Investing in Innovation (i3) Grant Winner


October 2014


First MDRC Report about Diplomas Now Released; Cites Collaboration by Three National Nonprofits 


The first report about Diplomas Now notes that "It is no small feat that three independent national organizations were able to come together and get this multifaceted, complex school reform model off the ground in the implementing schools." The first report, conducted by MDRC, highlights the early effort to recruit schools to partner with Diplomas Now and the first year of implementation - 2011-2012 for the first cohort of schools and 2012-2013 for the second cohort.

Through the U.S. Department of Education's Investing in Innovation (i3) fund, Diplomas Now is implementing a randomized control trial to evaluate the effectiveness of its model on improving student attendance, behavior and course performance. This study is the largest randomized control trial of secondary school transformation in the nation's history and has the potential to have significant influence on the way that schools are supported for years to come.

"Laying Tracks to Graduation," the first of three i3 reports from MDRC, was released over the summer and establishes baseline information on school operating conditions. It does not contain student outcomes - the first student outcomes from surveys will be included in the MDRC's second report, scheduled to be released in spring 2015, and student outcomes around attendance, behavior and academic performance will be included in MDRC's third report, scheduled to be released in late 2015.


A few highlights from the first report include:

  • The importance of a planning period in the spring before implementation of the partnership
  • Tiered intervention and student support were the initial model elements to be successfully implemented
  • Upfront and ongoing principal engagement was important in order to understand existing school norms and inform effective partnership implementation.



A Strong Opening at Diplomas Now Schools


The new school year got off to a strong start at Diplomas Now schools. Among the highlights: 


  • The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education announced that the Burke High School in Boston is no longer an underperforming "Level 4" school because it has met its turnaround goals. Read more here.
  • Using Texas state metrics, Burbank High School in San Antonio is the most successful comprehensive high school in the San Antonio Independent School District, not just for academics but also for closing the achievement gap and making sure students are ready for post-secondary success. It performed with distinction compared to similar schools in English language arts, science and postsecondary readiness.
  • Cardozo Education Campus in Washington, D.C., made double-digit gains in reading proficiency on tests taken by 10th graders. Read more here.


  • In August, the Philadelphia and New York City Diplomas Now teams piloted in an opening regional retreat, led by Crystal Lilly, the Big Apple field manager, and Van Robinson, the City of Brotherly Love field manager. Together, the teams focused on establishing norms, setting goals, the global focus list, partnership & collaboration. The retreat provided the teams with an opportunity to problem solve and share best practices.



An Attendance Challenge at Diplomas Now Schools 

this Fall


Each month this fall, Diplomas Now schools will have the opportunity to win fame, glory and prizes for good attendance. High school and middle school winners will be announced each month through November for best monthly attendance rate, most improved monthly attendance and grand prize for best quarterly attendance on-track rates. Every Diplomas Now school is eligible and winners will be determined using submitted data. 


Congrats to September's winners who will get breakfast from Panera for the Diplomas Now and school leadership teams:


Best Monthly Attendance for September 

High School Winner: Miami Carol City High School

Middle School Winner: Denny International Middle School in Seattle


Most Improved Attendance Rate from September 2013 

High School Winner: Cardozo Education Campus in Washington, D.C.

Middle School Winner: Rhodes Middle School in Philadelphia


Big shout-outs to:

  • Middle schools in the 90/90 Club where 90 percent of the students have 90 percent or higher attendance: Denny in Seattle, Beeber, Grover Washington, Rhodes and Wilson in Philadelphia and Clippert in Detroit
  • Other big gainers for improvement: Gage Park and John Hope High Schools in Chicago, South High School in Columbus and Beeber and Grover Washington in Philadelphia.

Keep up the strong focus! Each month will bring a different prize with a grand prize for the best first quarter attendance!



Diplomas Now in the News!



The New York Times declares:


Education Week highlights first MDRC evaluation: "Shows promising early results."






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