by Dr. Terry Stoops
Former Director of the Center for Effective Education, John Locke Foundation
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.)
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.
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:
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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