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Diploma Plus

Page history last edited by kay bird 7 years ago

From Making Mastery Work:

Diploma Plus worked with Champion High School, Brockton, MA; Charlestown High School, Charlestown, MA; and E-Cubed Academy, Providence, RI.

Context of Competency Education: A national alternative high school/program network designed specifically for struggling students from urban settings, typically over-age and under-credited. Can function as a school or pathway within a school. Longtime leader in competency education, with unique experience developing competency education-friendly technology systems.

Diploma Plus was created by the Commonwealth Corporation in 1996 as a response to the alarmingly high dropout rate among urban youth of color, the low numbers of vulnerable youth entering or completing college, and the inadequate supply of high quality alternatives to traditional high schools. The mission of the Diploma Plus initiative is to create small high schools that incorporate a performance-based approach, a supportive school culture, future focus, and effective supports in order to increase opportunities for students so that they have the ability to graduate college- and career- ready. The model combines high expectations for every student, a competency-based and standards-aligned performance-based approach, a personalized learning environment, opportunities to make academic and real world connections, and challenging post-secondary experiences while still in high school. Diploma Plus (DP) is intended for youth who have been failed by a traditional system that did not adequately nurture their gifts, curiosity, intelligence and power as learners.

Since its launch in 1996, Diploma Plus has grown from a 100-student pilot at two sites in Boston to a proven model that, in 2008-09 enrolls over 3,400 students at 23 schools.  

Focus of Grant Project:
To expand the use of blended and online learning to support competency-based approach to teaching, learning, and progression toward graduation.

What We Are Learning From Diploma Plus:

Creating A Transparent Mastery and Assessment System

  • The organization has developed a mature competency-based assessment system that includes a well-defined set of academic and personal success competencies, detailed rubrics for each competency, and a customized web- based learning management system that tracks student progress towards mastery. This information is fully transparent, available any time to students, staff, and parents
  •  Competencies have been identified for: English language arts, mathematics, social studies, science, health and fitness, foreign language, language acquisition, visual and performing arts, technology, career and technical education, and personal skills. The framework for the rubrics is based on a revised version of Bloom’s Taxonomy.  An example of Algebra 1 unit on linear relationships with a rubric is attached. See  "DP Authentic Assessment Sample" below.

Using Time Flexibly

  • DP believes that online curriculum is one solution to the [challenge of kids missing school and thus falling behind], and work in this area could help promote competency education-friendly district policies related to credit and time
  • DP believes that, while online curriculum arguably creates conditions for self-pacing and a flexible approach to time, it is not sufficient. Curriculum design, based on a nuanced blend of online and direct instruction, and student support are also critical parts of the puzzle.


Curriculum and Instruction

  • DP invested in the development of a competency- based learning management system known as DP.net. DP.net was designed to provide teachers
with a way to create curriculum for a fully self-paced, blended-learning environment. Some teachers and sites have fully embraced this approach, while others have been more cautious, adopting a smaller sub-set of competency-based practices


Leadership for Competency Education Development

  • Each student has an advisor who is the go-to person for students in academic or personal distress. Advisors are charged with getting to know their students, developing strong relationships with them, and supporting them when necessary. However, if a student is in a prolonged crisis, or an event at home or school requires legal intervention, administrators are called upon


Competency Education, Data, and Information Technology

  • Diploma Plus has made the largest investment
in developing a customized system to support competency education. For the better part of eight years, Diploma Plus has worked with a web application developer to build its own DiplomaPlus.net (DP.net) learning management system
  • Students can use DP.net to get a predictive look at their final grade for a course based on the work they have completed (or not completed) to date.
  • DP school decided it might be more strategic and faster to buy online courseware and work with teachers to fold in DP’s performance-based and blended learning methodologies. Other teachers want curriculum systems that provide a base of solid content and management features but are also highly customizable so they can add, remove, align, chunk, differentiate, etc.
  • Teachers meet as a team to review student progress and needs and generate an email with a list of names and needs which goes to everyone in the school


Learner Support

  • DP.net is designed to provide both students and teachers with up-to-the-moment data about student progress on competencies
  • Students can log on at any time to see which tasks are complete, which targets have been met, and even what their data predicts about their future progress. (A screenshot of this system is attached below)



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