Diplomas Now Helps Keep Kids in School

Absenteeism + behavior problems + poor grades = early warning signs

diplomas
(Image: iStock.com/Christopher Futcher)

Diplomas Now, a program that increases support for students that are at risk of dropping out of school, has been shown to increase those students’ odds of graduating by 50%, America’s Promise Alliance reports.

By helping students improve their attendance, behavior, and grades in middle school, research shows that they stand a significantly better chance of graduating from high school on time.

According to a new report, Addressing Early Warning Indicators: Interim Impact Findings from the Investing in Innovation (i3) Evaluation of Diplomas Now, the research organization MDRC found that the Diplomas Now interventions succeeded by reducing the percentage of students that demonstrated early warning signs. The study also found that this kind of progress is possible consistently across multiple districts, even in the nation’s highest poverty middle and high schools.

Attendance, Behavior and Grades

When researcher Bob Balfanz and his colleagues first discovered the predictive power of early warning indicators, Balfanz says it was a “eureka moment” in education.

For sixth or ninth graders exhibiting even one early warning sign, like poor attendance, their odds of graduating from high school fall to just 25%. On the other hand, preventing students from struggling with discipline, attendance, or grades can improve their odds of graduating by 50%.

To better support struggling students, Balfanz co-founded Diplomas Now. The organization–a partnership between the Talent Development Secondary school improvement model from Johns Hopkins UniversityCity Year, and Communities In Schools–received support from the U.S. Department of Education’s Investing in Innovation (i3) Fund.

Diplomas Now works by training teachers to monitor students’ attendance, discipline, and grades. After identifying high-risk students, the team works with City Year and Communities In Schools to pair students with everything from one-on-one mentors, to counseling, or housing services, depending on the student’s needs.

This whole-school approach focuses on increasing the number of caring adults young people can turn to for support. Research on the program has found that it’s having an impact, particularly on reducing chronic absenteeism. That’s important, because keeping kids in school increases their chances of graduating.

Research also found the following:

  • Compared to students from other schools, students who got support from Diplomas Now were more likely to say they had a positive relationship with an adult at school who wasn’t a teacher.
  • Students at Diplomas Now schools reported being more involved in after school activities that focus on academics.

For more information about Diplomas Now, visit its website.



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