When a boy who missed 65 days of school last year achieves perfect attendance and a 75 percent drop in suspensions this year, that’s something worth celebrating.
When that same seventh-grader improves his grades from an F to a C in math and a D to a B in language arts – and is voted Student of the Month – that’s pure jubilation!
At Miami Edison Middle School in Florida, the Diplomas Now team and teachers and administrators are incorporating strategies that are leading to extraordinary strides in creating a school where kids want to show up every day to learn, grow and thrive.
“Our school climate has improved dramatically for teachers and students since the end of school last year,” said Monica Sorensen, Diplomas Now coordinator at the school. “It’s very rare to see an unhappy person here. The teamwork is impressive. Everyone in the building is working together toward our goal – student success.”
That collaboration has yielded tremendous results, such as:
- This year, only 10 percent of students had five or more out-of-school suspensions, compared to 16 percent at the end of last school year.
- Now only 2 percent of the sixth-graders are failing math, down significantly from 15 percent at the end of last school year.
- This year, 88 percent of students are passing language arts, up from 80 percent at the end of last school year.
- Even more impressive is that Miami Edison – despite its designation as an Education Transformation School in need of turnaround services – out performed the overall school district on the most recent statewide math assessment, Sorensen said.
Teachers, administrators and the Diplomas Now team have incorporated a number of incentives and initiatives to help achieve such incredible results in the key areas upon which the Diplomas Now model places a high premium: attendance, behavior and course performance.
“Diplomas Now paints a vivid picture of the proverb, ‘It takes a village to raise a child,’” said Keith A. Anderson, principal of Miami Edison. “Diplomas Now has been that village here at Miami Edison Middle School as this partnership has allowed me to maximize learning opportunities for our students, extend professional development for our teachers, and lift the spirits of our school community. The support and time invested through Talent Development’s Early Warning Indicators, daily motivation and academic intervention with City Year, and the personal support services through Communities In Schools has already shown promise and will deliver a great return.”
Miami Edison’s Communities In Schools site coordinator and City Year corps members ramped up efforts to focus on the school’s truancy problem with greater outreach to parents and phone calls to absent students. Teachers and administrators used a weekly Donut Party to help recognize homerooms that achieved perfect attendance. At the onset of this incentive, only one homeroom out of 30 achieved perfect attendance. The most recent weekly competition saw five homerooms on track for perfect attendance. Daily announcements about which homerooms are ahead have helped to instill a bit of healthy competition among students.
To help reduce behavior issues, the Diplomas Now team partnered with the school’s security staff for a weekly “Caught You Doing Something Good” raffle to recognize students who are behaving well. Teachers and administrators also are able to acknowledge positive behavior at a Student of the Month party and monthly ice cream social as part of an overall initiative to improve behavior.
“The key is that everything is done in a very visible way,” Sorensen said. For example, the ice cream social is held in the cafeteria during lunch, so that other students can see who has earned the prized treat.
Talent Development staffers and City Year corps members teamed up to identify and target students with the greatest need for academic intervention. Corps members work with the identified students on a daily basis, providing small group tutoring and literacy and math interventions. Of 190 students identified last fall as needing literacy intervention, 85 percent of them advanced at least one level on mid-year tests, according to the school’s interim assessment data.
“We are seeing steady improvement,” Sorensen said. “The targeted intervention and school incentives have been highly visible in school, and there is a lot of student awareness.”