Saturday Schools Swap Snoozing for Studying; Enticing Saturday Classes Help Students Sharpen Reading and Test-Taking Skills

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Byline: MARY KELLI PALKA

For dozens of Andrew Jackson High freshmen and sophomores, 14 Saturdays this school year will be anything but typical.

Instead of sleeping in, hanging out with friends or working a part-time job, they're heading to their school's Super Saturday Academy. Students who were struggling in their Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test scores were invited.

The first day was Saturday, and 48 students signed in.

To help encourage them to stick around for two hours, Principal Iranetta Wright held a raffle at the end of the academy for a $100 gift card. She promised more incentives if they stuck around for the other 13 Saturdays.

But Broderick Brown III, 16, said it wasn't about incentives. He said he was there "to learn and to get more focused."

His friend and fellow football player Darion Butler Jr., 15, told Wright he learned a lot. He said of one of the teachers, "He got a lot out of us today."

The teachers volunteered their off time to come in Saturday. With about one teacher per four students, they were able to focus on the needs of each student. The focus was on reading and English. Super Saturday Academy is one way Wright is trying to raise the school's grade from an F. Jackson is one of four schools that if they don't make improvements within four years, they could close.

But Saturday wasn't spent tipping students about how to take a test. It was about teaching them the reading skills they'll need to be successful in school and life.

"This is no longer about FCAT prep," said instructional coach Dessalines Floyd. "Although what we do will help with FCAT."

The students will meet every other Saturday into December, and those who have perfect attendance can be in a drawing for a $500 gift card. And then they'll meet every Saturday up until FCATs in March. They'll meet again the Saturday after FCAT, when Wright will hold a drawing for a $1,000 gift card for students with perfect attendance. …