Increasing numbers of public-school students won't enjoy a full summer vacation this year. They'll attend classes in cities stretching from here to San Diego, getting the extra help they need to pass increasingly rigorous standardized tests.
Summer remedial reading and mathematics courses are most common in inner-city school systems, such as the District, where students lag behind their suburban counterparts in test scores.
The District plans to enroll up to 20,000 students this year - more than a quarter of the entire student enrollment of 77,111.
Summer school programs have been expanded in school systems across the country, including Norfolk, San Diego and Long Beach in California, and Corpus Christi, Texas, as educators struggle to help students reach higher standards imposed by state and local school boards.
Their targets: students who fail courses or score very low on standardized tests in the basics, such as reading and mathematics.
In some systems students are strongly encouraged to attend while other districts require lagging students to attend summer school or repeat a grade.
In other school systems, enhanced summer remediation programs are in the works. In Baltimore, school officials plan to start a summer school program in 1999 for elementary and middle school students that will focus on reading and mathematics, said Laura L. D'Anna, coordinator of review summer school for the school system.
In San Diego, students in the eighth grade who fail a single class must go to summer school. And starting in 2001, eighth-graders who get below a C average will have to attend summer school or repeat a grade. There are 9,000 eighth-grade students this year and so far a quarter of them have a less than C average.
"The big concern now is, what do we do with the kids who don't meet the standards?" said Cat Xander, who coordinates a state grant for a pilot summer school program for San Diego middle school students that starts in June.
Many educators say the expanded summer school programs have brought immediate, measurable improvements in student performance.
In Long Beach, for example, 1,200 third-grade pupils who attended a five-week-long summer reading program showed remarkable improvement by the end of the course.
The number of students who could read at their grade level increased from 24 to 43 percent and the number of students who were reading at the first-grade level decreased from 20 to 13 percent.
But more than 340 pupils recommended for the program opted not to attend, so this summer Long Beach school officials have made the summer reading initiative mandatory for all third-grade students reading below grade level. "If a kid doesn't go, he will be held back," said Paul McKendrick, assistant to the superintendent of the Long Beach Unified School District.
Not all students attend summer school for remediation. In some districts, particularly in the suburbs, smaller numbers of students go to summer school for enrichment and to get ahead.
In Montgomery County, for example, about 14,000 students will attend summer school, some of them to make up a class in which they received a failing grade. But other children will be taking honors geometry courses, pre-calcuus and other accelerated courses.
More than 1,200 Fairfax County students enroll in summer enrichment programs offered by the public school system.
It is the urban systems, however, that are the busiest trying to help students catch up, and they are using summer school as a way to do it.
In the District, school administrators want to help children who are the furthest behind improve in a system notorious for low test scores and poor academic performance.
"Summer school is really an extension of the school year," said Elois C. Brooks, deputy superintendent of the D.C. …