While educators and officials across the United States are struggling with how to raise student achievement and improve graduation rates, very few programs have been shown to work at scale in achieving either goal. In 2010, through the Investing in Innovation (i3) Fund, the U.S. Department of Education selected several promising programs for expansion and further evaluation. One of the selected programs, Diplomas Now, is a secondary school model focused on meeting the holistic needs of all students in grades six through twelve. It is designed to be robust and intense enough to transform or turn around high-poverty and high-needs middle grade and high schools attended by many students who fall off the path to high school graduation. Diplomas Now combines programming developed by each of the three organizations that created it: Talent Development, City Year, and Communities In Schools. Specifically:
- Talent Development provides organizational, instructional, and professional development reforms, including integrating an early warning indicator and multi-tiered student support system.
- City Year places diverse teams of 8 to 18 young adults in Diplomas Now schools to provide school-wide and targeted supports, which include attendance and behavior monitoring and coaching, tutoring, mentoring, homework support, and extended day activities.
- Communities in Schools provides school-wide prevention and climate 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.
Diplomas Now, with MDRC as a partner, received one of 15 validation grants awarded as part of the first i3 competition. The i3 Fund provides competitive grants to expand the implementation of, and investment in, innovative practices that are demonstrated to have an impact on improving student achievement or student growth, closing achievement gaps, decreasing dropout rates, increasing high school graduation rates, or increasing college enrollment and completion rates. The i3 Fund is administered by the federal Department of Education and was created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. MDRC is also a partner on an i3 project with Success for All.