How We Do What We Do
Children First/Communities In Schools (CIS) is the Buncombe County affiliate of Communities In Schools, one of the nation’s leading dropout prevention organization. The mission of Communities In Schools is to surround students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life. We have placed a Student Support Specialist at Johnston, Estes, Claxton and Emma Elementary Schools as well as Eblen Intermediate School. The Student Support Specialist works with a site team (principal, counselor, social workers, teachers) to develop a comprehensive site plan to address identified needs of the students.
We are proud that the prestigious publication, Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR), featured the Communities In Schools model in the “What Works” column. Read the entire article here
Why It’s Important
Every year, 1.2 million students drop out of school. What that means is every 26 seconds, a student in America loses his or her path to a better future. By helping students stay in school and succeed in life, we are building a stronger America, where every person is capable of reaching his or her greatest potential. After all, each child is our child, and our collective future.
What we do
Through a Communities In Schools Student Support Specialist, Communities In Schools connects students and their families to critical community resources tailored to local needs.
At Communities In Schools, we work hand in hand with schools, communities and families to surround our students with a caring network of support to help them stay in school and succeed in life. We have nearly 42,000 volunteers on the ground, working in more than 2,200 K-12 public schools in the most challenged communities in 26 states and the District of Columbia, serving 1.3 million young people and their families every year.
How We Do What We Do
Communities In Schools trains and places highly qualified site coordinators and supporting staff directly into schools. Once there, our job is to connect students and their families to basic and critical community resources, tailored to each student’s specific needs. By providing students with a one-on-one relationship with a caring adult, we create a safe place to learn and grow, a healthy start to a healthy future, a path toward marketable skills upon graduation and a chance to give back to peers and the community. As a result, Communities In Schools has become the nation’s largest and most effective dropout prevention organization and the only one proven to both decrease dropout rates and increase graduation rates.
Background: How the CIS model Improves Student Success
States and school districts need not engage in guesswork when taking the steps needed to improve student success. A case can be— and has been—made for Integrated Student Supports (ISS) as a viable, evidence-based intervention. In an ISS model implemented by CIS (Figure 2 above), a site coordinator is positioned in the school to work with administrators, assess needs and existing resources, and connect vulnerable young people with the appropriate support systems to address both academic and non-academic barriers.
Examples of common supports include basic needs (e.g. housing, clothing, food), mental health services, academic enrichment, and mentoring. Supports can be differentiated based on a tiered system, which allows site coordinators to serve most students in a school while focusing attention on targeted students who have significant needs. ISS can improve attendance by helping school leaders identify both the academic and non-academic barriers that keep students away from school.
By working with a Student Support Specialist, schools can intervene early and intensively through case management. This integrated and comprehensive approach helps students stay in school and graduate. According to CIS 2016-17 data, 80 percent of the students case managed by CIS improved attendance. The most comprehensive study of ISS to date analyzed eleven evaluations of three different providers. This analysis found that, when implemented with fidelity to a high-quality model, ISS can improve course performance and attendance. The study concluded that ISS led to decreased grade retention and dropout rates.
A recent five-year evaluation of the CIS model conducted by MDRC and an earlier one conducted by ICF International found that elementary school students’ attendance improved more in schools implementing the CIS wholeschool model than it did in schools without CIS. Both studies also found that high schools implementing CIS whole-school services increased their graduation rates.
Interim findings from an MDRC evaluation of Diplomas Now, an innovative school reform model that incorporates ISS, showed that the program had a positive and statistically significant impact on the percentage of students with no early warning indicators. In other words, the program increased the number of students who maintained an 85 percent attendance rate or better, were suspended fewer than three days, and passed English language arts and math. Students were also more likely to report a positive relationship with a caring adult.
Natasha Adwaters, Executive Director
50 South French Broad Ave. Suite 246
Asheville NC 28801