Moving Down the Track

Changing School Practices During the Second Year of Diplomas Now

By Susan Sepanik, William Corrin, David Roy, Aracelis Gray, Felix Fernandez, Ashley Briggs, Kathleen K. Wang

Too many students in high-poverty, urban communities drop out of high school, and too few graduate prepared for college and careers. Three national organizations — Talent Development Secondary, City Year, and Communities In Schools — have formed Diplomas Now in an effort to transform urban secondary schools so fewer students drop out and more graduate ready for postsecondary education and work. Thanks to a validation grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s 2010 Investing in Innovation (i3) competition and matching funds from private sources, teams from all three organizations are implementing the Diplomas Now data-driven, tiered intervention model in schools across the nation. The model combines a comprehensive school reform strategy aimed at transforming the academic experience of all students with early warning indicators related to attendance, behavior, and course performance. By identifying students at risk of dropping out and intervening with targeted support, Diplomas Now attempts to get failing students back on track.

MDRC and ICF International are conducting an independent, experimental evaluation of the impact and implementation of Diplomas Now. During the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 school years, 62 secondary schools in 11 school districts agreed to participate in this study. Thirty-two of these schools were randomly assigned to implement the Diplomas Now model while the other 30 schools were assigned to a control group, continuing their existing school programs or implementing other reform strategies of the districts’ or schools’ choosing. This second report shares second-year implementation fidelity findings, looks at the differences in school structure and staff practice between schools implementing and not implementing the program, and presents analyses of qualitative data that delve deeper into contextual issues and the integration of the program into the schools. Findings from this report include:

  • As in the first year of implementation, during the second year schools implemented a majority of program components as the model’s designers intended, but still showed room for growth to meet ideal implementation.

  • There are differences in organization and services between schools randomly assigned to implement the model and similar schools randomly assigned to not implement the model, suggesting that model implementation is changing schools’ practices in ways that align with the goals of Diplomas Now.

  • Model implementation was somewhat hindered by factors external to the program such as staff turnover and budget cuts, but Diplomas Now staff members were able to support schools despite these challenges. Program staff members were most successful when they could align the program with school goals and garner school administrator and teacher support.

Document Details

Publication Type
May 2015
Sepanik, Susan, William Corrin, David Roy, Aracelis Gray, Felix Fernandez, Ashley Briggs, and Kathleen Wang. 2015. Moving Down the Track. New York: MDRC.