Congrats on Another Great School Year!
Thanks to all of the Diplomas Now teams and school
partners in all of our cities for another terrific year. Your
hard work and dedication are paying off for thousands of students
nationwide. In school after school, you have prevented students
from falling off track - and also put more kids back on track.
The work is challenging but you are making a difference. Enjoy
the summer break with your families and friends! Let's keep up
the fantastic work next school year!
Doug Elmer, director, Diplomas Now
Bob Balfanz, co-director, Talent Development Secondary
Charles Hiteshew, CEO, Talent Development Secondary
Dan Cardinali, president, Communities In Schools
Jim Balfanz, president, City Year
Second MDRC Report Demonstrates How Diplomas Now
Helps Stabilize Schools
As part of the rigorous study of Diplomas Now, the
research firm, MDRC, recently released the second of three
reports evaluating the model. The May 2015 report, "Moving
Down the Track," focuses on the second year of the
Diplomas Now model and its integration into schools. It discusses
how closely schools that implemented the Diplomas Now model
followed the intentions of the model's designers during the first
two years. In addition, the report highlights the differences in
programs and services between the schools that implemented the
model, and those that did not.
Key Report Findings
- During both the second and
first years of implementation, Diplomas Now partner schools
implemented a majority of program components with fidelity
to the model, but still had room for growth to achieve ideal
implementation. On average, Diplomas Now schools were most
successful in implementing those program components that
involved adding new services and technology, provided
directly by Diplomas Now staff members. Diplomas Now schools
have been less successful thus far in implementing those
program components that require schools or districts to
modify their curricula or to institute or expand their
instructional coaching for teachers.
- Diplomas Now has resulted in
differences between the programs of Diplomas Now schools and
similar schools without Diplomas Now, suggesting that model
implementation is changing school practices in ways that
align with the goals of Diplomas Now. These differences grew
from Year 1 to Year 2, in part because non-Diplomas Now
schools reduced their services. This suggests Diplomas Now
stabilized schools that might otherwise have lost services.
- Although model
implementation was somewhat hindered by factors external to
the program (such as principal turnover and budget cuts),
Diplomas Now staff members were also able to support schools
through these types of transitions. School and program staff
members reported that the Diplomas Now school-based teams
had often been successful by the second year in becoming
part of the fabric of the school. Program staff members
suggested they were most successful when they could align
the program with school goals and garner school
administrator and teacher support.
Report Reveals Improved High School Graduation
Rate; Progress Driven by Underserved Students
With the national
graduation rate reaching 81.4 percent, the United States remains
on track to achieve a 90 percent high school graduation rate by
2020, according to the 2015
Building a Grad Nation Report. The sixth annual report
released by America's Promise Alliance, Civic Enterprises,
Everyone Graduates Center, and the Alliance for Excellent
Education reveals that the gains in the national high school
graduation rate are primarily due to rising graduation rates
among students who have traditionally struggled to earn a high
school diploma. Furthermore, the report reveals that with focus
and concerted effort, graduation rates can be increased in every
part of the country.
- Progress was driven by
significant gains in some of the 10 largest states,
including California, Florida, Georgia and North Carolina.
But future gains are threatened by declining or stagnating
graduation rates in New York, Illinois, Washington and
Arizona, which together educate 15 percent of the nation's
high school students.
- Some districts are making
tremendous progress while others are lagging or even going
backwards. Much of the recent gain has been driven by
one-quarter of the nation's 500 largest school districts
which have been able to rapidly improve their graduation rates.
Between 2011 and 2013, 124 of the 500 largest districts saw
improvement of more than three times the national average.
- To achieve a 90 percent
graduation rate for all students, the nation needs 310,000
more graduates in the Class of 2020 than in the Class of
2013 which, based on recent progress, is obtainable.
- The decline in the number of
"dropout factories," or schools with low
graduation rates, contributed to the continued improvement
in graduation rates. While there were 2,000 such schools in
2002, there were fewer than 1,200 of these schools
nationwide and 1.5 million fewer students attending them in
2013. The most recent data indicates an acceleration in this
improvement. Between 2012 and 2013, the number of
low-graduation-rate high schools declined by more than 200.
- Low-income students are
graduating at a rate 15 percentage points behind their more
- Since 2006, graduation rates
for students of color have significantly improved, with a
15-percentage point gain for Hispanic/Latino students, and a
9-percentage point gain for African American students.
- Despite improvements,
unacceptably low levels of minority, low-income, English
Language Learners, and special education students are
graduating from high school.
Read the recent The
about the high school graduation rate in East Baton Rouge.
City Year Improves Academic Outcomes in
High-Poverty Schools, Study Finds
High-poverty elementary, middle, and high schools in
urban neighborhoods are more likely to improve on state student
assessments in English and math if they partner with City Year
AmeriCorps members for academic and social-emotional skill
supports, according to a newly released third-party study.
Schools that work with Diplomas
Now partner organization City Year were two-to-three times more
likely to improve school-wide proficiency rates in English
Language Arts and math than schools with similar demographic and
performance profiles that do not have the added benefit of City
Year AmeriCorps members. Additionally, students in schools that
partner with City Year gain approximately one month of additional
learning in English Language Arts and math compared to
demographically similar students in other schools not partnering
with City Year.
This study conducted by Policy Studies Associates
Inc. (PSA) of Washington, D.C., is the first national third-party
research to examine the impact of City Year's "Whole School
Whole Child" (WSWC) model on the performance of entire
schools. In conducting the new research, PSA studied more than
600 similar schools in high-poverty urban settings in 22 cities,
of which 150 had partnered with City Year and 460 had not.
PSA researchers retrieved publicly available state assessment
results for math and English Language Arts for each
"This study underscores how City Year's whole school
approach, rooted in strong partnerships with teachers and
principals, can improve student achievement across an entire
school," said Jim Balfanz, City Year President.
"As a learning organization, City Year is always seeking new
information that informs our work and enables us to better serve
students, families, educators, and communities."
Read the full study here.
Read the Ed Week story.
Diplomas Now Summer Institute: See You in
Diplomas Now teams from across
the country will gather at the Diplomas Now Summer Institute
July 7th and 8th in Tulsa for the annual conference that
promotes dialogue, learning, and exploration of topics critical
to schools, teams, and individuals dedicated to ensuring
success at all Diplomas Now sites.
For DNSI 2015, our overall conference theme -- and a specific
national network session for all participants -- is dedicated
to the maturation of our partnerships by exploring how we build
a conversation in Diplomas Now schools. It's about moving from
a powerful model into a professional culture that generates
deeper understanding and impact for students. We will explore
how this national conversation about cultures in schools can
bring our Diplomas Now partnerships to the next level.
In addition to addressing this theme in the plenary and the
all-inclusive national network session, DNSI 2015 will feature
veteran staff and school partners sharing what works best for
students. Participants will choose from sessions, developed and
presented by field staff, about the various experiences of
Diplomas Now practitioners. The sessions will connect
participants through practical, active engagement and
problem-solving. The sessions will be offered around four
Deeper: Problem Solving Together
to Great: Improving Existing Model
Use of Data
What, Why and How
Nominate Your Colleagues for a Best of Diplomas
There's still time to nominate your colleagues for
a Best of Diplomas Now Award! The awards recognize schools,
principals, site teams, school transformation facilitators,
City Year program managers, and Communities In Schools site
coordinators for providing the best of the Diplomas Now model.
Nominations can be made by anyone at a Diplomas Now Site/City
or members of the local executive team. You can submit more
than one nomination for different categories.
Nominations will close at 11:59
p.m. on Friday,
June 12. The
Diplomas Now Implementation Support Team will review the
nominations and select this year's recipients. Winners will be
announced at the 2015 DNSI on July 8 in Tulsa.
Nomination forms are here.
Separate tracks on Day 2 will
also be offered for members of Diplomas Now executive city teams
and for investors.
A special shout-out to Jessica Herman, who has been a deputy
director of Diplomas Now and very instrumental in planning this
and past summer institutes. Jessica will be leaving Diplomas Now
to work at City Year-Kansas City. We wish you all the best, Jessica,
and thanks for all you have done to make Diplomas Now such a
And at DNSI, as always, we'll celebrate the amazing wins we are
seeing all over our network. See you in Tulsa!
Accomplishments at Diplomas Now Schools
Denny Middle School Wins State Achievement Award
Diplomas Now partner school David T. Denny International Middle School
in Seattle for winning the 2014 Washington
Achievement Award for Math Growth! The Washington state
Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) selects
award winners using the State Board of Education Revised
Achievement Index. Awards are based on statewide assessment
data for the previous three years. The OSPI grants these awards
in an attempt to highlight best practices in schools that
foster student success.
Homestead High Principal Named Principal of the
Homestead Senior High, a Diplomas Now school in Miami, is now home to
County Public Schools' Principal of the Year.
When Guillermo Muñoz assumed his position as the
principal of Homestead Senior High two years ago, he found a
school with low morale. To remedy this issue, he promised to
host more activities, lined the hallways with photos of
high-achieving students, and made rival cliques read to local
elementary school kids together. Muñoz also went skydiving in
an attempt to motivate students and encourage them to face
His initiatives soon attracted the attention of
district officials, earning him the Miami-Dade County Public
Schools' Principal of the Year award. This distinction comes a
year after Florida State University and the non-profit Florida
Tax Watch recognized him as one of the five best principals in
Keep up the great work!
Clippert Academy Students Visit Career and
One hundred and
thirty-seven 8th grade students at Diplomas Now partner school Clippert Academy
in Detroit visited the A. Philip Randolph Career and Technical
Center this May. Students learned about opportunities to earn
certifications in areas, including computer-aided design,
plumbing, and agricultural science. Funded by a PepsiCo
Foundation grant, this field trip exposed students to the
opportunity to become certified in a trade at the technical
center during high school while highlighting trades as a viable
career option for students more generally. One student, Andrea,
said: "It would be great to get one of those paid summer
internships. I could learn a trade and still go to college
after high school."
Former Aki Kurose Student Finds Voice through
As a middle school
student, 16-year-old Alrick Hollingsworth attended Aki Kurose Middle School
in Seattle, a Diplomas Now partner school. The death of Charles
Chappelle, a beloved homeless man who had lived behind
Hollingsworth's high school for 15 years, weighed heavily on
the current high school junior.
When World Vision and the Washington State
Legislative Youth Advisory Council invited Hollingsworth and
dozens of other students to participate in the annual
Legislative Youth Action Day at the state Capitol, he used this
opportunity to advocate on behalf of Seattle's increasing
homeless population. Not only did Hollingsworth speak directly
to Washington Governor Jay Inslee about the issue, but he also
plans to plant 15 trees throughout the community in Chappelle's
As a member of the World Vision Youth Empowerment
Network, Hollingsworth will receive eight months of training in
which he will develop a deeper understanding of key community
issues, learn to effectively present ideas to public officials,
and ultimately become a more competent, confident advocate.
Equipped with these skills, Hollingsworth will be
better prepared to improve the lives of numerous residents
living on the streets of Seattle.
Read the story
Diplomas Now in the News!
Bob Balfanz presses for reauthorization of the
federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act in this op-ed
in The Hill.
The CBS affiliate in Miami profiled Booker T.
Washington graduating senior Moises Arzu in this story.
Florida Times also told Moises Arzu's turnaround story.
The NBC Boston affiliate highlighted how Diplomas
Now put a local high school and senior Stevaughn on the path to
success in this Urban
The Root celebrates the
academic achievement of Stevaughn & Moises thanks to
Diplomas Now and Communities In Schools. Read their stories.
The Boston Globe details how local high school senior Stevaughn
overcame adversity to graduate with help from us in this article.