Printer Friendly

Saturday school a class act: Kentucky kids become university students for a sixth day of school.

It's 7:15 a.m. on a Saturday in January. The mercury hovers near zero.

Surely the children are snuggled in front of the TV basking in the glow of cartoons. But this is Danville, Ky., and the living rooms are dark.

Dozens of kids and their parents crowd into the Bate Middle School parking lot waiting for teachers to unlock the doors to Danville Kids University.

An eight-week program, DKU started in winter 2003 with 68 third and fourth graders. Participation in this fall's fourth program session soared to 120 third- to fifth-grade students, nearly one-third of the total number of students in those grades.

Superintendent Bob Rowland says DKU breaks the routine, gets kids more interested in school and extends learning time. Each session attracts a sellout crowd with hands-on learning and an emphasis on leadership and self-esteem. "Kids that don't fit the standard mold" are a natural fit for the program, he adds.


* Multicultural Leadership and Involvement Award (Kentucky Community Education Association)

* State winner, National Civic Star Award (American Association of School Administrators and Sodexho)


* Initial funding from district and county community education program ($17,000)

* Department of Juvenile Justice grant ($169,750 over two years)

* Fund for the Improvement of Education Program (federal grant, $149,115)

The Show Must Go On

The staff commitment to DKU is evident. "We're trying to break down all barriers. If kids want to participate we bend over backwards to make it happen," says Superintendent Bob Rowland. So when a sleepy DKU student misses the bus, driver Mike Swain uses his cell phone to rouse the family and returns to pick up the child. Swain, the district's retired director of pupil personnel, also phones or visits every family on his route prior to each session. The bus driver extraordinaire has even offered to work for free if program funding ever runs out.

All the School's a Stage

An opening assembly sets the tone during each DKU session. Home School Community Liaison Beth Marlowe (AKA, the big cheerleader) wakens her audience with a booming cheer like, "When learning is fun, it's fun to learn!" or "I have what it takes!" Next, Marlowe transforms the gym into a veritable game show with learning contests that can reach breakneck speeds as teams race to solve puzzles and collect fabulous prizes.

Throughout the day, students might explore speed and velocity by racing cars up and down ramps in school hallways, or use colored balloons to recreate the solar system in the gym. The Lightspan Lab, where students learn through that company's problem-solving software, is another hot spot.

"We're able to talk to kids in their language," Marlowe says. "As a result they learn."

Taking the Show On the Road

Director of Elementary Education Sandy Embree outlines this formula for a Saturday "university":

* Collaborate to maximize resources. DKU's all-star cast includes multiple community partners.

* Maintain a low student/teacher ratio. DKU pads its 15:1 ratio by tapping into AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers and middle school mentors.

* Keep the content and delivery hands-on, fun and engaging.

* Evaluate, evaluate, evaluate. Look for ways to improve offerings. This year, a summer session of DKU is planned.

* Use technology.

* Include a parent component. DKU focuses on technology skills, study habits, English as a Second Language and GED instruction.

Center Stage

It's graduation day. Family, friends and dignitaries (including the governor and state representatives) pack the gym as students share their experiences and goals. "This is as big of a deal as high school graduation," says Superintendent Bob Rowland. "We're planting the seeds of forward-thinking-ultimately these kids are going to graduate."

DISTRICT STATS Danville (Ky,) Schools

No. of teachers: 161

No. of students: 1,753

Ethnicity: 65.7% white, 23.5% black, 3.4% Hispanic, 1.1% Asian, 6.3% other

Per-pupil expenditure (2002-2003): $7,233

Dropout Rate (2003-2004): 3.83%

Population: 15,477

Superintendent: Robert Rowland, since 1991

The Credits Roll

Turnarounds are commonplace at DKU. There was the classroom troublemaker who consistently earned failing grades on weekly spelling tests. At DKU, the agitator emerged as a leader and became a stellar speller. In a survey after DKU's spring 2003 session, the focus on differentiated learning got universal support, and all classroom teachers and parents reported a positive impact on students.

Lightspan software testing indicated double-digit gains in many math subskills, including a jump in data, statistics and probability from an average pre-test score of 23 percent in to 83 percent post-test.
COPYRIGHT 2004 Professional Media Group LLC
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2004, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:District profile: Danville (Ky.) Schools
Author:Fratt, Lisa
Publication:District Administration
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2004
Previous Article:Winning in a man's world: motivation and empowerment are key to this superintendent's--and her students'--success.
Next Article:Student suits: districts are spending up to $100,000 a year on insurance protection against lawsuits. Will an Ohio law giving protection to staff...

Related Articles
Financial Band-Aids for education.
The world of wireless: more districts than ever are pulling the plug on their traditional networks. Tablet PCs, PDAs and A/V equipment are just some...
Hunting for talent: school administrators try innovative strategies to recruit and retain teachers.
The end of racial integration? Education advocates brace for a decision.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2021 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters