Development Charter High School Graduates Its First Class
Congrats to Chicago
Talent Development Charter High School for
graduating its first class on June 8 after several challenging
years of moving to three different schools in almost as many
But through it all, Chicago Talent Development hung
together after opening in 2009 as an independent charter school
on the city's west side. Now four years later, the school is
graduating its first class: 56 of 60 seniors are expected to get
their diplomas on June 8.
What's more, a large majority are going to college,
and many say that Diplomas Now has played a pivotal role in that
accomplishment. "Diplomas Now helped us stay alive during
very turbulent years," says Kirby Callam, the school's chief
During those tough years, Chicago Talent experienced
high rates of student turnover, and those who stayed at the
school had some of the highest needs - kids who were in special
ed, or who got pregnant or who were homeless.
"They have the credits and
are passing their courses," says Callam. "They were
able to attend college-based leadership programs in the summer
that gave them a taste of what college is like, living in a dorm
and with people of other cultures. That has helped their vision
and pushed them to go to college."
Diplomas Now Is
Coming to Jacksonville, Florida!
The Duval County Public Schools is Diplomas Now's
newest partner district. Diplomas Now will work in two schools in
Jacksonville, Fla., in the fall - Andrew Jackson High School
and Matthew Gilbert Middle School. The school district is
using a new Race to the Top grant to bring the model to these
schools. "We have been given an opportunity to integrate and
expand a number of new and existing partnershps that have
demonstrated progress in raising student achievement nationally
in some of the country's most challenged schools," said
Nikolai Vitti, superintendent of Duval County Public Schools.
Read more here.
Diplomas Now Schools Make a
Big Effort to Finish Strong
With spring in the air, the end of the school year
often is a time when students are focused on getting out of
school and kids are distracted. A hallmark of Diplomas Now is
that local teams devise "Finishing Strong" plans so the
end of the year concludes with a bang. Here are what some schools
- At Cardozo High School
in Washington, DC, attendance monitors for every ninth-grade
homeroom have an "attendance" chat with each
student absent the day before or those who arrive late.
- Gage Park High School
in Chicago is planning a freshmen rite of passage ceremony
for June after testing is over. There will be an
acknowledgement of the steps taken this year to identify
college/career goals, through the freshmen seminar, the
December retreat, the selection of a Career Academy, and a
small college fair in May. Family members are invited to the
ceremony, which will include recognition of achievement, a
video, initiation into the "full community" by
trading in the yellow freshmen IDs and taking photos for the
sophomore IDs, and a before/after story for each student.
Some students will be selected to serve as mentors for next
- At Mifflin High School
in Columbus, Hilton Hotels will host ninth grade promotion
at the end of May, and Chase Bank also will be invited to
speak. The ninth-grade academy team is conducting personal
interviews with students for early-warning indicator
Join Us in Baltimore for a
Thoughtful Diplomas Now Summer Institute
More than 400 people are expected to attend this
year's Diplomas Now Summer Institute being held July 8-9 in
Baltimore. Attendees will come from all 12 Diplomas Now cities as
well as several new cities, including Jacksonville. Tulsa,
Portland, and Buffalo, which are offering a variation of the full
Diplomas Now model, also are invited.
A new twist to this year's summer institute is that
site-based instructional coaches will be integrated into the
first day along with principals from Diplomas Now schools.
"The goal is for everyone to have the chance to work
together in teams - the Diplomas Now site teams and coaches and
principals - to plan for a smooth opening and for the entire
school year," said Kathy Nelson, Diplomas Now deputy
director. Diplomas Now founder Robert Balfanz will give the
opening remarks about the state of the Diplomas Now model, and
there will be several breakout sessions based on the four Talent
Development Secondary pillars from which attendees can choose.
All participants who register and book travel by May 19
will be eligible to win a Kindle Fire. Winners will be announced
at the summer institute. Register here.
This year Diplomas Now will honor four individuals
with the following awards: Principal of the Year, School
Transformation Facilitator of the Year, City Year Program Manager
of the Year, and CIS Site Coordinator of the Year. These
individuals will show outstanding commitment to the Diplomas Now
vision, their team and school community, and the students and
adults they work with every day. Winners will be announced at the
summer institute. Nominate a team member by completing this
form today! To access the form, enter the password dipnow.
Back to Class for Diplomas
Now Principals at the Summer Institute
About 30-45 Diplomas Now principals will attend a
special institute that will run concurrently during the Diplomas
Now Summer Institute in early July in Baltimore. The principals'
institute is an opportunity for school leaders to share their
experiences with the Diplomas Now model and their successes and
challenges as they become champions for Diplomas Now within their
communities. It will build on several previous successful
training sessions for principals.
Among the topics to be addressed will be the four
pillars of Talent Development Secondary: teacher teams and small
learning communities; curriculum and instruction with
professional development; tiered student supports; and can-do
culture and climate. In addition, principals will lead
presentations on a variety of topics, including distributive
leadership, collaborating with a variety of partners, Diplomas
Now alignment with district requirements and strategies for
improving teacher climate.
This will be the third opportunity for Diplomas Now
principals to network in an offsite professional setting. Last
year's meeting garnered glowing reviews such as: "This was a
quality staff development experience, and the sharing out was
outstanding" and "activities were engaging and promoted
College Summit: An All-out Push for College at
Five Diplomas Now Schools
At Newtown High School in New York, City Year Corps
Member Denise Cheng has broadened ninth-graders' horizons about
college: she helped organize a spring break visit to her college
alma mater, Stony Brook University for 32 Newtown students,
including a presentation by a representative of the college's
career center. "After that trip, all of my students have
been saying, 'We really want to go to Stony Brook,' " said
Cheng, who graduated from Stony Brook a year ago. "Before
they were all thinking about community college, but now, they are
asking what GPA they need to get into Stony Brook."
Cheng's push is part of a broader partnership that
five Diplomas Now high schools have had with the nonprofit College Summit,
which is providing a curriculum and training to prepare students
for college and careers. College Summit also is providing
resources to help students apply to and enroll in colleges and is
organizing events that promote a college-going culture.
A total of about 2,000 students are participating at
in New York and
Detroit Collegiate Prep, Chicago Talent Development,
Hope in Chicago.
So far, the program is producing great results: at
the beginning of April, 81 percent of the 600 seniors at these
schools had completed a college application, and 47 percent had
completed a FAFSA application for financial aid. Click to read
New Short Fundraising Videos about the ABCs on the
Diplomas Now Website
To assist sites with the National Graduation
Challenge, Diplomas Now has created three short videos featuring
Dr. Robert Balfanz speaking about each of the three ABCs -
attendance, behavior and course performance. Those videos could
be shared with funders particularly interested in a particular
outcome, such as behavior. The videos can be found here on the
Diplomas Now site.
The National Graduation
Challenge aims to 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.
At Our Diplomas Now Schools:
Mifflin High School in
Columbus Abuzz with Events: Amazing Race and March Mathness
Mifflin High School hosted a Literacy Night to engage students and the
community in fun skill-building games. Students raced between
country-themed stations to reach the final prize: an Italian
dinner. In March, Mifflin celebrated this year's basketball
season with March Mathness, a night of math games and fun for
students and their families. Around 85 students, parents, and
siblings gathered in the school gym to compete in math and
basketball-themed games, winning Mifflin Bucks to spend on food
and prizes including hockey tickets and gift cards from local
retailers. Students showed off their spirit by posing for photos
in cardboard cutouts of their favorite basketball players.
Aki Kurose Principal of the
Seattle Public Schools has named Aki Kurose's
Mia Williams Principal of the Year. Read more here.
The Advocate featured Broadmoor Middle
in East Baton Rouge, La. Read the story here.
The National Center for Mental Health Promotion and
Youth Violence Prevention described Diplomas Now's strong support
for students in this blog post.
Bob Balfanz of Johns Hopkins appeared on PBS to
explain about why high school graduation rates are rising. Watch here.
Bob Balfanz explained the progress on graduation
rates on Bloomberg EDU. Listen here.
City Year is looking for a School Partnerships
Director in New York. To learn more, click here.