Investing in Innovation (i3) Grant Winner

December 2016

Happy Holidays From Diplomas Now!

Thank you to everyone in the Diplomas Now family for all your hard work and commitment this school year.
Thank you for such a strong start to the school year this fall. You are making a major difference in the lives of thousands of young people by helping them stay on track to graduate from high school.

We hope all of you have restful, happy holidays with your families. And let's keep up the great work in 2017!

Kellie Hinkle
Interim Director, Diplomas Now

Bob Balfanz
Co-founder, Diplomas Now

Charles Hiteshew 
CEO, Talent Development Secondary

          Dale Erquiaga
          President, Communities In Schools
        Jim Balfanz
    President, City Year
Success Story: Diplomas Now Boosts Tulsa High School's Grad Rate and Helps Grieving Student Stay on Track

Meet Candace Goddard, a sophomore at Webster High School in Tulsa who knows a bit about transitioning and persevering. During middle school, she lived with her grandma before her grandma passed away. She then lived at her uncle's house, where nine other kids stayed at the time. This past summer, Candace moved in with her mom, but just a week before the 2016-2017 school year began, her mom died as well. She now lives with another grandma.

Despite these obstacles, Candace is succeeding at Webster. What has made the difference for her, she says, is the support she has received from her Diplomas Now mentors. Precious Lango - a City Year corps member known as "Ms. Precious" to the students - is the first person Candace goes to for advice and comfort. "I talk to her about things that have gone on at home like losing my mom and having to move," Candace said. "It helps my mind get off of that so I can do better in class."

Webster High School is classified as a high-challenge, high-needs school, according to Principal Shelly Holman. Many of the students come to school hungry every day, and return home to severe family problems. That's why the adults at Webster come to work every day ready to tackle new challenges. Principal Holman believes that the Diplomas Now model, now in its fourth year at Webster, gives kids the support they desperately need, while allowing teachers and administrators to focus on providing the best instruction for the students. "It would be very difficult for us to spend a lot of time with the kids one-on-one. So the support makes all of our jobs not only easier, but also more successful," the principal said.

Holman added that the school's swelling graduation rate speaks volumes about how Diplomas Now is helping the school grow. Between 2013 and 2015, the graduation rate rose from 53.3 percent to 60.5 percent. And though the 2016 rates are not official in Oklahoma yet, Webster is expecting to see a 12-15 percentage point increase in the last year alone. 

Candace will prepare to walk across the graduation stage in just two years. At 16, she still has time to figure out exactly what path she wants to take after graduation, but right now, she plans to work in cosmetology while she earns a college degree. Her Diplomas Now mentors, she said, have helped her build the self-confidence she needs to achieve that goal.

Read the full Success Story here.

AT&T Awards $500,000 to Bring Diplomas Now to Philadelphia High School
AT&T contributed $500,000 to bring Diplomas Now to Frankford High School in Philadelphia to help ninth-graders stay on track for graduation. Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and other dignitaries attended an event in October at the school to highlight the contribution. 

Read more here .

And the Innovation Challenge Winner Is...

Launched this fall, the Diplomas Now Implementation Innovation Challenge aims to encourage cutting-edge thinking and practices among school teams. Each month that a challenge is held, an award of $1,000 is given to the school team the Challenge Committee deems most successful in implementing a particular approach. Webster High School in Tulsa took the prize in the first challenge, "No EWIs," held in September!

Webster's Diplomas Now team focused on improving attendance, climate and culture, and behavior - and found some fun and groundbreaking ways to do it! To address attendance, the Diplomas Now partners, with the support of teachers and administrators, came together to plan a 20-day challenge, which included attendance incentives throughout the month. After five days, for instance, students who were on a five-day "hot streak" received hot chips at lunch, and on day 16, students who had 15 days of perfect attendance got to submit an entry for a chance to pie a City Year corps member, teacher, or administrator in the face!

To tackle behavior, the school hosted the "Stay Out of TRAICE Race." TRAICE is Webster's in-school suspension program. The classes competed for the best behavior record for a week to earn a free jeans pass (Webster has school uniforms), and the senior class won! Principal Shelly Holman, TDS Site Transformation Facilitator Tina Mott, Communities In Schools Site Coordinator Corey Rowland, and City Year Manager Lindsay Apuli lead the Diplomas Now team at Webster, where 77 percent of students had no EWIs! Congratulations on an impressive integrated, school-wide effort! Below are the challenges for the upcoming months:
  • January: Upper Class Graduation Support / High School Application Process for 8th Graders
  • February: Tracking Beyond Suspensions: Addressing Mild Behavior Challenges
  • March: Pillar II: How the Diplomas Now Team Improves Teaching and Learning
  • April: Moving Forward: Engaging School Staff to Deepen and Sustain Diplomas Now Practices
Remember, any Diplomas Now school (defined as at least two partners servicing a site) is eligible to apply! The deadline is the 15th of the following month

Two Diplomas Now Middle Schools Among Top-Ranked in Philadelphia 

Using the Pennsylvania Department of Education's School Performance Profile scores, the Philly Voice ranked each of the public schools in the School District of Philadelphia. Grover Washington Jr. Middle School and Woodrow Wilson Middle School - schools that have implemented the Diplomas Now program - made the cut.  Read more here .