Venture Academy: Modified Daily Attendance « Center on Educational Governance (CEG)

Venture Academy: Modified Daily Attendance

Practice Areas: High School Reform

Venture Academy: Modified Daily Attendance

Venture Academy

Stockton, California
Founded 2001
411 students
Grades 9-12
58% White, 27% Hispanic, 2% Asian, 5% African-American, 8% Other
1% English language learners
8% Special needs
26% Receive subsidized meals
Teachers part of collective bargaining unit

Source: Center on Educational Governance, 2006.

As its students and parents understand, Venture Academy’s Modified Daily Attendance system combines a home study program with traditional school classes.

Venture’s students, grade 9 to 12, can choose from a variety of attendance options, from attending school two to
four days per week for four to six hours per day (compared to the traditional five-day, six-hour schedule).

Monitored by a faculty advisor, they may opt to take some classes at school, where attendance will be required, and others, where they may need less guidance, at home. On Fridays, all students undertake a community-oriented project such as service, volunteering or an internship.

With MDA, Venture Academy reaches out to students who might not graduate in a traditional high school program. As enrollment increased by 56 percent in two years, clearly it is serving a need in its community.


High school students are assigned to either the SLAPA (Student Leadership and Performing Arts) campus or Durham Ferry campus, a 209-acre park and working farm which allows for field work and the study of farm management.

At the beginning of each year, each student and her parents will meet with her assigned advisor to determine her course load for the year and to set her schedule. This may include Advanced Placement courses online or community college courses. Students attend the courses in which they need a classroom environment and complete independent study for the other courses.

The program’s flexibility allows students to travel during the school year or pursue internships; topics of coursework may be modified to suit circumstances. Similarly, teachers may close down the school for a few days to attend special conferences, assigning homework for those days.

Like traditional California high schools, Venture’s MDA students are required to take three years of English, two years of math and meet all state and local requirements. As the school is small, not every course will be offered every year, so underclassmen may take senior-level courses.


No additional budget is required to implement MDA; however, to monitor attendance and achievement, the state requires the faculty to complete a considerable amount of paperwork for each MDA student. (State funding is determined not by average daily attendance but by percentage of compliance with paperwork requirements because MDA is defined by the state as an independent study program.)

Lessons Learned

The paperwork required by the state can be daunting for the staff. Each teacher advises 20 students, which requires monthly individual meetings to complete paperwork, review students’ work and assess achievement. Part of the decision to schedule Fridays as an off-campus day for all MDA students was to give all advisors time to keep up with paperwork.

Building the master schedule is a challenge, due to the small enrollment of students at different grades and learning levels.

The fact that not every course is offered every year – not all 10th-graders take world history as they would in a traditional school — leads to difficulties with standardized testing. Students may score well below basic, affecting the school’s API and AYP. Despite this, Venture’s faculty remains committed to its individualized program.


Venture Academy increased its enrollment from 263 ninth- to 12th graders in 2002-2003 to 411 in 2004-2005: by 56 percent in two years. Furthermore, 95 percent of 2004-2005’s seniors graduated.

Teachers have said that MDA’s flexible schedule affords the time to serve individual students’ needs. Parents, most of whom have home-schooled their children until enrolling them at Venture, have said that they have finally found a place for their children to learn and be socialized.


Center on Educational Governance
Rossier School of Education
University of Southern California
3470 Trousdale Parkway
Waite Phillips Hall, Room 901
Los Angeles, CA 90089-4039

Phone: (213) 740-0697
Fax: (213) 740-4184
Staff Directory