A new report
released today by Communities In Schools (CIS) chronicles the barriers faced by 14.5 million children in the U.S. who are living in poverty and highlights the organization's success and five influential leaders who have played a significant role keeping more students in schools, on a path to graduation and to success in life.
When Communities In Schools (CIS) was founded 40 years ago it served nearly 3,000 students, helping those who faced poverty-related obstacles make it to high school graduation. Today, the nation’s largest and most effective dropout prevention organization serves nearly 1.5 million students, partnering with schools to even the playing field for all students.
According to today’s report:
- 99 percent of CIS case-managed students stayed in school
- 93 percent of K-11 students supported by CIS were promoted to the next grade
- 91 percent of eligible seniors served by CIS graduated or received a GED
- 88 percent of K-11 students in CIS programs improved their academics
Still, CIS President and CEO Dale Erquiaga acknowledges there is more work to be done to close a still significant graduation gap in the United States. Low-income students, students with disabilities, English language learners and students of color all continue to graduate at much lower rates than their peers. Many of these students face barriers both inside and outside the classroom that make it impossible for them to focus in the classroom.
"For 40 years Communities In Schools has helped millions of students graduate, but with the increase in what are known as ‘high poverty’ schools, our services are needed now more than ever,” said CIS President and CEO, Dale Erquiaga. “Poor educational outcomes perpetuate the cycle of poverty. To break the cycle, we need to keep kids in school and continue to increase graduation rates. We’re all in for students, because we know that graduation is only the beginning.”
Erquiaga said CIS is committed to helping a greater number of students across the U.S. overcome those challenges, by providing Integrated Student Supports to more schools. Using this unique model of work, CIS site coordinators attend to students’ immediate needs from food and clothing, to more complex needs like counseling and mentoring. They do so by finding existing community resources and bringing them inside schools in a targeted and efficient way.
As Communities In Schools prepares to celebrate its 40th year of providing these Integrated Student Supports, the organization plans to call on more educators, policymakers and nonprofit partners in the field to utilize the new federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), to bring this evidence-based program into more schools and districts.
“With ESSA we now have federal legislation that recognizes Integrated Student Supports as a proven method to helping low-income students succeed in school,” said CIS Vice President of Government Relations Tiffany Miller. “We are looking forward to partnering with schools and communities to implement this important legislation. Integrated Student Supports is a necessary ingredient to improving low-performing schools. As principals and teachers know, removing the barriers that many students in poverty face is the first step toward being ready to learn and doing well in school. "
The new CIS Impact Report highlights those educators, CIS staffers and alumni who have demonstrated the effectiveness of CIS and go all in for students, empowering them to stay in school, graduate and go on to brighter futures. These All In For Students Awards recipients include:
- Superintendent Ann Blakeney Clark overseas the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District in North Carolina, with nearly 147,000 students representing 183 countries and 197 languages – the majority classified as economically disadvantaged. Clark, with the help of CIS, has worked to increase the graduation rate in her district from 66 percent to almost 90 percent. “I watch kids walk across the graduation stage, and I know that without CIS, they wouldn’t have a diploma or a plan for next steps,” she says. “CIS is the wind beneath their wings.”
- Principal Lolo James from Chaparral High School in Las Vegas, Nevada has many students who face extraordinary barriers, including transiency, homelessness, and gang activity, that, along with CIS, he helps them to overcome. Principal James knows that sports and other extra-curricular activities are “the spark that motivate kids to come to school,” and actively encourages these programs and academics to go hand in hand. Clearly he’s onto something, since the school’s graduation rate has skyrocketed from 34 percent four years ago to 80 percent last year.
- CIS site coordinator Jean Rebecca’s North Charleston High School in South Carolina is in a neighborhood wrought with crime and poverty. He knows the barriers his students face, because he lived it. “I was one of the kids that had socks and shoes with holes, and our electricity and water were off more than they were on,” says Jean. With this intimate understanding, Jean is able to quickly and deeply connect with his students –and he works to provide them with every resource available to help them graduate and pursue their dreams.
- CIS alumna Melissa Limon of Central Texas is a first-generation college student. She credits Communities In Schools for supporting her throughout high school and encouraging her to leave home to pursue her dreams. Melissa enrolled in Stephen F. Austin State University, and found herself five hours away from her family and homesick. CIS knew this was a hard transition, and Melissa’s CIS program manager sent her encouraging emails, letting her know she could do it. “CIS was always there for me if I ever needed them,” she said. After graduation Melissa visited the AmeriCorps website and saw an opening at her CIS affiliate – she didn’t hesitate to apply. Two days later, she was back with the organization that supported her throughout high school and college, only now – she was providing support to students like her. “I felt like I was going back home,” Melissa said.
- CIS alumnus Rey Saldaña of San Antonio was a high school student when he participated in a college prep course facilitated by CIS, which opened his eyes to what was possible and changed the trajectory of his life. He graduated, earned a full Gates Millennium scholarship and attended Stanford University, where he earned undergraduate degrees in political science and communications – and then a master’s from the School of Education. In May 2010, Saldaña became the first in his family to graduate from college, and is now city councilman for San Antonio’s District 4. “I know exactly what my life would have been like without CIS, because I see it in friends who didn’t get these opportunities,” he says. “CIS came along at just the right time for me. They taught me to believe in my own potential, and they blew open my horizons.”