Danville considers consultant to help boost attendance
DANVILLE — Danville schools officials are looking to boost attendance — and ultimately student achievement — throughout the district.
School board members at their meeting on Wednesday will vote on whether to contract with Leadership Matters LLC, a Peoria-based consulting firm, to help develop a comprehensive attendance plan.
The proposed contract would cost $30,000 for the 2013-14 school year and would be paid for with the $6 million School Improvement Grant.
"This will help everyone — our students, our parents, our teacher, the district and our community," associate superintendent Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat said.
The Danville School Board will meet at 5:30 p.m on Wednesday at the Jackson Building, 516 N. Jackson St., Danville. A copy of the agenda is available online at http://bit.ly/12JHRW9.
Earlier this summer, Danville High School was awarded a School Improvement Grant, which funnels up to $2 million in federal funding each year for three years to under-performing schools to help them raise achievement in a meaningful way. Desmoulin-Kherat said state educational officials expect to see substantial gains from the schools that are involved in the program.
"In order to do that, kids have to be here in the building, in the seats, so we can really teach them," Desmoulin-Kherat said, adding that research shows a significant link between attendance and student engagement, achievement and graduation rates.
District officials have set an attendance goal of 95 percent or higher for each building. According to the 2012 school report card, the district had a 93.4 percent attendance rate with an enrollment of 6,207 students.
"This meant that were an average of 410 students absent from school or 2,458 hours of lost instruction each day. Over the year, this equated to 72,160 days of absences districtwide or 432,603 lost hours of instruction," Desmoulin-Kherat said in a memo.
The eight elementary schools averaged a rate of 95.2 percent, and the two middle schools averaged a rate of 92.6 percent. Danville High's attendance rate was 90.5 percent, 5 percent less than the elementary schools' rate and 2 percent less than the middle schools' rate. The 2012 graduation rate was 73.6 percent.
"The probability of graduation increases steadily as ninth-grade attendance rates increase," Desmoulin-Kherat said, referencing a 2011 report from the Baltimore Education Research Consortium. She added that more than eight out of 10 students who attended school at least 95 percent of the time in ninth grade went on to graduate.
In addition to lost instructional time, absenteeism resulted in a significant loss of general state aid, which is determined by student attendance. Increasing the attendance rate districtwide by 2 percent could result in an another $500,000 in state revenue.
Desmoulin-Kherat said many schools have attendance activities in place.
"But it's usually one person's responsibility. ... The key is to get the entire building involved," she said, adding communication with students and parents and showing concern are a big part. "Sometimes, it's calling home and saying, 'We missed you today.' That goes a long way."
This summer, the consulting firm would gather student attendance data; identify key stakeholders and form an attendance steering committee; educate staff, parents and the community on the importance of good attendance and the consequences of poor attendance; identify interventions and incentives and help set up accountability measures for monitoring.
"It will be designed for Danville by Danville," Desmoulin-Kherat said.
The firm would help the steering committee develop and put into effect a marketing plan for the attendance initiative, complete with a catchy slogan and logo, that will kick off at the start of the school.
During the school year, the firm would analyze attendance data on a monthly basis; conduct interviews with students and staff to better understand school climate, culture and practices as they relate to attendance; and identify incentives and interventions to increase attendance, among other things.
Superintendent Mark Denman said the firm has worked with other schools, including Galesburg and Peoria to much success.
"They made tremendous headway in Galesburg, and we hope to do the same thing here," Denman said.
Also at the meeting, various administrators will update the board on progress that was made on the district's longterm strategic plan during the last year. A complete list of goals and accomplishments are listed on the district's website at http://www.danville.k12.il.us.
In other business, board members could vote on whether to approve salaries for 12 building administrators, five directors and 11 non-union flat-salaried employees.