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CIS Addresses Barriers At Georgia's Lowest Performing Schools

The Atlanta-Journal Constitution recently reported that more than 60 schools in Atlanta and surrounding counties are on the Georgia Department of Education’s list as the lowest performing in the state, which is required under the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. Based on a research bulletin from the Southern Education Foundation, low-income students are now a majority of the children in America’s classrooms, which is a first in U.S. history. Among the 21 states with majority of low-income students, Georgia placed seventh with 60 percent of kids of low-income. Nine of the schools on the lowest performing list cited in the article are currently Communities In Schools (CIS) of Atlanta partner schools. The inclusion of these partner schools on the state list is not only a reflection of academic need, but socioeconomic need as well. On average, 85 percent of students at our schools qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. CIS builds strong relationships with students, parents, educators and community members within its partner schools. We identify barriers that prevent students from succeeding in school and address these barriers by mobilizing community resources to meet students’ needs, while empowering students to realize their potential. CIS National is making efforts to ensure student support services are included in the new version of NCLB currently being debated in Congress. But such changes at the national level take time. In the meantime, school districts are dealing with shrinking budgets, highlighting the need for Atlanta area corporate and foundation partners to support the schools and nonprofits with research based models and successful track records. At CIS of Atlanta, we are continually working to innovate our model with unique partnerships. For example, we’re partnering with BlackRock, Emory University and Atlanta Public Schools for the Graduation Generation initiative at Maynard Jackson High School and its cluster of middle and elementary schools. This collaboration creates a pipeline of students who graduate high school on time, and matriculate and finish either college or vocational school. CIS of Atlanta also partnered with the College of Computing at Georgia Tech this spring to allow Clarkston High School students to participate in the Robotics Soccer Challenge. These are just two examples of our intent to innovate and modernize our drop-out prevention activities and to create partnerships with world class universities to move the academic needle. Our results are proof that the CIS model works. Last year, 97 percent of our students stayed in school; 83 percent improved in attendance, behavior or academic performance; and 76 percent were promoted or graduated. In a recent opinion column in the US News & World Report written by Nina Rees, the CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, she mentioned CIS as one of the solutions to help turn around failing schools in our country. CIS of Atlanta can replicate our success in all of the schools listed in this troubling article if given the opportunity and funding is made available to support our important work on behalf of low-income children and their families. Closing these achievement gaps is the modern civil rights issue of our time.

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