Three new high schools in Columbus, Ohio, will be the latest to partner with Diplomas Now in the fall. We are excited to work with teachers and administrators at these schools to help more students stay on the path to graduation. We expect to announce partnerships with more new schools in other cities in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, our two new schools – Detroit Collegiate Prep and Chicago Talent Development High School – are beating the bushes to recruit new students for next school year. DCP is using Facebook ads aimed at parents and a fun, lively event with DJs from the top urban radio station broadcasting from the school to recruit freshmen and sophomores. CTDHS visited local elementary schools, giving personalized presentations to their graduating classes, held multiple open houses in the evenings and on Saturdays for the convenience of working parents, and was a familiar presence at all area high school fairs. The efforts paid off – the school has received more than 630 applications for only 150 available spaces next year!
Bob Balfanz will present new data at the big Grad Nation event March 18-21 in Washington, DC, showing that the number of “dropout factory” high schools -- and the number of students attending them -- has also declined significantly over the last decade, particularly within cities and in the South, and at a more accelerated rate in recent years.
Despite that progress, the report also will show that the rate of improvement has not been fast enough to achieve the goal of a 90 percent national graduation rate by the Class of 2020.
At the Grad Nation event, Diplomas Now Director Doug Elmer will present about the effectiveness of early warning indicator systems. More than 1,000 educators are expected to attend the Grad Nation event, co-hosted by America's Promise Alliance, the Alliance for Excellent Education, Civic Enterprises, and the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University. For more information, click here.
Diplomas Now is assembling an advisory committee to help achieve a considerable development goal – to raise $28 million over the next four years. The funding is needed to sustain the independent evaluation of Diplomas Now’s impact on school attendance, behavior and course performance, and graduation rates in schools grappling with high poverty. This controlled, randomized study, conducted by the leading research organization MDRC, will yield results of the highest standard. We believe the validation from this study will help make the case for federal dollars for Diplomas Now and similar models to assist hundreds of thousands of disadvantaged students.
But a study of this magnitude is expensive, and the $30 million Investing in Innovation grant from the U.S. Department of Education won’t cover the full cost of the study. Our founding investor, the PepsiCo Foundation, has already committed $6 million, but we need to raise $28 million more.
Our advisory council of Claire Lyons of PepsiCo, Kathy Havens Payne of State Farm, Stacey Davis Stewart of United Way Worldwide, William Andrekopoulos, former Milwaukee superintendent, and Ed Hatcher of The Hatcher Group will work to recruit new council members, provide advice and raise the funds. Charles Hiteshew, CEO of Talent Development, is spearheading the development campaign. The stakes have never been higher, nor has the opportunity been greater than the potential of this study. The advisory committee will have its first meeting in March 20 in Washington, DC.
Bob Balfanz of Johns Hopkins University highlighted Diplomas Now during his testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives committee on Education and the Workforce this month. In a hearing on reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Balfanz spoke about his work on the dropout crisis and suggested how a more directed federal hand could better shape ESEA going forward.
“We need to combine local energy, innovation, and wisdom with federal guideposts, guardrails, and catalysts to accelerate our educational outcomes and graduate all our students prepared for adult success,” said Balfanz.
You can read his full testimony here, or watch the video of the hearing here.
At the same time, several Diplomas Now leaders testified about early warning systems before the DC City Council, which is considering creating an early warning and intervention pilot project. Among those testifying were: Communities In Schools executive vice president Gary Chapman, Maxine Wood, chief operating officer of Talent Development Secondary, and Anise Walker, school transformation facilitator at Diplomas Now's Browne Education Campus.
President Obama and his family volunteered at Diplomas Now’s Browne Education Campus in Washington, DC, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The president and other volunteers helped build shelves in the K-8 school’s library. Watch video coverage of the event here.
In a recent speech at the Association for Middle Level Education (AMLE) Annual Conference, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan singled out Diplomas Now for praise.
“Our Investing in Innovation Fund, or i3 program, is supporting a number of wonderfully diverse, evidence-based programs with a focus on the middle grades,” said Duncan. “Robert Balfanz and his center at Johns Hopkins will apply his Talent Development-Diplomas Now turnaround model at 60 persistently low-performing middle and high schools that serve 57,000 students in 14 districts.
That i3 program will use Balfanz’s early warning indicator monitoring system – supplemented with interventions and after-school support, provided by great non-profits like City Year and Communities In Schools. Their goal is to reduce the number of middle school students sent to high school off-track, or behind grade level by two-thirds. If they are successful, the number of dropouts will ultimately go down dramatically.”
Save the date for Diplomas Now’s annual Summer Institute, which will take place July 9-11 in Baltimore. The three-day training will bring together school teams from around the country – last year more than 350 participants gathered in Boston to prepare for the upcoming school year and shares stories of challenges and successes from the past year. We look forward to seeing you again – or for the first time! – this summer!
Diplomas Now is pleased to announce the launch of our new Facebook page. The page includes Diplomas Now's latest photos, updates and news about our program and schools. We encourage you to visit our page to stay updated and to connect with our partner schools’ pages.
We’ve also created a toolkit for our DN sites on creating their own pages. Please click here to read the toolkit.
To support us on Facebook, visit our page, 'like' us and share our page with your friends on your personal wall or your organization's page. Join us on Facebook now!
News Spotlight on Diplomas Now
You might have read about Diplomas Now recently in your local paper – we’ve been getting a lot of media attention over the last few months.
Be sure to check out this Chicago Tribune story, which takes a look at the important work Communities In Schools is doing bringing in community nonprofits to help students at Chicago Talent Development High School.
Another great read is this Associated Press story about Aki Kurose Middle School – a Diplomas Now partner that won Get Schooled’s Fall Attendance Challenge a few months ago. Students have kept up their good attendance since winning the prize, and teachers continue to celebrate how good attendance has boosted the school’s attitude. As a prize, the school got a visit from Grammy award-winning artist Ne-Yo, who served as the school’s principal for the day. As principal, Ne-Yo co-taught a math class and performed a special concert for Aki Kurose students.
Also on the attendance front, Diplomas Now’s Bob Balfanz wrote about the importance of attendance in this Education Week commentary with Attendance Works Director Hedy Chang, and spoke about the dangers of chronic absenteeism on Bloomberg radio’s Bloomberg EDU.
Balfanz also appeared in a video for Ideas in Action with Jim Glassman, focusing on ending the dropout crisis, and published an op-ed in the Los Angeles Business Journal with Elise Buik of the United Way chapter in Los Angeles about the successes Diplomas Now’s L.A. schools have had curbing dropouts.