifying what may be causing a student to fail to grasp a concept rather than teaching something new.
"They've been in school the whole time. If you overwork them during spring break they will be too tired and not do well," Hall said. "They need to be relaxed and know that they can do it. And it's our job as teachers and tutors to help them know they that can do it and build that self-confidence."
Jessamy Brown, 817-390-7326