Diploma Plus

Diploma Plus believes in personalized learning as a systematic strategy to creating equitable education conditions, access, and outcomes that enable under-served youth to complete high school college and career-ready. Through our on site training and virtual technologies, Diploma Plus provides educators and youth service providers with resources and strategies that equip them to develop competency-based and standards-aligned curriculum, instruction and assessments that are focused on increasing students’ knowledge, skills and understandings.

The backbone of our academic program.

This model combines high expectations for every student, a rigorous competency-based and standards-aligned approach, a small personalized learning environment, opportunities to make real-world connections, and pathways to becoming successful adults.  The model utilizes effective student-centered instructional practices, makes strategic use of technology to enhance teaching and learning, provides tools and systems to create sustainable alternative high schools, and effectively uses data to improve instruction.

Structure:
The DP model doesn’t have age-based grades. Instead it has three phases – Foundation, Presentation, and Presentation Plus. The Foundation phase is focused on getting students’ skills up to 10th grade level, as many start with gaps in skills as far back as 4th or 5th grade levels.  The Presentation Phase is focused on helping students build up a portfolio of the work emphasizing performance tasks and assessments. Students in the Presentation Plus Phase participate in internships, college courses, and community action projects in order to support their successful transition to life after high school.

Middle School - Grades 7 & 8

The students at APEX Academy Middle School are offered an individualized and comprehensive academic program to them develop as academic scholars.

The customized approach enables students to progress in their creative and critical thinking abilities.  Beginning in the 7th grade, students are exposed to the A-G requirements, along with college visits to a wide spectrum of universities. In addition, the Diploma Plus Competencies implemented in each class subject promote an academic expectation that the students will consistently experience upon entering APEX Academy High School. We produce students who are connected to the APEX community and philosophy.


High School - Grade 9

APEX students are introduced to the rigors of A-G courses. An individual Graduation Plan is developed together with students, parents, and counselor.

During each semester, students will review their graduation plans with their counselor. Foundation Phase students will engage in rigorous inter-curricular project-based learning, and receive a solid foundation in academics that will help prepare them for post-secondary options.

Introductions to College and Career planning during this phase will allow students to focus on the big picture of their college and/or career plans as they move on to the Presentation Phase.

High school - Grades 10 & 11

The Presentation Phase builds on academic content and skill attainment. Content is richer and more rigorous as students conduct college and career assessments

Grade 10.

Academic achievement during this phase is crucial as colleges look closely at a student’s academic achievements in this phase. Individual Graduation Plans are reviewed to ensure that students stay on track with all A-G requirements.

Students will take assessments to further learn about their academic and career strengths. Students will be given the opportunity enroll in an after-school community college course.


Grade 11

Students must pass the CAHSEE and take the PSAT.

Academic content is richer and more rigorous as students conduct purposeful college and career “Shadowing” projects.

Students will take the PSAT in the fall semester and other assessments to further learn about their academic and career strengths. Students will enroll in a community college course.


High School - Grade 12

During the PLUS phase, students continue to build on content and skills from previous phases, while finalizing their final portfolio presentation.

Students shift their focus to in- depth specific college and/or career exploration projects by participating in an Internship, and completing a college course or career technical training course of study. Students will have met the A-G requirements by the end of the Plus Phase, opening the doors to the CSU, UC and private university systems.

Students will take the SAT or ACT to continue to assess their academic and content growth and have the opportunity to apply to universities.

All students are enrolled in a Success Seminar course to further personalize their education and prepare them for their Formal Portfolio Presentations /Exhibitions.

Learning Management System

Developed to support competency-based and personalized learning programs, Diploma Plus’ connected learning environment and learning management system, DPNET, delivers open online course content, tools, and resources; expands youth development; and creates the conditions for anywhere/anytime learning, enabling students, teachers, and families to foster knowledge, skills and dispositions for lifelong learning and productive contributions to today’s changing world.

Our school provides curriculum, instruction and assessments focused on knowledge, skills and understandings that are competency-based and standards-aligned.  Students advance at their own pace, and are promoted or graduated according to their abilities in core competencies rather than seat time, age, or credits.

Under the DP model, the Four Essentials for success are

1. Performance-Based System

Our school provides curriculum, instruction and assessments focused on knowledge, skills and understandings that are competency-based and standards-aligned.  Students advance at their own pace, and are promoted or graduated according to their abilities in core competencies rather than seat time, age, or credits.

2. Supportive School Culture

Our schools promote equity to create and sustain a school climate that explores, respects, and responds to school norms that nurture diversity built on positive relationships among students, staff, parents/families and community.

3. Future Focus

Our model involves a multi-year sequence of career and college exploration and civic engagement activities that focus on students’ futures through awareness, exposure, and preparation opportunities.

4. Effective Supports

Our model involves a multi-year sequence of career and college exploration and civic engagement activities that focus on students’ futures through awareness, exposure, and preparation opportunities.


Under the DP model, the Four Essentials are woven together:

Performance-Based System: At DP schools students learn at their own pace and are placed, promoted and graduate based on demonstrated learning rather than seat time. In designing APEX, the founders selected DP because of the competency-based approach, Said co-founder Alfonso Paz, “It allows me to have a dialogue with kids in a way that I have never had before.  They can show me their knowledge.” Knowledge Taxonomy: DP uses the Revised Bloom’s taxonomy to target the depth of knowledge.  Most students are working to catch up, building up skills to mid-level ranges on the taxonomy, then working on projects in each course to apply that learning more deeply. APEX organizes lots of opportunities for students to apply their learning in the community, allowing them to develop leadership skills and to extend their networks and horizons along the way. Scoring and Grading: DP’s scoring system recognizes five levels on the way to demonstrating proficiency — advanced, proficient, bridging, emerging, and no evidence.  Students demand transparency once they are introduced to a competency-based system, asking for the competencies and rubrics when they start new courses. DP Net: DP has created an extensive information system that supports professional development, aggregates competency-based curriculum and rubrics, and provides the information system for tracking student progress.  Students can submit assignments online as well as manage their e-portfolios.

Supportive School Culture: DP schools have an extremely supportive culture that is developed through relationship-building activities and deeply-rooted school norms that nurture diversity and inclusiveness. APEX expects its teachers to have relationships with students, organizing kickball tournaments and once a month student-teacher lunches to make sure the ice is broken and stays broken. The relationships are forged around a commitment that “we are not going to give up on you.” Tutoring is available every day between 3-4 pm and parents can come in as well any day to talk with teachers. The school leaders embody this culture with huge heart and absolute love and respect for the students. Students at APEX know they can walk up to any teacher for help. They also have advisers who are the go-to person for students in academic or personal distress.  APEX manages multiple relationships with social service organizations to make sure they can access more intensive support and interventions for students when they need it.

Future Focus: Diploma Plus schools stress post-secondary awareness, career development and civic engagement. Though APEX builds much of this into the Plus Phase,students begin their planning for the future the minute they enter the school. The middle school was added after 2 years because it was so important for students to have “a college dream” early on. Resources are dedicated at APEX to provide support for 4 years after graduation to students as they navigate the labor market, higher education, and increased demands from family.

Effective Supports for Schools: Diploma Plus schools emphasize support to students, teachers and principals. DP offers a range of services that helps schools more easily manage converting to competency education. DP offers its schools a well-developed competency education system including structure, knowledge taxonomy, curriculum, grading systems, and an information system. The DP network helps APEX accelerate the development of teachers so that they are comfortable, and proficient, in competency education. It also provides a quality control mechanism in which DP coaches review performance tasks and assessments developed by teachers before they are implemented.