In a district where two out of three children qualify for free or reduced-priced lunch and 15 percent of learners have disabilities, all student success matters. “All means all,” the new motto that began with the arrival of Superintendent Keith Look in the fall of 2014, represents just that.
What sets Danville Independent apart is the focus on growth. Administrators and staff focus on measuring and facilitating growth in every student. The district focuses heavily on data for each student to determine personalized paths for growth. Yet, while instruction is data-driven, the experiences in classrooms are interactive, interpersonal and hands-on.
At the end of elementary school, 5th-grade students demonstrate their readiness to move on to middle school through Gateway presentations. Students complete an application, similar to a college or job application, and prepare a presentation that highlights their work and experiences based on the district’s diploma skills. During an interview with a Gateway panel, students are asked to reflect on their strengths and areas of growth. The process encourages students and builds confidence for the next phase of their education.
Middle school students expand on that by performing project-based assessment tasks surrounding a specific topic or theme. Students choose their own methods such as art, a speech, a diagram or a chart to show they understand content. For example, students recently presented on eminent domain during the height of a public discussion surrounding a national gas pipeline proposed to come through eight states, including Kentucky.
At the high school level, the pathways model allows students to choose a customized track of learning where they can focus on disciplines that will accelerate them in their chosen field(s). Students also experience Intersession, a week-long break from pathway-centered learning where students can choose to learn and experience other areas of study. Intersession opportunities include service learning, restaurant and culinary learning, robotics and engineering, 3D printing, film production, choreography, agriculture, law enforcement, fitness and exercise, and more.
Students’ studies conclude with capstone assignments that align with their chosen pathway such as a voice solo, applied knowledge of the sciences through using the district’s 3D printer or a portfolio of art. Students at Danville Independent are given the freedom to pursue their passions, the tools to measure growth and the courage to chart their own course to success whatever that may look like.