Whole-school reforms are the core elements of the Talent
Development Middle and High School model, which is built
on 15 years of evidence (Kemple, Herlihy, & Smith, 2005).
Strategies include creating a more personalized learning
environment for students and teachers by enabling teams of
teachers to work with a common set of 75–90 students for
one or more years, implementing challenging research-based
Teachers use clear, data-based
decision rules to determine when
a student needs to move from
© Andy deAn
one level of support to another.
instructional programs in core subjects, providing extensive
and fostering strong school-family partnerships. Graduate
professional development supports for teachers and adminis-
trators, offering coordinated extra-help courses for students,
Because caring relationships among teachers, students,
and families can improve student effort and teacher effec-
attendance, behavior, and course failure. Students in high-
tiveness, Talent Development assists each school in imple-
poverty environments whose performance is off track in even menting such approaches as small learning communities,
one of these indicators from the 6th to 9th grades typically
interdisciplinary teaming, and looping. The communal
have a 25 percent chance at best of graduating from high
organization of schooling, in which teams of teachers work
school. Approximately 80 percent of eventual dropouts send
with a common set and manageable number of students, can
distress signals in one or more of these areas during these
be adapted according to school size, teacher interests and
years. Reducing the number of students exhibiting such indi-
abilities, and local regulations.
cators would substantially improve graduation rates.
For example, some schools have created two-teacher
With this goal in mind, Diplomas Now unites three organi- teams, particularly in the 6th grade. Each teacher teaches two
zations—the Talent Development secondary program at Johns subjects—for example, math and science or social studies
Hopkins University; City Year, a nonprofit AmeriCorps orga-
and English—which enables teachers to share a smaller
nization; and Communities in Schools, a community-based
group of students. Other middle-grade schools have created
dropout prevention organization—to create a new middle and three-teacher teams. In this approach, teachers teach double
high school model that reduces dropout risk.
The Diplomas Now model integrates four key elements.
periods of math and English, rotating science and social
studies in extended blocks by semester. In the 9th grade, the
most common configuration is a four-teacher team. Math,
Element 1: Effective Whole-School Reform
English, science, and history teachers teach three 80- to
Diplomas Now integrates strategies related to instruction,
90-minute blocks; they share the same set of students and a
teacher and administrator support, professional development, common planning period. As for looping, the most common
and organizational improvement that are designed to raise
arrangement is between 6th and 7th grade, enabling more
student achievement, promotion, and graduation rates in the specialized teaching—algebra instruction, for example—in
nation’s most challenged high-poverty secondary schools.
the 8th grade.