Tag: Diplomas Now

Doubling down to improve school climate

Doubling down to improve school climate

By Andrea Ochoa, Johns Hopkins University

A recent study by Grant and colleagues evaluated the effect of implementing Restorative Practices and Diplomas Now on school climate and teachers’ intentions to leave their school. Restorative Practices refers to a schoolwide shift away from punitive disciplinary methods and toward open dialogue that allows students to make amends by processing how their behavior affects others. Diplomas Now, another schoolwide reform model, focuses on building collaborative teacher teams, providing professional development, using early warning systems to provide students with tiered supports, and incorporating all supports by providing additional human resources to accomplish the work. It was hypothesized that when implemented together, the interventions would have a positive effect on school climate by improving student-teacher relationships, providing students with relevant and engaging learning opportunities, and increasing teacher retention.

The analytic sample for the study included 25 schools from large urban school districts that were randomly assigned to either implement both interventions or continue business as usual (control group). For the school climate measure, students and teachers responded to a survey designed for each stakeholder group. The intervention was implemented over two years. Because whole-school reform is complex and challenging to implement long-term, schools varied in their level of execution. Thus, Grant and colleagues conducted an intent-to-treat analysis. This means that they compared the average effect of intervention schools to the average effect of control schools without considering differences in implementation fidelity.

The study found that students and teachers in schools that implemented both programs reported perceiving a more positive school climate than in the control group (student ES= +0.15, teacher ES= +0.27). However, the study did not find that implementing both programs was associated with teachers’ intentions to continue working in their schools. Although modest, these findings suggest that implementing Restorative Practices in conjunction with Diplomas Now can have a positive effect on student and teacher perceptions of school climate such that teachers and students believe they have the support they need to be successful.

Early impact of Diplomas Now

Early impact of Diplomas Now

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.