MIRS, May 23,
Michigan's six Communities in Schools (CIS) programs, which use
adult role models to prevent children from dropping out, could
help relieve the budget strain on K-12 education because of the
program's attractiveness to private donors, advocates say.
Louise Reaves, Chief Operating Office for CIS National, told
MIRS in an interview on Wednesday that for every $1 of state
money received in 2002, a Georgia CIS program in 2002 was able
to attract $11 of private investment. This statistic increased
to $24 in 2007.
Also present at the MIRS interview was Deanna DEPREE, President
of CIS-Michigan, Arleen PETERSON, Organizational Development
Specialist for CIS National, and Barb VANDERVEEN, a former state
representative who currently works with LSS Parent Center and
CIS officials testified before the House K-12 Appropriations
Subcommittee on Wednesday and before the Senate Education
Committee on Thursday. In the House subcommittee meeting, CIS
asked for $300,000 to help fund its program. According to
Reaves, 70 percent of CIS nationally funding is public.
CIS, founded 30 years ago by Bill MILLIKEN, author of The Last
Dropout: Stop the Epidemic!, is active in 27 states and serves
nearly 1.2 million students, based on 2005 - 2006 data. Of these
1.2 million students, 78 percent were eligible to receive free
or reduced-price lunches and 85 percent were members of minority
According to Milliken's book, approximately one-third of U.S.
high school students drop out each year.
CIS places engaged, full-time, adult staff into school districts
with high dropout rates in hopes of keeping students in school
through graduation. These adults function as go-to people for
students, parents and school administrations, allowing teachers
to focus their energies on teaching, rather than on counseling
or mentoring. Reaves said she thought that teachers having less
time to focus on teaching was a contributing factor to high U.S.
"[A] combination of . . . things have caused perhaps a greater
distraction from academic success to trying to deal with a lot
of other problems. And schools are no longer equipped, or can be
expected, to do it alone," Reaves said.
When asked what they thought the leading cause for high school
dropouts was, opinions were mixed. Peterson blamed changes in
education policies, while DePree focused more on the parents as
the root cause.
"A big reason is you have two parents working. Therefore it's
always [about] trying to accommodate that schedule before the
kids," DePree said.
All four agreed that getting parents involved was a crucial step
in working to decrease dropout rates for at-risk districts.
Peterson said that it was really about getting parents to
realize the partner they have with CIS.
"[We try to] ensure that they understand that. . . we are here
as a partner to make things wonderful and great for [their]
child to be successful. That's what it's about," Peterson said.
One way CIS of Michigan gets parents involved is through reading
nights held at the elementary schools served by the program.
"We know that when a parent reads to a child, and if a parent is
involved with a child's education, there is a lot more
opportunity for success," DePree said.
Reaves also said that education initiatives, like President
George W. BUSH's "No Child Left Behind," were beneficial in
determining the at-risk children in schools and helping school
districts focus on those students that needed the most
"No Child Left Behind. . . has been very helpful in this work in
that it has brought the students that need these services out of
the shadows and into the spotlight," Reaves said. "It has
positioned those kids to receive services so they can progress
academically, and . . . [it] has really helped with integration
of student support services in schools."
Also discussed in the interview were the viability of programs
in other states that pay students for their attendance and
participation in high school. Peterson, the first in her family
to graduate from college, attributed a lot of her success in
high school to her participation in the "Upward Bound" program,
which paid her a stipend to attend additional classes on
"If it wasn't for Upward Bound I don't think I would have gone
to college. I think my mindset at the time was, '[I'm] just
going to try to get through high school, maybe I can get a
secretarial job, and that's about as good as its going to get,'"
Reaves concurred with the success of the 'Upward Bound' program,
citing a similar program she participated in while working in
Washington D.C. The program focused on math and reading lessons
for underprivileged students in the morning, and four hours of
work in the afternoon. Reaves lauded the success of the program
at enabling the students to associate the gratification of
earning a paycheck with success in the classroom.
Overall, the four said they believed that a combined effort
between the community, the schools, the parents and the
community was the secret for success.
"I happen to believe that parents are a key to a kid's learning
- a strong key. If you can get the parents and the community and
the schools [together], you have a win-win," DePree said.
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