MDRC has published the first results from a randomized controlled trial of Diplomas Now, a whole-school reform initiative. Under the Diplomas Now program:
Schools are reorganized so that small groups of teachers work consistently with the same population of students.
There is an intensive peer coaching system for math and English teachers, curricular materials aligned with college- and career-ready standards, and accelerated remediation courses for struggling students.
Early warning indicators are used to identify students who need different types of support.
Additional staff help coordinate the transformation, introduce new practices and structures, provide training and support to school staff members, provide additional services to students, and engage with families and community organizations.
In total, 62 schools (33 middle schools and 29 high schools) from 11 large urban districts were recruited. Thirty-two of the participating schools were randomly assigned to implement the Diplomas Now model (DN schools), and 30 were assigned to continue with "business as usual" (non-DN schools).
So far, the study team has been able to explore early impacts for sixth- and ninth-grade students moving into DN schools during the first two years of the program. For this cohort of students, DN schools were more successful than non-DN schools in reducing the number of early warning indicators (a statistically significant 3.6 percentage point reduction). The early warning indicator was a combination of daily attendance of 85% or less, suspensions or expulsions for a total of three or more days, and failing grades in English or math classes. However, the DN program made no statistically significant impact on any of these measures separately. The project will continue for several more years.
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