Investing in Innovation (i3) Grant Winner


February 2013


Spotlight on South High School in Columbus


Algebra 1 at South High

"Diplomas Now has helped me to improve my grades and attitude in the classroom," says Jessica, a ninth-grader at South High in Columbus, Ohio. Her schoolmates echo that sentiment:  


"Diplomas Now has helped me by providing extra support when I'm struggling and it motivates me to do better in school," ninth-grader Nikita says.  


"Diplomas Now gives me someone to talk to about my problems and provides me with encouragement to improve my grades," ninth-grader Myka says.


Jessica, Nikita and Myka are among South High's nearly 200 ninth-graders who are experiencing the first year of Diplomas Now in their school, which has about 750 students in seventh through 12th grade.  


The students' remarks come as no surprise to Principal Colon Lewis, who says he has witnessed a sea change of improvements and credits Diplomas Now for its focus on raising attendance rates, lowering behavioral infractions and helping kids achieve better grades.


"You would have to go out of your way to not be a success here," Lewis said on a recent morning. "We put our students in a situation where they can't fail."


Read more on the Diplomas Now site.  



National Graduation Challenge Aims to Raise At Least $100,000 per Diplomas Now School 


In January 2013, Diplomas Now launched the National Graduation Challenge to locally raise at least $100,000 per Diplomas Now school annually for the next three years. For each $100,000 in new dollars raised through June 30, 2014, the Diplomas Now national team will match that by 3 to 1 every year.

Diplomas Now plans to use funding from the National Graduation Challenge to continue the study of the impact of Diplomas Now on school attendance, behavior and course performance, and graduation rates in schools grappling with high poverty. This independent evaluation is a controlled, randomized study of Diplomas Now in 32 schools compared to other reforms in 30 other schools, meaning its results will be of the highest standard. The study is being conducted by MDRC, a leading research organization.



We Made the Social Impact 100 - A National Index of Proven Nonprofits Ready to Grow


Diplomas Now is honored to be featured on the Social Impact 100, the first broad index of proven nonprofits that are ready to grow. Consisting of 100 top nonprofits with high-impact solutions, the index offers potential donors information about vetted organizations working on America's most pressing problems in education, poverty, youth, and health issues.


Stacey D. Stewart, president of United Way USA, says this on the site: "Diplomas Now is a critical partner for United Way USA as we ramp up to mobilize America around higher graduation rates." 


The Social Impact 100 also features the three Diplomas Now partners:  Talent Development Secondary, City Year and Communities In Schools.



Grad Nation Features Diplomas Now 


Bob Balfanz will speak at the opening plenary session Monday, Feb. 25 at the Grad Nation conference, of which the Everyone Graduates Center is a sponsor. And in the afternoon, Joanna Fox and Johann Liljengren, both of the Everyone Graduates Center, will talk about early warning indicator systems and the early warning signs that a student might drop out of school. On Tuesday, Feb. 26, the Everyone Graduates Center and City Year will release a white paper called "Overcoming the Poverty Challenge."



Cool Events Galore at Diplomas Now Schools!


Viva Math Vegas in San Antonio and Columbus!


Students at Burbank High School
make math fun

More than 90 students and 14 parents participated in math games during Viva Math Vegas at Burbank High School in San Antonio in late January, a fun event set in a Las Vegas atmosphere. Both students and parents won tickets that were raffled off for prizes with the grand prize being a TI-84 Plus calculator. Dressed as casino dealers, math teachers and the Diplomas Now team engaged students from 4:30 to 6 p.m. City Year corps member Marcus Perez, who organized the event, said his goal was to "implement a simple yet successful event to make math fun and exciting while also lowering students' math anxiety."     


Students prepare for Casino Night

A similar event, called Casino Night, was

held in December at Mifflin High School in Columbus, where the more math games everyone played the more "casino money" they earned to purchase food and prizes. The community came out to support Mifflin's students, having fun while helping students improve their math skills.



Denny Middle School in Seattle Beautifies School as Part of MLK Service Day


City Year corps members, Starbucks employees and other volunteers spent Martin Luther King, Jr., Day of Service painting inspiring murals on the bare walls at Denny International Middle School in Seattle. Read the blog coverage here and here.


Newtown High School Offers Four-Day College Summit


City Year corps members offered a four-day college summit for students at Newtown High School in New York, including workshops on the SAT/ACT tests, the college search process, and the college essay. Read more here


Sheepshead Bay High School Joins Sandy Relief


When Hurricane Sandy hit New York, the Diplomas Now team at Sheepshead Bay High School worked with the school community to meet the needs of students affected by the storm. Read more here.



Save the Date: Diplomas Now 2013 Summer Institute
July 8-9 in Baltimore!


Join us in Baltimore again this summer for Diplomas Now's fifth annual Summer Institute, which will take place July 8-9 in Baltimore. The training will bring together school teams from around the country. Last year, more than 400 people attended summer institute, also held in Baltimore in July, with partners coming from as far away as Seattle and as nearby as Baltimore. They gathered for two days of workshops focused on building and sustaining the model and helping to prepare many more students for graduation, career and life.  We look forward to seeing you again - or for the first time!



Diplomas Now in the News


PBS NewsHour feature recently highlighted the Diplomas Now program, explaining our work to help students improve their academic achievements through strong mentoring relationships and community action to support students in need of a helping hand. Watch the story    Watch the full interview with Robert Balfanz  


Bob Balfanz and Hedy Chang recently wrote about chronic absenteeism and presented Diplomas Now as a strategy before an important audience - secondary school principals. A Focus on Attendance Is Key to Success





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