For the past decade, Diplomas Now has collaborated with our nation’s most challenged middle and high schools through a multi-year whole school improvement model designed to increase graduation rates and college readiness.

Diplomas Now uses an evidence-based early warning system to identify and support students most at risk for falling off track and dropping out of school. An emphasis on school attendance is backed by research by Robert Balfanz, one of the nation's leading dropout experts, who found that three-quarters of all dropouts can be identified as early as sixth grade due to three early warning indicators: low attendance, poor behavior or failure in English or math.

The program has seen results.

During the 2016-2017 school year, middle and high schools served by Diplomas Now partners, including City Year, in Columbus, Los Angeles, Miami, Philadelphia, San Antonio, Seattle and Tulsa showed a:

  • 33 percent reduction in chronically absent students
  • 68 percent of students ended the year on track in attendance, defined as having 90 percent attendance or greater.
  • 80 percent prevention rate in attendance, defined as having 90 percent attendance in every marking period

Several schools served by Diplomas Now also experienced significant improvements in their high school graduation rate and overall conditions for learning. Read how Homestead High School in Miami increased its graduation rate from 54 percent to 72 percent over six years and Daniel Webster High School in Tulsa improved its graduation rate from 53 percent to 75 percent in three years.

Diplomas Now founding partners each bring specialized, research-based resources that are informed by whole school improvement practices. Working with school administrators and teachers, the Diplomas Now model builds additional student and adult capacity in schools to help students get back on track to academic success and graduation.

Diplomas Now was launched in 2008 by three national nonprofits:

Talent Development Secondary provides curriculum and instruction support to teachers

City Year provides research-based student, classroom and school-wide academic and social-emotional intervention

Communities In Schools provides case management support to students with the highest needs.

Early findings from a major randomized control trial released in 2016 found that schools that partner with Diplomas Now reduced the number of students at risk of dropping out, according to the research-based early warning indicators: low attendance, poor behavior and course failure in ELA or math. Read a two-page overview of these early findings which involved 62 schools from 11 large urban school districts located across the country.

With these results in hand, Diplomas Now points out:

  • It is possible to reduce the number of students who are off track on attendance, behavior and course performance and on the path to dropping out, thereby changing their course and getting these students back on track to high school graduation.
  • It is possible to reduce chronic absenteeism in our nation’s highest-need middle schools, defined as missing more than 10 percent of school days in a single academic year.
  • It is possible to help students in high-need schools who are on track in sixth and ninth grade stay on track to high school graduation.

A third and final report by MDRC on Diplomas Now is expected in 2019.