Diplomas Now | City of Ideas

Posted 01/02/2013 by Collaborate Boston Application

Issue to be Addressed:
The United States is experiencing a high school dropout crisis of staggering proportions with 25% of all students failing to graduate from high school each year.  With barely half of the country’s African American and Latino young people graduating from high school on time, the nation’s education crisis is a major civil rights issue, threatening our values and weakening our democracy, as well as harming our national economic competitiveness. Despite significant recent gains, the city of Boston reflects these troubling national statistics as just over 64% of Boston Public School (BPS) students graduate from high school in four years. In a subset of BPS Schools, the needs are exceptionally high as thousands of students in these schools are off-track to graduation. Fortunately, research by Johns Hopkins University shows that likely dropouts can be identified as early as the 6th grade through key Early Warning Indicators that predict student failure in school: poor Attendance, poor Behavior and Course failure in English or mathematics. Students who exhibit at least one of these early warning indicators in the 6th grade have a less than 25% likelihood of graduating on time.

Project Proposed:
The proposed project is a collaborative effort called Diplomas Now at the Dever-McCormack K-8 School, home to approximately 1,300 students in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood.  The Diplomas Now collaboration incorporates an early warning system that alerts teachers as soon as students begin to demonstrate off-track behavior; an additional team of adults to provide targeted and intensive supports; a whole school reform strategy that includes instructional programs that are linked to college readiness standards; extensive professional development for administrators and teachers; and comprehensive programs for family and community involvement. At the Dever-McCormack K-8 School, Diplomas Now focuses on 6-8 grades and unites three national non-profits, each with its own evidence of success: City Year’s “near peer” AmeriCorps members providing full-time academic, behavior, and attendance support; Talent Development Secondary (TDS) of Johns Hopkins University, a school reform model that improves instruction and academic achievement; and Communities In Schools (CIS), providing case management and community resources for the neediest students.  The partners work closely with the school community so that every student has the support of caring adults, and those adults have the tools to improve student success.

Role of Collaboration:
Dever-McCormack K-8 School:
Located in Dorchester, the Dever-McCormack School  is the largest non-high school in the Boston Public Schools, serving approximately 1,300 students in Pre-Kindergarten through 8th grades.  The school has a signficant high-need population with 90% low income, 50% English Language Learners, proficiency rates well below state averages, and a state-designated “turnaround” status. The Dever-McCormack’s highest priority is effectively serving and accelerating the achievement of some of the neediest students in the district. In summer of 2011, Dever-McCormack incorporated the Diplomas Now partnership as a key element in its strategic plan to significantly improve student achievement while addressing specific achievement gaps.

City Year Boston:
City Year Boston (CYB) is an education-focused nonprofit that partners with public schools to provide full-time targeted intervention for students most at risk of dropping out. City Year unites young individuals from diverse backgrounds to engage in a year of full-time service, leadership development and civic engagement through team-based service in grades 3-10. As tutors, mentors and role models, these diverse young leaders are deployed in teams to high-poverty urban schools to make a difference in the lives of underserved children and youth.  City Year Boston serves more than 11,000 students in 21 of Boston’s lowest-performing schools. 

Communities in Schools:
Communities in Schools (CIS) provides on-site coordinators to provide school-wide prevention and support as well as case-management and high intensity supports for the most challenged students in order to address the underlying issues hindering their success.  One of the nation’s largest dropout prevention organizations,  Communities in Schools was founded in 1977 and works with more than 1.3 million young people annually at nearly 3,300 K-12 public schools through nearly 200 local affiliates across the country.across the country. Between 80-90 percent of Communities In Schools’ monitored students show improvement in academic achievement, attendance, behavior and promotion.

Talent Development Secondary:
With 15 years of experience in low-performing schools and a research base developed at Johns Hopkins University's School of Education, Talent Development Secondary (TDS) specializes in research and comprehensive school reform models to address off-track indicators. Talent Development middle and high school programs specialize in organizational and environmental reforms to make the whole school a better place for students to learn; creating and refining effective professional learning communities; and ensuring effective teaching and learning in every classroom.  Talent Development also helps create and manage an Early Warning Indicator data tool and multi-tiered student support process.

The collaborative’s primary measurable impact is increased student achievement focusing on core academic subjects (ELA and mathematics) in grades 6th – 8th including a significant population of young men of color (+90% of students are non-white).

Key Program Elements:
-TDS/CIS/CYB -  leadership on Attendance Task Force; incentive events such as the AttenDANCE.
b.         CIS/CYB: Attendance groups; case management; phone calls home; 1-on-1 attendance coaching.
-Student Behavior and Supporting a Positive School Climate:
a.         TDS:  supporting Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports
b.         CIS:  case management for highest need students; family engagement, community partner  and service coordination.
c.         CYB:  mentoring through lunch groups and near-peer relationships.
-Course Performance:
a.         TDS: 60 days of Technical Assistance by three expert facilitators, working with on-site coaches focusing on middle grades; literacy and mathematics; SPED and language acquisition.
b.         Summer institute: annual week-long professional development for all staff and partners
c.         CYB:  tutoring students in mathematics and ELA.
d.         Partnerships with exemplar schools (such as the Uncommon Schools network) to establish lasting, rigorous standards
-Using Data to Support Interventions:
a.         TDS- Early Warning Indicator meetings provide leadership and support for teacher teams reviewing student data around: Attendance, Behavior and Course performance.

Other information:
In August 2010, the U.S. Department of Education awarded the Diplomas Now partnership a highly competitive $30 million Investing in Innovation (i3) grant to validate the model’s early promising results. Diplomas Now, the only secondary school transformation partnership to be awarded the prestigious i3 grant, has partnered with MDRC, a leading research organization, to study the impact of Diplomas Now on school attendance, behavior and course performance, and graduation rates in schools grappling with high poverty. This independent evaluation will be a controlled, randomized study of Diplomas Now compared to other reforms, meaning its results will be of the highest standard. The study will involve 70 persistently low performing middle and high schools, up to14 school districts and 57,000 students a year. The federal i3 grant does not cover the full cost of expanding to all of the schools and of sustaining the model for the length of the study. Diplomas Now seeks to raise additional funding to cover the private-sector cost of implementing the model in 35 schools over the course of the evaluation.

Primary Contact:
Daniel Velasco, Boston Field Manager, Johns Hopkins Talent Development Secondary (TDS):
Daniel joined Johns Hopkins Talent Development Secondary after completing an Ed.M in Education Policy and Management at Harvard University where he received a Presidential Management Fellowship. Prior to that, he earned an MA in International Development and Social Change at Clark University. He brings 5+ years of experience in education and consulting, ranging from founding classroom teacher with Teach For America in San Jose, CA., to policy work with Secretary Reville at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Education. Daniel also spent a year consulting with the Achievement Network and two summers as Operations Director for Teach For America’s Los Angeles Institute. Originally from Peru, Daniel lived in Venezuela, Colombia, Spain, and France, where he attended the ICN Business School. Daniel currently serves on the board of Teach For America Massachusetts and Future Minority Leaders.

Partner 1:
Principal Michael Sabin, Dever-McCormack K-8 School:
Michael Sabin became the Principal of the Dever-McCormack school in July 2010.  The school is in the midst of rapid and substantial change, declared a state-designated “turnaround school” and merging an elementary and a middle school into a K-8 during the 2010-11 school year. Superintendent Carol Johnson recruited Principal Sabin with the explicit charge of replicating and improving on the turnaround model demonstrated at the Edwards Middle School in Charlestown.  Principal Sabin previously led the Healey school in Somerville where he was selected as a 2009 Nellie Mae Education Foundation Principal Scholar.   Principal Sabin served as Principal of Edwards Middle School from 2002-2007, has served as a classroom teacher in grades 4-8, and also taught English in Colombia.  At the Edwards Middle School, Principal Sabin led the planning and design process for the school to become one of the first in the state and nation to lengthen the day and add additional time for all students.  Principal Sabin enjoys spending time with his wife and three children, traveling, and playing soccer.

Partner 2:
Sandra Lopez Burke, Vice President and Executive Director, City Year Boston (CYB):
Sandra joined City Year as the Director of Individual Giving in 2001, served four years as Vice President and Chief of Staff to the CEO, and most recently as Vice President and Executive Director of the Founding Site of City Year – Boston. Sandra brought to City Year more than 10 years of management and event planning experience in the nonprofit sector, including working with Boston 2000 and the San Antonio Sports Foundation, and directing the 1998 NCAA Men’s Final Four. She also worked closely to establish the Dreams for Youth program, aimed at introducing San Antonio’s disadvantaged youth to Olympic sports. Sandra is the parent of four children, two of whom are proud City Year alumni.

Partner 3:
Emily York McConarty, LCSW, Program Director – Boston, Communities In Schools (CIS):
Emily joined Communities In Schools as the Program Director in Boston in December 2011.  Prior to working at Communities In Schools, Emily held supervision and management positions in Boston at City Connects, Catholic Charities’ Healthy Families Program and Friends of the Children – Boston.  Additionally, Emily participates in advisory boards for Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative’s Dudley Children Thrive and Higher Ground – Boston’s Early Childhood Committee.  Emily is dedicated to working collaboratively with children, families, school communities, community partners and other stakeholders to strengthen Boston’s neighborhoods.

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