Communities in Schools
For 40 years, Communities In Schools (CIS) has been working with high-needs children at risk of dropping out of school across the nation and including Georgia. The unique model of placing a site coordinator inside the schools allows students to build a trusting one-on-one relationship with an adult who cares about them. The site coordinator also brings in available resources and matches them with the student’s needs to help them overcome academic and non-academic barriers to achievement.
With the increase of “high-poverty schools” and “needs improvement schools” across Georgia, these wrap-around student support services are critical, and will allow Communities In Schools of Georgia to play a key role in leveling the playing field for all children in our schools.
Currently, two-thirds of the 1.6 million students in Georgia’s public K-12 schools are low-income students. These children bring burdens to school with them every day, burdens that become obstacles to learning, and cause many children to fall behind in their classwork, become frustrated and eventually drop out of school. These low-income children are 50 percent more likely to be chronically absent from school, 3 times more likely to be held back a grade and 7 times more likely to drop out. Some are hungry, some need medical attention, some have no caring adult in their lives, and some have no place to call home. The Georgia Department of Education reports there are 39,695 homeless students enrolled in our public K-12 schools, and 19,466 children came through the Georgia foster care system during the last year.
Communities In Schools works directly inside schools, building relationships that empower students to succeed inside and outside the classroom. CIS Georgia also helps these children break the cycle of poverty and academic failure.
At CIS Georgia, we are committed to digging deeper, and identifying and addressing the obstacles and barriers these children face every day. We know that providing early intervention for children at risk of school failure is critical, as well as concentrating on the whole child. We understand the importance of bringing as many resources as we can to the children because we believe that each child, in each school, in each community, deserves to be healthy, safe, engaged and challenged while reaching their full potential. Today, as part of the nation’s largest and most effective dropout prevention organization, Communities In Schools of Georgia serves over 124,000 students across the state, and our model has had an impact on many schools labeled as failing. The Department of Education recently released a list of 1,000 Georgia schools that “Beat the Odds” in 2016 — performing better than statistically expected on the College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI). Communities In Schools of Georgia is serving 108 of the 1,000 schools that “Beat The Odds,” — which is almost half of the 223 schools that CIS Georgia currently serves across the state.
CIS Georgia has also had an impact on the state’s graduation rate, attendance rate, and has a verified economic return on investment. Last year, 89 percent of eligible seniors served by CIS graduated or received a GED; 93 percent of K-11 students supported by CIS were promoted to the next grade; and 61 percent of students who were chronically absent improved their attendance rate. A performance audit ordered by the State House Education Appropriations committee also showed an $18 to $1 return on state funds invested in CIS Georgia.
We understand there is more work to be done to close a still significant graduation gap in Georgia. Low-income students, students with disabilities, English language learners all continue to have lower graduation rates and higher drop-out rates. Many of these students face barriers both inside and outside the classroom that make it impossible for them to focus in the classroom. That’s why Communities In Schools is committed to working directly inside schools, building relationships that empower students to succeed inside and outside the classroom.
(Carol Lewis is the President/CEO of CIS Georgia)