Putting Education Reform To The Test

Program Focusing On “Dropout Factories” Adds Schools In Miami

House Committee on Education and the Workforce/flickr

Dr. Robert Balfanz

A program designed to turn around at-risk schools and students has expanded in Miami schools.

Diplomas Now is based on research by Johns Hopkins University professor Robert Balfanz.

He found that a sixth grader who exhibits just one of four warning signs is 75 percent more likely to drop out of high school.

From Diplomas Now:

“Half of the 500,000 kids who drop out of school every year come from just 12 percent of the nation’s high schools, or 1,700 “dropout factories.” A study from Johns Hopkins University found that students who are most at risk of dropping out can be identified as early as middle school through key indicators – poor attendance, unsatisfactory behavior, and course failure in math and English.”

At Miami’s Edison Middle School, the program has achieved some results:

  • 10 percent of students had five or more out-of-school suspensions, compared to 16 percent at the end of last school year.
  • 2 percent of the sixth-graders are failing math, down significantly from 15 percent at the end of last school year.
  • 88 percent of students are passing language arts, up from 80 percent at the end of last school year.
  • Miami Edison – despite its designation as an Education Transformation School in need of turnaround services – beat the overall school district performance on the most recent statewide math assessment.

Diplomas Now is operating in three Miami-Dade schools — Drew Middle, Edison Middle and Booker T. Washington High — and is adding three schools this year — Allapattah Middle, Homestead Senior High and Miami Carol City Senior High.

Monica Sorensen, Diplomas Now coordinator at Edison Middle, said the school climate has improved dramatically for students and teachers.

“The teamwork is impressive. Everyone in the building is working together toward our goal – student success,” Sorensen said.

Diplomas Now is in 12 cities and 41 schools.

The program is funded through grants, donations and the PepsiCo Foundation.


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