Board may seek $6 million grant for high school

Board may seek $6 million grant for high school

DANVILLE — The Danville school board on Wednesday could decide whether to throw its support behind a grant application for $6 million in federal funding to significantly improve student learning and achievement at the high school.

The board will meet at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Jackson Building, 516 N. Jackson St., Danville. A copy of the agenda is available online at http://bit.ly/17xAWBm.

The competitive school improvement grant, administered through the Illinois State Board of Education, targets underperforming schools in Illinois that are committed to implementing a bold initiative to raise achievement. This is the first year that the high school has been eligible.

If it's successful, it could receive up to $2 million a year over the next three years to carry out the plan, which calls for implementing a guaranteed and viable curriculum that is 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 goal is to have at least 55 percent of students meeting or exceeding reading/language arts and math standards in 2014; 70 percent in 2015; and 85 percent in 2016.

The grant requires the school to increase learning time for all students, increase professional development, offer financial incentives to teachers and staff for meeting certain goals, and work with a lead partner to help implement the grant and professional development components, among other things.

To meet those requirements, the school would:

— Create a 30-minute period by combining the 15-minute homeroom period with an extra 15 minutes — to provide extra reading and math instruction for students falling behind in those areas, and enrichment activities for those who aren't. The extra 15 minutes likely would be added to both the start and end of the day so that morning and afternoon bus, extracurricular activities and work schedules wouldn't be disrupted significantly.

— Offer the Summer Bridges summer school to incoming ninth-graders who are behind in reading and math to help them catch up.

— Require freshmen to take an extra period of reading or math, if they're struggling in one of those subjects.

— Require students who don't score well on the WorkKeys test (part of the state standardized test for juniors) to pass a seminar course to improve their math or literacy skills in order to graduate.

— Use literacy and math coaches to work with students.

— Partner with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Vermilion County and organizations to offer school-based mentoring opportunities.

— Develop common assessments as well as exit criteria (what students must know before they can move on) for core classes.

— Use behavioral interventionist to identify students with behavioral issues, provide interventions and work on a schoolwide initiative to increase attendance.

— Create a teacher evaluation tool that includes a student growth component.

— Provide eight more days of professional development for teachers before the start of the school year.

— Designate teacher-leaders who will use one of their teaching periods to help coach peers as well as gather and analyze student data. They would receive an extra stipend.

— Provide staff with stipends when student attendance and learning goals are met or if they attain National Board Certification, among other things.

— Work with the Consortium for Educational Change as the lead partner. The nonprofit organization has worked with many schools on improving achievement.

— Create a "parent university," led by parents, to increase their involvement.

— Create the Danville Council for Continuous Improvement, a committee of administrators, teachers and community members to monitor the progress.

The grant would pay for the new positions, staff incentives and the lead partner's fees, among other things. The application is due April 30.

Also at the meeting, school officials will recognize a community member who has made a major donation for the Danville Community Athletic Facility.

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