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New Look at Attendance & Graduation Rates for Davenport Students

 the cover of the study recently reviewed by the Davenport school board
Davenport School District
the cover of the study recently reviewed by the Davenport school board

Except for the "pandemic" school year of 2020-2021 when attendance in the Davenport schools dropped several percentage points, the rate held nearly steady for three of the last four years, at between 90.5 and 92 per cent.

The Director of Instructional Leadership, Doctor Jake Klipsch, says attendance is important because it affects graduation and dropout rates.

"These things are definitely related. Attendance I think is probably the foundation leading to growth in those other areas but even before attendance we have to insure our students are engaged in rigorous instruction within the classroom that students want to be a part of. And so if we can get students engaged in rigorous, high-quality instruction they'll want to be there, attendance rates will improve, which will lead to improvement in graduation rates and decreases in students dropping out."

And while 92 per cent attendance may sound good, with more than 14,000 students in the district, that missing 8 per cent still adds up to a lot of kids.

"There are enormous challenges within the lives of many of our students, but I think if we open the door to say anything less than 100 per cent is okay then it puts us in a position where we're guessing which students that's okay for. So we hold a vision of 100 per cent in our district for all students and we're building structures to insure that every student achieves at that high level. We're not going to put the bar any lower than that because I wouldn't want that for my own kid and I'm not going to allow that to be an expectation for anyone else."

He says the Davenport schools put a lot of effort into attendance with counselors, social workers, and attendance coaches, all tracking students and making phone calls and home visits when necessary.

The latest study showed graduation rates for the last four years of 83, 82, 81, and then 86 per cent in 2019 and 2020. That compares with a statewide rate of nearly 92 per cent.

"And I think in urban areas like Davenport and the other urban areas in our state, there are additional challenges with students from a variety of backgrounds, poverty, and trauma that creates some obstacles to keep those students engaged. We want to have the same rates as those smaller districts throughout the state because most of the districts in the state of Iowa are very small and that allows for a lot of personalized learning and reaching out, and they know one another in smaller communities which allows for plans to be put in place to keep those students engaged. And in a place like Davenport where we have over 14,000 students, there's some extra difficulty there."

Dropout rates for the Davenport schools in recent years have been as high as 6 1/2 per cent, but then fell to 4 1/2 per cent in the most recent year with data available, 2019-2020.

Efforts to improve these two rates, include course planning that begins in junior high, alternative programs and Mid City High School, programs to improve reading, specially-trained at risk teachers, flexible scheduling, and mentoring programs.

For the rest of us without children, or not living in the Davenport School District, Dr. Klipsch says there are ways for us to help - to look beyond these numbers and help students and their families.

"So if you want to help support our students, then find a way to get connected to community groups that help to bridge gaps for students that might need additional support. We're approaching winter months and students that don't have coats are less likely to come to school on those colder days if they don't have some of those basic human needs met. So if you're a person that can support that then that has an impact on our attendance. If you're a person that can support the food bank, that impacts our attendance for students that might be hungry. And of course just finding ways to support our schools themselves, being involved. If you are a parent, then get involved and see what you can do - call and ask or just show up and say what can I do to help support you in whatever fashion that might look like."

You can review these numbers for yourself at the Davenport district website (https://go.boarddocs.com/ia/dcs/Board.nsf/files/C9JMA45A1814/$file/Attendance%2C%20Drop%20Out%2C%20Graduation%20Rate%20-%20CoW%20Data%20Review%2021-22.pdf). Attendance numbers are tabulated by the district, while graduation and drop rate numbers come from the state.

A native of Detroit, Herb Trix began his radio career as a country-western disc jockey in Roswell, New Mexico (“KRSY, your superkicker in the Pecos Valley”), in 1978. After a stint at an oldies station in Topeka, Kansas (imagine getting paid to play “Louie Louie” and “Great Balls of Fire”), he wormed his way into news, first in Topeka, and then in Freeport Illinois. While a graduate student in the Public Affairs Reporting Program at the University of Illinois at Springfield (then known as Sangamon State University), he got his first taste of public radio, covering Illinois state government for WUIS. Here in the Quad Cities, Herb worked for WHBF Radio before coming to WVIK in 1987. Herb also produces the weekly public affairs feature Midwest Week – covering the news behind the news by interviewing reporters about the stories they cover.