The Denair Unified School District Board of Trustees unanimously approved spending two $75,000 grants on Advanced Placement, college prep and intervention programs at Denair Charter Academy and Denair High School in hopes of boosting college and career readiness of all students.
Awarded through the California Department of Education’s Local Control Funding Formula, the College Readiness Block Grant provides $200 million in funding to California high school pupils, particularly unduplicated pupils, for additional supports to help increase the number who enroll at institutions of higher education and complete an undergraduate degree within four years.
Unduplicated pupils are students who are English learners, meet income or categorical eligibility requirements for free or reduced-price meals under the National School Lunch Program or are foster youth. DHS and DCA each received $75,000 grants based on their unduplicated pupil counts of 145 students and 131 students, respectively.
On Thursday, the Board approved the spending plans, which broke down the $75,000 grants into $10,000 for advanced placement and A-G courses, $15,000 for intervention and $50,000 for college prep programs.
“We’ve done a lot of research in what we want to do at the secondary level in terms of getting our students college ready,” said Chief Business Officer Linda Covello.
The $10,000 in funding for AP and A-G courses will go towards professional development opportunities such as the AP Summer Institute, as well as providing more A-G options. Covello added that DUSD is looking at offering more AP and A-G courses online, and while these courses will be more “rigorous,” the district is looking to implement more support to help students.
“Speaking from experience, I did my bachelor’s degree online and when you’re doing a class online it is much more different than doing it in person,” said Covello. “There’s a little bit more support needed for those students that are taking those virtual classes, so we’ll be looking at that as well to make sure those students are successful.”
Covello said that both sites will use the $15,000 in funds for intervention programs that measure academic progress and provide benchmarks to place students in tiered interventions.
“We just want to be able to determine where our students are and how we can best support them going forward,” said Covello. “There’s a need for something to determine where our students are to place in them in the support they need.”
In regards to college prep, both sites will use the $50,000 in funding to measure academic progress, providing more A-G options, providing parental notices regarding student progress and credit recovery for students who need it. One specific program that DHS is hoping to implement utilizing these funds is Advancement Via Individual Determination, or AVID, which is a global nonprofit organization that aims to close the achievement gap by preparing all students for college and other postsecondary opportunities.
“That will be something that we would be able to use these funds for — at least the startup costs of the program, not necessarily the ongoing costs of a teacher,” said Covello. “DCA isn’t looking at the AVID program at this point.”
Also on Thursday, the Board approved a new bell schedule for Denair Middle School beginning with the 2017-2018 school year. The new bell schedule consists of seven periods, as well as an intervention or enrichment period.
“Currently we do not have any intervention at the middle school,” said DMS principal Kelly Beard. “This is a really big need for us. When I came in as principal this was the number one thing staff came to me and said that this was our biggest need.”
DMS will also implement a collaborative day every Friday starting March 3. Students will share a common lunch time to allow participation in clubs or intramurals and dismissal will be 12:38 p.m. Staff will spend the remainder of the afternoon collaborating through grade level or department meetings, staff meetings, various committee meetings, or district-wide collaborative days.
“What we currently have now for collaborative time is five days and those are district-wide collaborative days,” said Beard. “This would increase us from five to every Friday. Hopefully within the next week we will send a letter to parents notifying them of the calendar change.”
The Board also approved a new requirement for incoming ninth graders at DHS Thursday that will necessitate three years of math instead of two years. Students graduating in the year 2021 and beyond will be required to take three years of math in order to graduate, effectively increasing their graduation requirements by 10 credits from 230 to 240 total credits.
“We have some credit deficient students coming down the pipeline,” said DHS principal Kara Backman. “When they would take the basic college entrance exam, they haven’t had math since the sophomore year, so it does not set them up for success.”