Using Integrated Student Supports To Keep Kids In School
A Quasi-Experimental Evaluation Of Communities In Schools
The Communities In Schools (CIS) Model of Integrated Student Supports aims to reduce dropout rates by providing students with integrated and tiered support services based on their levels of need. The model includes preventive services that are available to all students (Level 1 services) as well as intensive, targeted, and sustained services provided through case management (Level 2 services) for the 5 percent to 10 percent of students who display significant risk factors for dropping out, such as poor academic performance, high absentee rates, or behavioral problems. The CIS model posits that these tiered, integrated services will give students the skills and resources they need to succeed, which will lead to improvements in their outcomes.
In elementary schools, the CIS model focuses on improving attendance rates by engaging parents. In middle schools, the model begins to emphasize helping students improve their behavior. In high schools, the model focuses on services specifically intended to prevent students from dropping out, to help them progress through school, and to make sure they graduate.
This study, which is based on a quasi-experimental research design, examines the CIS model’s effect on students’ outcomes in elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools. The sample for this study includes 53 CIS schools in Texas and North Carolina (14 high schools, 15 middle schools, and 24 elementary schools) that started implementing the CIS model between 2005 and 2008. The study compares these CIS schools with 78 matched comparison schools (18 high schools, 24 middle schools, and 36 elementary schools). It is funded by the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation’s Social Innovation Fund.
For the high schools, the main finding is that on-time graduation rates increased — and dropout rates decreased — in the study schools after the CIS model was launched. Graduation and dropout rates also improved in the comparison schools, so it is unclear whether the CIS model was more effective than the strategies used by the comparison schools. The findings do suggest that the CIS model may be at least as effective as these other approaches. In elementary schools, attendance rates (a central outcome the CIS model aims to effect in the elementary grades) improved in schools implementing the CIS model more than they did in a group of similar, comparison schools. There was no effect on attendance in middle and high schools. In middle schools, English/language arts test scores did not improve in schools implementing the CIS model, whereas they did improve in a group of similar, comparison middle schools. There was no effect on test scores in elementary and high schools. Unfortunately, it was not possible to evaluate whether the CIS model improved middle school students’ behavioral outcomes, which is the model’s primary goal in those grades.