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Communities in Schools (CIS) is a non-profit dropout prevention organization that has a significant presence in North Carolina and 24 other states.  Last week, Economic Modeling Specialists Inc. published a report, "The Economic Impact of Communities In Schools," that evaluated high schools served by 113 CIS affiliates.  What can traditional public schools learn from this and other CIS self-assessments? (A lot.)

Bulletin Board

  • The John W. Pope Civitas Institute will hold its monthly poll luncheon on Thursday, May 31 at 11:45 am at the Brownstone Doubletree Hotel in downtown Raleigh.  The poll will examine voter opinion on the most significant and current issues such as government spending, state debt, health care, energy, social policy, election reform, and much more. Additionally, the polls measure approval ratings for national and state leaders, allowing attendees to gauge voter sentiment on elected officials.  To register, call 919-834-2099 or go to
  • The Civitas campaign training program is focused on giving participants the knowledge and practical skills they will need to build a winning campaign from the ground up. Whether you are interested in managing a campaign, running for office, or simply interested in how campaigns work, the class will lay out the groundwork for an effective campaign strategy.  The training session will be held on June 7 from 1:00 to 6:00 PM at the Brownstone Doubletree Hotel in downtown Raleigh.  To register, click here.
  • The North Carolina History Project would like educators and homeschool parents to submit lesson plans suitable for middle and high school courses in North Carolina history.  Please provide links to NC History Project encyclopedia articles and other primary and secondary source material, if possible.  Go to the NC History Project website for further information.
  • JLF’s research newsletter archive sings on key.


Last week, Economic Modeling Specialists Inc. (EMSI) published a report that evaluated the economic impact of Communities in Schools (CIS), a non-profit dropout prevention organization that has a significant presence in North Carolina and 24 other states.  The study, "The Economic Impact of Communities In Schools," evaluated high schools served by 113 CIS affiliates.  Researchers concluded that CIS delivers an impressive return on investment (See Facts & Stats below).

I encourage North Carolinians to read the EMSI study (or at least the executive summary) and pass much-deserved kudos to Communities in Schools of North Carolina.  While you’re at it, take a look at another solid evaluation of the CIS model, "Communities In Schools National Evaluation Five Year Executive Summary," which compared student outcome measures of CIS participants to similar non-CIS counterparts.

As a researcher, I am tempted to spend several paragraphs describing the methodology, findings, and implications of one or both studies.  But I think it is more important to reconsider the broader issue of educational productivity, i.e., return on investment.  CIS thinks about it a lot.  Isn’t it time for the public education system follow suit?

I have been beating the educational productivity drum for a while now.  In fact, I have quoted U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s November 2010 remarks on educational productivity a few dozen times over last year and a half.  And I suspect that frequent readers of this newsletter are tired of hearing about the 2011 Center for American Progress report, "Return on Educational Investment: A district-by-district evaluation of U.S. educational productivity." 

Well, deal with it.  Educational productivity is here to stay.

In the oft-quoted speech mentioned above, Secretary Duncan declares, "It’s time to stop treating the problem of educational productivity as a grinding, eat-your-broccoli exercise. It’s time to start treating it as an opportunity for innovation and accelerating progress."  In other words, you can follow in the footsteps of Communities in Schools and embrace it as a way to evaluate and improve performance and maximize scarce resources.  Or you can continue to adhere to the discredited idea that schools need only ask how much, not how well, they spend.

Unfortunately for taxpayers, our public school leaders do not talk about productivity in meaningful ways.  Public school advocacy organizations raise a fuss when they do.  Others make a conscious attempt to avoid the subject of productivity altogether.  As a result, elected officials typically approve funding increases for public schools with little regard to the educational and economic outcomes of such expenditures.  It is time to change the conversation.  Communities in Schools shows us how.

Random Thought

Today is National Vanilla Pudding Day.  Party at Bill Cosby’s house!

Facts and Stats

Major findings of the Economic Modeling Specialists Inc. (EMSI) May 2012 report, "The Economic Impact of Communities In Schools," were as follows:

  • The net present value (i.e., the present-value benefits minus the present-value costs) of the CIS investment in 113 high school-serving affiliates is nearly $2.6 billion. This means that the discounted present-value benefits exceed the total investment costs by almost $2.6 billion.
  • The average annual return to society resulting from CIS’s investment is 18.4%.
  • CIS’s investment at the high school level results in a benefit-cost ratio of 11.6, which means for every one dollar of CIS investment, $11.60 of economic benefit is created. The only caveat is that we apply the regional specific parameters (e.g., tax and unemployment rates, earning levels, etc.) to the students served in that region regardless of potential migration.
  • It will take nine years before all investment costs are fully recovered. In an age where financial investors are more concerned with the here and now and eager to get a quick return, a nine-year payback period may seem infeasible. However, it should be understood that an investment in human capital continues to pay dividends to both the individual and society well beyond the short-term timeframes used by today’s financial investors.
  • All students served will collectively increase their disposable income by $63 million annually.
  • The present value of the social savings (public and private) due to reductions in smoking, alcoholism, crime, welfare, and unemployment costs totals $154.5 million.
  • Currently 67 affiliates are implementing only parts of the CIS model in some of their high schools. If these 67 affiliates move to full implementation or implementation with fidelity in all of their high schools (i.e., move from developing to comprehensive sites), these affiliates’ net present value will increase by $545.4 million, and their rates of return are likely to increase from 18.8% to 19.9%. The average benefit-cost ratio of all 67 affiliates will grow from 12 to 12.9 and total investment costs will be recovered roughly six months sooner.
  • The average high school-serving affiliate produces 42 additional on-time graduates each year and promotes an additional 99 students to the next grade level.


I would like to invite all readers to submit announcements, as well as their personal insights, anecdotes, concerns, and observations about the state of education in North Carolina.  I will publish selected submissions in future editions of the newsletter.  Anonymity will be honored.  For additional information or to send a submission, email Terry at [email protected].

Education Acronym of the Week

CIS — Communities in Schools

Quote of the Week

"The bottom line is that CIS has a sizable return on investment to investors, students, businesses, and taxpayers. Students who stay in school and graduate benefit by making more over their lifetimes. Businesses benefit by having a more skilled and productive workforce. Taxpayers benefit through a broadening of the tax base (i.e., increased incomes directly translate into increased tax revenue), and the pubic in general benefits from reduced social costs (i.e., crime, alcoholism, and unemployment)."

– Economic Modeling Specialists, Inc., "The Economic Impacts of Communities in Schools," May 2012, p. 27

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