Danville school board to vote on ending required 'early bird' class for freshmen

Danville school board to vote on ending required 'early bird' class for freshmen

DANVILLE — Danville High School freshmen may not be required to take an "early bird" class in the future.

On Wednesday, school board members will vote on whether to approve four proposals concerning the high school, including one that would make the class period optional for all students and adopting a weighted grading system for Advanced Placement and dual-enrollment classes.

The early-bird class period, which runs from 7:30 to 8:14 a.m., was optional for all high school students prior to 2008. Then, under a restructuring plan, ninth-graders' daily schedule was expanded from six periods to seven to provide them with more instruction and opportunity to stay on track for graduation.

"When they start getting further and further behind, they start to lose hope," said Principal Kimberly Norton. "We want to keep them as close as we can to their target of achieving 11 credits that first year."

However, staff reported that early-bird attendance for freshmen has consistently been the lowest each month, and 15 percent are failing their class.

Norton said much of that reason could be that those students had just come from North Ridge Middle School, where classes began at 9 a.m.

Now, "buses are arriving at the high school at 6:45 a.m.," she said.

Norton said staff at both North Ridge and DHS have implemented measures to streamline students' transition to high school and provide them with more support once they get there. They include having intervention periods during the day at both North Ridge and DHS.

At the end of first semester last year, Norton said only 68 percent of freshmen were on track.

"The staff wrapped around them with support, and that went up to 77.1 percent by second semester," she said, adding it increased to 81 percent at the end of first semester this year.

"The state average is 87 percent," Norton continued. "Our goal is to surpass the state average."

Superintendent Alicia Geddis said more measures are being put into place, such as expanding elective and enrichment classes during summer school.

"It's not just remediation. It's enrichment and advancement," she said.

If approved, the early-bird option would go into effect during the 2019-20 school year.

Also at the meeting, the board will vote on:

— Whether to allow freshman core teachers to be released from homeroom supervision to hold freshman team time.

Teachers will use that time, held over the four lunch periods and homeroom, to provide academic, organizational and social/emotional support to students; talk to each other about student concerns and come up with solutions; and collaborate on cross-curricular units and enrichment.

"That is another layer" to keeping freshmen on track, Norton said, adding other staff members were willing to take on additional homeroom students to give freshman teachers that time.

— Whether to add a college and career prep class as an elective for freshmen.

The one-semester class would target students who have struggled academically in middle school and those who struggle with attendance and provide them with organization tools, study skills and "self-regulation guidance that will prepare (them) for a smooth transition to not only Danville high school but for developing a vision for future endeavors," Norton said.

— Whether to adopt a weighted grading system for Advanced Placement and dual-enrollment classes that can be applied toward a college degree. The initiative would begin with the Class of 2022.

Currently, the grading system is used by all Big 12 schools including Champaign, Urbana, Bloomington, Normal and Peoria public schools.

Geddis said weighted GPAs take into account the difficulty of students' coursework and better represents their academic accomplishments.

"Aside from consistency, we want to encourage more students to take these classes," she said.

Norton said AP classes have a lower enrollment because students are afraid to risk lowering their GPA.

"Our goal is to increase participation," she said.

If enrollment in those classes increase, educators hope to offer more course options.

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