The Economic Impact of Communities in Schools

The Alliance for Excellent Education (The Alliance) recently hosted a Webinar to discuss the results of a recent report, The Economic Impact of Communities in Schools. Dan Cardinali, President of Communities in Schools (CIS), joined Governor Bob Wise, President of the Alliance, to discuss the report and its implications for CIS’ future work.

CIS is a federated non-profit network that currently serves 25 states and the District of Columbia, 475 districts, and 1.25 million students. The program partners with districts to reduce dropout by integrating site coordinators into management teams in schools in need of improvement. These site coordinators collaborate with school administrators, teachers, and community-based organizations to provide tailored student supports that largely center on non-academic student needs. A 2010 five-year longitudinal study conducted by ICF International found that CIS schools performed much better than control schools, boasting a 98 percent retention rate for students identified as at risk of dropping out, and an 87 percent on-time graduation rate for seniors.

These results and others from the longitudinal study contributed to the economic impact report of CIS’ high school programs, conducted by Economic Modeling Specialists, Inc. Due to the current economic climate and downward pressure on state and local budgets, CIS commissioned this report in hopes of demonstrating the economic benefits of implementing CIS that accompany the previously established improvements in student achievement.

Results from this report suggest that CIS is a highly cost-effective program, and findings support previous work from the Alliance on the economic benefits of reducing dropout and increasing high school graduation. At its current level of operation, CIS spends over $240 million annually to serve all high school programs. This investment leads to almost $2.8 billion of added income and government revenue as a result increased graduation rates. This additional value includes:

  • An increase of $63 million in aggregate annual income for program graduates,
  • A $22 million increase in federal and state tax revenues, and
  • A reduction of over $150 in social service costs, such as those affiliated with welfare, Medicaid and incarceration.

Though this report suggests that CIS’ dropout prevention efforts lead to a significant and positive impact for community economies, Cardinali did acknowledge that CIS still has room for growth. First, findings suggest that more than half of all CIS affiliates are not yet fully implementing the CIS model with fidelity. If these sites moved to full implementation, the report suggests that the improvement would contribute to an additional $545 million in increased income and government revenue. Secondly, though high school graduates have higher average incomes than dropouts, both Cardinali and Wise acknowledged that the largest income growth is realized by attaining additional postsecondary education at a two- or four-year college or university. Because of this, as CIS continues to grow and improve, Cardinali hopes to focus more attention on college persistence, helping students progress through at least their first year in a postsecondary environment.

Note: This blog post was originally authored under the auspices of the National High School Center at the American Institutes for Research (AIR). The National High School Center’s blog, High School Matters, which ran until March 2013, provided an objective perspective on the latest research, issues, and events that affected high school improvement. The CCRS Center plans to continue relevant work originally developed under the National High School Center grant. National High School Center blog posts that pertain to CCRS Center issues are included on this website as a resource to our stakeholders.

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