Investing in Innovation (i3) Grant Winner


May 2013


Chicago Talent 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 years.


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 executive.


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 are planning:

  • 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 year's freshmen.
  • 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 meetings.



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. 


Calling All Nominations!


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 thought."



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 Newtown in New York and Detroit Collegiate Prep, Chicago Talent Development, Gage Park and John 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 more here.



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 Year


Seattle Public Schools has named Aki Kurose's Mia Williams Principal of the Year. Read more here.  



Diplomas Now in the News


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.





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