Improving Conditions for Learning: Student Success in Every Community
One out of every six students drops out of school. The odds say it will be a student of color. It’s the last stop on a journey through an education system that doesn’t protect and support kids living with the weight of poverty and trauma. Communities In Schools (CIS) and Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) have a proven solution. CIS works hand-in-hand with schools to establish an integrated student supports model, surrounding kids and their families with a system of caring adults that keep students on the path to graduation. CCSSO works with state leaders to enact change for equity in education. Together, we will transform the public education system to ensure every child can succeed. The evidence is clear: 99% of students receiving the most intensive level of integrated student supports remain in school throughout the academic year, and 96% of seniors graduate or receive a GED.
A student carries the ravages of poverty and trauma wherever he or she goes, yet education policy has long focused solely on the academic needs of students in the classroom. Homelessness, food insecurity, poor mental health and physical health can adversely affect a student's ability to come to school ready to learn. To provide every student with equitable conditions for learning, a focus on the whole child, school climate and social-emotional development is vital. The effects of income inequality, structural racism, trauma and toxic stress have devastating effects on early brain development. Generational poverty and adversity only compound these challenges, pushing many communities deeper into crisis – and driving dropout rates upward. Yet millions of students do not have access to necessary supports to help them. A recent report shows that no state met the recommended social worker/student ratio, only four states meet the school psychologist/student recommended ratio, and one-third of schools don’t even have a nurse. It’s time to rethink the traditional model. The fundamental – but solvable – problem is integrating supports into schools. The CIS model trains school professionals to weave necessary supports into the fabric of a student’s life. A growing body of research shows that students succeed when schools effectively implement a whole child approach. Integrated supports surround students with the elements they need to succeed and removes the barriers holding them back.
Integrated student supports simply means that a student’s unique needs are met. Professionals trained in ISS build community partnerships that bring the right evidence-based resources into the school, directly to the student in need. Addressing a student’s food insecurity, health-care, or by providing trauma informed care allows her to focus on education again. Positive school climate, social-emotional development and developmental relationships, which can help to heal the harm of trauma, are measurable outcomes. But CIS alone cannot address the shortage of integrated student supports; the solution requires systems change. Serving the “whole child” is gaining traction in the education field, but improving conditions for learning must be embedded in the system to serve all students. CIS and CCSSO will convene stakeholders and community leaders to build this foundation, taking our work to the 18 states with the greatest concentration of low performing schools, economically disadvantaged students, and students of color. Working with the five state jurisdictions most ready and able to partner, we will train local providers, deliver technical assistance, and change the systems in these states to create lasting impact. To ensure sustainability, we will educate local leaders on how to unlock existing public funding focused on youth. Progress will be evident by the implementation of ISS in the targeted jurisdictions, with results including increased graduation rates and college enrollment. Additionally, our work to unite the field and engage chiefs will have a positive ripple effect for students receiving ISS, either through Communities In Schools or other service providers.