DANVILLE — Danville High School has won a School Improvement Grant for up to $6 million in federal funding over the next three years meant to allow it to significantly increase student achievement.
The high school was one of 22 in the state that applied for the competitive grant, and one of four to be approved by the Illinois State Board of Education, Superintendent Mark Denman said Thursday. The state board officially signed off on Danville's plan on Wednesday.
"The DHS school improvement proposal is rigorous in its design, bold in its concept and exciting in the multiple opportunities that it will provide for our students," Denman said in a news release. "This $6 million grant is the largest grant that any of our Danville schools has ever received, and I am proud of the hard work that our steering committee has devoted to this effort as well as appreciative of the strong support from the committee members, DHS staff members, agency representatives and community representatives."
Denman thanked Phil Cox and Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat, the incoming high school principal and district's associate superintendent respectively, and Diane Hampel, the retiring educational supports program director, for "their unflagging commitment to this project and their many hours of listening, research, collaboration, planning and leadership."
All three were, he said, instrumental in developing the application and presenting it to state education officials.
Denman said the district is still waiting for the official paperwork from the state, but that preparations will go into full gear as soon as they're received. Implementation will begin in the upcoming school year.
The grant targets underperforming schools in the state that are committed to implementing an initiative to raise achievement. Local officials learned in mid-February that the high school qualified for the chance to apply and, after seeking input from high school staff, parents, board members and other community stakeholders, submitted the application by the April 30 deadline.
The plan focuses on learning and results and aligns with goals and objectives in the district's long-term strategic plan and the high school and district's Rising Star plan. The initiatives call for implementing a guaranteed and viable curriculum that's aligned to the Common Core State Standards and focused on ensuring that students are college- and career-ready; developing a classroom and schoolwide system of academic behavioral interventions and supports; and using data to drive both instruction and professional development.
The funding will allow the school to contract with the nonprofit Consortium for Educational Change to help implement the grant and professional development components. It will fund several new positions vital to the plan's implementation: literacy and math coaches; a behavioral interventionist, who will identify and work with at-risk students and implement a schoolwide initiative to improve attendance; and a transformational officer.
The grant also will provide stipends to instructional leaders, current teachers who will spend one period of their day coaching and leading collaborative teams; teachers who meet various goals; and increased professional development.
Also under the plan:
— The school will add a 30-minute period each day to provide focused interventions in reading and math for students who are falling behind and enrichment activities for those who aren't.
— Offer summer school to help incoming freshmen who are behind in reading or math.
— Offer incoming freshmen a two-day induction to high school.
— Offer freshmen who are behind an extra period of reading or math.
— Offer after-school tutoring three days a week.
— Require students who don't score well on the WorkKeys test (part of the state's standardized test for juniors) to pass a senior seminar course to improve math and literacy skills in order to graduate.
— Partner with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Vermilion County to mentor students.
— And provide more outreach services to parents, among other things.