Diplomas Now 2014 Summer Institute:
Borrowing a Page from "The Lego
More than 250 adults from 15 cities attended the
sixth annual Diplomas Now Summer Institute in Baltimore and heard
how the kids' film "The Lego Movie" actually also
applied to their work of keeping kids on track to high school
graduation: "We are a community of master builders.
Everything is cool when you are part of a team! We all have the
power to be 'the special' to our students if we believe in them
and in ourselves."
"Diplomas Now is about relationships - relationships we
build with students and one another," said Diplomas Now
Director Doug Elmer, sporting an orange safety vest like the one
worn by an ordinary Lego construction worker in the movie. "You
have to believe in yourselves and believe in your kids and take
that to unlock the potential of your kids."
To kick off the two-day institute, Elmer celebrated
Diplomas Now middle schools that met all their goals to keep
students on track or get back on track in terms of attendance,
behavior and course performance. They are:
- Broadmoor Middle School (East
- Allapattah Middle School (Miami)
- Drew Middle School
- Edison Middle School (Miami)
- Rhodes Middle School (San
- Clinton Middle School (Tulsa)
He also acknowledged some spectacular
accomplishments by Diplomas Now high schools:
in New York increased its college application rate from 85
percent to 95 percent of all seniors, and 91 percent of
Newtown's graduates this year are heading to college!
- Cardozo Education Campus
in Washington, D.C., increased its ninth grade promotion
rate by 16 percent this year.
- All three Columbus, Ohio,
high schools made big gains in the pass rates on the Ohio
Graduation Test with South
High School posting a 27-percent increase in
reading, a 15-percent increase in math and a 29-percent
increase in writing. South also won a prestigious Straight A
Fund award from the Ohio Department of Education!
- Booker T. Washington High
School in Miami posted a
6-percent increase in the number of students with overall
learning gains, and Homestead
High School in Miami showed a 9-percent
increase in the proficiency rate on the Algebra I exam.
Elmer also recognized new support for Diplomas Now
from major national funders, including AT&T, Atlantic
Philanthropies, the Carnegie Corporation, the Edna McConnell
Clark Foundation, the PepsiCo Foundation and the Schusterman
Family Foundation. He also pointed to significant local
support from: GlaxoSmithKline (Philadelphia), the George Kaiser
Family Foundation (Tulsa), Hermann Miller Chairs (Chicago), the
United Way of Greater Los Angeles and the Paul Allen Foundation
Photo Credit: Will Kirkwood, Homewood Photography
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Facilitator of the Year: Jennifer Zeringue of
Capitol Middle School in East Baton Rouge. Always
going above and beyond the call of duty, Jennifer has been
described as the "heart of the school." She is the
epitome of a team player, and her passion comes across to
everyone as she always makes time for students, teachers and
fellow team members. She has impeccable organizational
skills and a tenacity that is unsurpassed.
City Year Program Manager
of the Year: Mark Worrell of Manual
Arts High School in Los Angeles. Mark has
always faced obstacles head-on with a "figure it out"
attitude. He quickly and successfully built relationships
around campus. He is described by colleagues as
organized, pragmatic, thoughtful, reflective and an all-around
awesome person. He has greatly strengthened City Year's
tutoring and after school programming and will continue to make
Schools Site Coordinator of the Year: Melanie
Poulson of South High School in Columbus.
Melanie has worked tirelessly to fill a major void at her
school to support students
through non-academic barriers. She constantly
follows up with students, and has even devoted Saturdays to
helping. One of her students wrote, "She opened my
eyes to the fact that college can give me the ability
to see and understand the world and make a difference in it.
Without her one-on-one coaching and support, I
don't think I would have earned over $40,000 in
scholarships and grants and been accepted to six
colleges. People in the inner city just do not have the same
starting point or opportunities as their counterparts. She
has helped to level that playing field by providing academic
support, a safe place to talk, or even just a
helping hand to make a person's life easier."
ELA Instructional Coach of the Year: Sheryl
Lew of Rhodes Middle School in San Antonio. Sheryl ensured
that the corps members were prepared to help students in writing,
and would frequently visit classrooms to assist teachers with
instruction or writing assignments. She always has a smile on her
face, and her positive energy has affected the school
climate. She always goes the extra mile and will deliver at
least five exciting ideas for any project or initiative,
demonstrating her incredible creativity.
Math Instructional Coach of the Year: Patricia
Hickman-Miller of Homestead High School in Miami.
Patricia has been the anchor for Diplomas Now implementation for
data, reflection and program evaluation. She is always willing to
lend a hand and has been instrumental in helping teachers improve
their craft. Her wisdom, expertise and team mentality make her an
amazing person to work with and learn from.
Master Builder Award
"Spirit of DN Award": Paul
Verstraete. Paul noticed a definite need to identify
students who were falling behind, and eventually learned that
others had the same need. He developed and solved the need at
his own school, and then shared it with other Diplomas Now
sites. His Indicator and Intervention tracker is a highly
replicable solution and has become a standard used throughout
the network. He's an extraordinary member of Diplomas Now
and has truly transformed the way educators can respond to the
challenge of keeping students on track for graduation.
Principal of the Year: Mike
Sabin of Dever McCormack Middle School in Boston.
Mike is a true leader who always pushes his team to a higher
standard every day. He is focused on long-term change for
schools with a commitment to data for continuous improvement.
Because of Mike's hard-work, integrity and accessible
leadership style, one of the partners said, "I have become
a better partner, a better collaborator, I have become more
efficient, and hold myself and my work to a higher
High School of the Year:
Homestead High School in Miami. Homestead High
School has jumped from a "D" school to a
"B" school in just two years, demonstrating the
team's dedication to improvement. The Diplomas Now team, which
is full of leaders, has worked together to assess student data
and institute a robust EWI system and highly effective report
card conferences. The DN team provides numerous staff
recognition and creates incentives for both students and
Middle School of the Year: Aki Kurose Middle School in Seattle.
Since its start with Diplomas Now six years ago, this Middle
School of the Year has decreased behavior referrals by 62
percent and has increased attendance by 11 percent. They
have implemented attendance competitions between grade levels
and have also implemented a school-wide Early Warning Indicator
system. Aki Kurose Middle School exemplifies a fully integrated
Diplomas Now model in day-to-day school operation.
Site Team of the Year: Gage
Park High School in Chicago. This Diplomas Now
team has remained dedicated and has become a positive influence
for all students and staff, despite a multitude of climate and
community obstacles. They aspire to improve every day by
working together, while always welcoming feedback. They have
implemented a successful EWI system and have prioritized
engaging school leadership.