CIS Deemed Top Model
CIS deemed top dropout prevention model
by Alexa Milan Sanford Herald | | SANFORD —
The results of a five-year evaluation of the national dropout prevention organization Communities in Schools reveals the CIS model is the most effective dropout prevention program in the country.
Friday marked the end of the comprehensive longitudinal evaluation by social science evaluation firm ICF International, which commended the organization for its work in reducing dropout rates and increasing graduation rates, as well as its effectiveness across states, schools, grade levels and student ethnicities. Rebecca Clendenin, Communities in Schools of North Carolina communications and media specialist, said she expects specific dropout prevention data to be released later this week.
“The research that has been conducted over the last five years, it’s the largest and most comprehensive study ever conducted on dropout prevention models,” Clendenin said. “When CIS was compared to similar dropout prevention programs of similar size, it really rose to the top.”
Clendenin said she thought one of the most effective aspects of CIS is its combination of services that reach a broad base of students, such as career fairs, field trips and school supplies drives, and more specified case-managed programs, such as one-on-one tutoring and mentoring.
At the local level, Communities in Schools of Lee County connects the community with students through programs such as BackPack Pals, which provides food to students who don’t have enough to eat during the weekend; Book Buddies, in which volunteers read with elementary school children; mentoring programs and the Stuff the Bus school supplies drive.
“We’re not a blanket organization,” said Heather Little, director of Communities in Schools of Lee County. “We look at each individual school and each individual child. We try to determine with the help of the school system what each school needs and how we can help.”
Communities in Schools of North Carolina was recognized by ICF International as having the most Total Quality System-accredited local affiliates. Total Quality System is the set of program and business standards practiced by Communities in Schools. The Lee County affiliate is in the process of becoming accredited, a task Little said can take up to 12 months.
Despite the results of the evaluation, Communities in Schools is still facing budget cuts like many other state nonprofits. In her 2011-13 budget, Gov. Bev Perdue recommended CISNC receive a 10 percent reduction in state funding. In fiscal year 2010-11, the organization received $795,000 in state funding. Though state funding will decrease, Little said she hoped the dedication of CISNC’s community donors, including businesses ranging from Bank of America to Progress Energy, would soften the blow.
“The evaluation speaks for itself,” Little said. “Not only are we cost-effective, but the programs work at all grade levels. It doesn’t matter if it’s a rural county or an urban county. The model sustains year after year.”
Clendenin said she hoped the North Carolina General Assembly would take notice of ICF International’s independent evaluation and realize how dropout prevention can affect the state’s future. Dropping out of school not only destabilizes the lives of those students, she said, but also destabilizes the state as a whole.
“Over the course of their life, a single dropout equates to $275,000 in lost earnings, taxes and productivity,” Clendenin said. “It’s obvious we’ve got to combat this problem. Without strong support of a model like Communities in Schools, we’re really at risk as a state of hurting our future.”
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