Investing in Innovation (i3) Grant Winner


July 2013

Summer Institute 2013:

Learning from experience, building on successes 



At this year's Diplomas Now Summer Institute, Darius Clay spoke movingly about how Diplomas Now helped him graduate from Chicago Talent Development Charter High School in June. City Year corps member Jason Dones helped him turn around his grades to become an honor roll student. Communities In Schools site coordinator Paul Fagen suggested attending camp on a college campus. School transformation facilitator Jackie Thomas was "like a mother to me."


"I'm a product of Diplomas Now," said Clay, who was accepted into nine colleges and will attend Hiram College near Cleveland in the fall. "The proudest moments of my life have come through Diplomas Now. ... The impact that Diplomas Now has had on my life has been immeasurable. Honestly, without Diplomas Now, I might not be going to college."


Clay is an inspiring example of the impact that Diplomas Now has been making in schools across the country. Through the third school quarter of this year, Diplomas Now has helped more than 4,000 students get on track to graduation, Diplomas Now executive team leader Bob Balfanz told the nearly 400 people who attended the Summer Institute in Baltimore.  


This year's Summer Institute included two days of workshops and sessions for Diplomas Now teams from across the country, including the new schools in Jacksonville, Fla., and a large contingent of principals who are partnering with Diplomas Now in their schools. This year, for the first time, Diplomas Now gave a series of 10 awards to exemplary staffers, schools and principals.


The teams gathered to learn more about enriching the Diplomas Now experience in their schools through sessions such as, "Making It Count: How Diplomas Now Components Support Our Students With Mathematics," "Avoiding Data Paralysis and Other Traps: Best Practices for Working With Data," "Unlocking the Potential: Understanding How the CIS Model Can Support Students Through the Tiers," and "Engaging Community Partners: A Strategic Approach to Building Capacity and Bolstering DN Success."


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Diplomas Now 2013 Awards 


Jessica_PerezSchool Transformation Facilitator of the Year: Jessica Perez of Carol City High School in Miami. Always putting students' best interests at heart, Jessica is the glue of her Diplomas Now partnership whose consistent efforts ensure that her team is prepared and leveraged properly in and outside of the classroom. She has a deep understanding of Diplomas Now and shares best practices with her team and other DN schools. Her  efficient yet dynamic leadership has given her team an ever-present voice within their school leadership and has sparked some of the team's most innovative efforts.  


Laura BarreraEnglish Language Arts Instructional Coach of the Year: Laura Barrera of Burbank High School in San Antonio. Laura dropped out of high school herself and that motivates her to ensure the success of all students. Even if it means dressing up as Captain Literacy, cape and all, on Halloween to demonstrate the importance of literacy to students. She has worked diligently to win the trust of teachers and worked closely with students, staff and teachers to build a positive can-do culture. She spent countless hours developing teacher teams and providing professional learning. She worked closely with her Talent Development Secondary instructional facilitator to align district and state initiatives with the TDS curriculum to allow for a coherent message to be communicated to language arts teachers.



EddSchneiderMath Instructional Coach of the Year: Edd Schneider of Burbank High School in San Antonio. Extremely giving and always willing to lend a hand, Edd is the anchor for Diplomas Now implementation for data, reflection and program evaluation. His work with both teachers and students has been instrumental in transformational change. He has helped teachers improve through coaching and opportunities for professional learning he has delivered. His wisdom, expertise, and pragmatism make him an amazing person to work with and learn from. Edd has developed such a deep level of trust with the teachers.



AmberCoxCity Year Program Manager of the Year: Amber Cox of Grover Washington Middle School in Philadelphia. Amber is dedicated, fun loving, hard-working and an all-around awesome person. Her leadership shows through her work with her team and the relationships she has built within her school and across Diplomas Now. Amber regularly goes above and beyond what is asked of her to ensure that the best possible work is being done. She is persistent and diplomatic and always supports the needs of the school and students.





AshleyChurbockCommunities In Schools Site Coordinator of the Year: Ashley Churbock of Capitol Middle School in East Baton Rouge. Ashley noticed almost immediately that many girls at her school had low self-esteem, poor coping and social skills, and anger management issues.  She was determined to help these girls and formed "Girl Talk," an educational and counseling group at her school, reaching more than 100 girls in the past two years. She truly believes that every child matters and offers as much support as possible to the students through individual and group sessions, whole school events, and linking students and their families to needed resources. 



KeithAndersonMiddle School Principal of the Year: Keith Anderson of Miami Edison Middle School. Keith is extremely inclusive and values the voice of all partners - students, the community and Diplomas Now. From the very first day of school, he communicated his vision for the school - "failure is not an option" - and has held everyone accountable to it. He has firmly integrated Diplomas Now into the school and is a strong advocate for Diplomas Now in the school and with the district. Under his leadership, Edison has seen the highest attendance gain of any middle school in Miami.  



MariaCordovaHigh School Principal of the Year: Maria Cordova of Burbank High School in San Antonio. Both Maria and Diplomas Now were new this year at Burbank. A veteran principal, Maria was determined to establish a positive culture within the building and quickly integrated the Diplomas Now team into her vision. She is keen on professional development and small learning communities. She has a driven spirit and truly believes and invests her time in Diplomas Now. After one year, Burbank has become a model Diplomas Now school.  



SaskoPellegrinoSpirit of Collaboration: Jessica Sasko, Chris Pellegrino and Liz Belton of Sheepshead Bay High School in New York City. Jessica, a school transformation facilitator, Chris, a City Year program manager, and Liz, a CIS site coordinator, are such natural team players that they can't imagine working any other way. Their successful partnership has helped to boost algebra Regents scores, which improved for the first time for ninth graders from 30 percent to 56 percent this year. Together, they've faced the additional challenge of working in a school that is closing.



ClintonMSMiddle School of the Year: Clinton Middle School in Los Angeles. Clinton has embraced Diplomas Now and after two years has achieved impressive gains:

  • Maintaining a 97% attendance rate through every month of the school year
  • 75% of 8th graders met culmination requirements-a 14% increase over 2012-2013
  • A 28% increase in the number of 8th graders passing the algebra end of course exam 

SouthHSHigh School of the Year: South High School in Columbus, Ohio. In its first year with Diplomas Now, South has reinvented its school community, generating excitement and passion while helping students achieve impressive outcomes. The school's leadership, staff and Diplomas Now team is cohesive and shares a vision and belief in all students. As a result, this high school saw a 93% reduction in the number of students repeating ninth grade this year.






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