Diplomas Now Implementation Study: 

Findings from the second year of randomized control trial of Diplomas Now (DN)- a partnership between Talent Development Secondary, Communities In Schools and City Year. Report focuses on model implementation and contrasts between implementing and non-implementing schools.

Diplomas Now is a partnership of three national organizations — Talent Development Secondary, City Year, and Communities In Schools — to transform urban secondary schools so fewer students drop out and more graduate ready for postsecondary education and work. The Diplomas Now model is a comprehensive approach to whole-school reform that includes structural changes, instructional materials and curricula, teacher and administrator coaching and support, and an early warning system that identifies and targets students falling off the graduation track. The model brings additional people into the school to support model implementation and provide additional assistance for students. Acting as a representative for the partnership, Johns Hopkins University, home to Talent Development Secondary, was awarded a federal Investing in Innovation (i3) validation grant in 2010 to support the expansion of Diplomas Now from a few schools to more than 30 across more than 10 school districts. The grant funds also support a rigorous experimental evaluation of the Diplomas Now model, led by MDRC in partnership with ICF International,  that explores Diplomas Now’s implementation and impact.

This report focuses on the second year of Diplomas Now model implementation. It presents several key findings:

  • As in the first year of implementation, during the second year schools implemented a majority of program components with fidelity to the model, but still had room for growth to meet ideal implementation. On average, Diplomas Now schools (DN schools) were most successful in implementing those program components that involved adding new services and technology, provided directly by Diplomas Now staff members. DN 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 DN schools and those of similar schools not assigned to implement the model (non-DN schools), 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-DN 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.