Two PreK-8 Detroit Public Schools – Bow and Emerson – are launching a ground-breaking partnership with Johns Hopkins University and other agencies to implement a national initiative called “Diplomas Now” geared at keeping children in school and on track toward graduation and college.
Diplomas Now, a collaboration between the schools, City Year, Communities in Schools and Talent Development/Johns Hopkins University, has been shown to increase academic performance and decrease truancy and negative behavior in national trials in urban school districts.
The program, which is a high-impact turnaround initiative targeting at-risk students, focuses on improving academic achievement and teacher professional development, enhancing the role of community in schools and tutoring/mentoring. Principals of both schools work with Johns Hopkins/Talent
Development to offer nationally-researched best practices and academic coaching for teachers.
“We selected Bow and Emerson because both schools were slated for a transition from grades K-5 to grades K-8, which can be difficult, and we wanted a vehicle to keep the middle-schoolers on track toward graduation,” said Barbara Byrd-Bennett, the district’s Chief Academic and Accountability Auditor.
At Bow and Emerson, the Diplomas Now program will serve as a “transformation agent.” Partners will use the Early Warning Indicators researched by Robert Balfanz, from the Johns Hopkins Center for Organization of Schools and co-director of Talent Development, on the “ABC’s” — Attendance, Behavior and Class Performance — in math and English to predict as early as sixth grade which students will not graduate from high school without intervention. Balfanz’s research shows that without intervention, 75 percent of the students with at least one off-track indicator in the sixth grade, will not graduate from high school.
“We welcome this opportunity to bring Diplomas Now to Detroit’s schools” said Balfanz. “This is an exciting initiative that draws on the experience and resources of three organizations to deliver the right interventions to the right students at the right time. We look forward to helping build Bow and Emerson into schools that enhance every student’s future.”
Diplomas Now is operating in 10 cities with a grant from the U.S. Department of Education and hopes to grow to 60 locations over the next five years.
In the middle school programs, Diplomas Now focuses on the sixth graders and uses intervention strategies to identify the students falling off track. Meetings then occur weekly with at-risk students’ entire team of teachers and the counselor, the City Year corps members (8-10 per school) tutoring in the child’s classroom and the Communities in Schools coordinator (full-time staff person) in the school. They discuss the child’s progress, collaborating and agreeing upon the most effective intervention strategy for that particular child.
“The four entities — the school, City Year, Communities in Schools and Talent Development — work together closely to make sure that each off-track student gets back on track and stays there,” said Penny Bailer, executive director of City Year Detroit. “The key is teamwork and partnership and frequent team meetings focused on the data related to the progress or lack thereof of off track students.”
Over the last two years, ten schools nationally have partnered with the program and demonstrated dramatic results. Last school year, aggregate data for three New Orleans Recovery School District high schools that partnered with Diplomas Now, compared to the same time period in 2008 found the following:
– the number of students on track for attendance increased 11 percent
– violent incidents decreased 46 percentage points
– students passing at least four courses increased 45 percentage points
New Orleans, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Antonio, all had similar results with each school experiencing a reduction in off track absences, negative or violent behavior and failing grades.
The program received funding from a $30 million grant awarded through The U.S. Department of Education’s Investing in Innovation Fund (i3). Out of more than 1,700 applicants, the program was given one of the i3’s highest ranking.
Each partner lends specific expertise to the initiative.
City Year will provide a team of 10 corps members in each school offering year-long, in-class tutoring, mentoring and after-school programming. Communities and Schools connects students and families to critical community resources, and brings a full time social worker into the school to provide counseling for students who have conflicts at home or health/social issues. John Hopkins Talent Development specializes in organizational and curricular reforms and professional development to improve instruction and provide academic coaching for teachers.
City Year corps members receive a full month of training prior to the start of school to sharpen their literacy and math tutoring skills and behavior coaching. Senior corps members/team leaders also attend an eight day intensive training in Boston. City Year, which unites young people of all backgrounds for a year of full-time service, giving them the skills and opportunities to change the world, also provides after-school programs four days per week at each school and leads community service projects for the entire school, regardless of grades. The academic tutoring occurs in the sixth grade of a middle school or the ninth grade of a high school. City Year’s “near-peer” young adult corps members serve as role models and mentors, as well as academic tutors, supplementing the work of the teachers and working closely with classroom teachers and their data sets to identify the children most in need of intervention. They also help to change the culture of the school by greeting students in the morning and creating a positive, enthusiastic presence in the school.
Communities in Schools provides a full-time social worker/coordinator in the school to bring extra needed services into the school, such as additional after-school programs, building a playground, getting more computers donated and providing counseling for students in serious need of mental health counseling or intervention at home.
Johns Hopkins/Talent Development provides the academic leadership of Diplomas Now, working with the principal to look at scheduling options identified in national research-based best practices and providing academic coaching for the teachers with the latest best practices.