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Communities In Schools

Communities In Schools

In 2010, ICF International completed a five-year national evaluation of Communities In Schools that included a quasi-experimental school-level study and three youth-level randomized controlled trials. These yielded positive findings for reducing dropout rates and increasing graduation rates, academic achievement, and attendance.

In 2012, the economic modeling firm EMSI calculated that every dollar invested in CIS creates $11.60 in economic benefits.

In 2014, Child Trends released a research review of integrated student supports that included CIS and eight other programs and concluded that "the evaluation basis for integrated student supports [is] emerging."

Within EMCF’s framework for assessing an organization’s evidence of effectiveness, CIS’s program currently meets the standard of “high apparent effectiveness.”  


In 2017, MDRC published the findings of two evaluations funded by the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, the True North Fund and the Social Innovation Fund, with additional support from the Wallace Foundation.

A quasi-experimental study of the effects of CIS’s whole school model found that it made statistically significant improvements in students’ attendance, state English/Language Arts test scores and on-time graduation rates in high schools. After three years, graduation rates improved by a statistically greater amount in CIS high schools than in the study’s comparison schools. Elementary schools implementing the whole school model showed statistically significant improvements in attendance and ELA test scores, although comparison schools’ ELA scores also improved by a similar amount. Middle schools that implemented the CIS model had higher average daily attendance rates than predicted, but the improvement was not statistically significant. Because no behavior measures were available for this study, it could not be determined whether the whole school model had a positive effect on middle school students’ behavior―a key issue CIS is often brought into middle schools to help address.

A randomized controlled trial of one component of the whole school model―intensive case-managed services for middle and high school students identified as at risk of dropping out―found that case management succeeded in engaging students in more support activities. It also improved several non-academic outcomes, such as stronger connections with adults, better relationships with peers, and a more positive attitude toward education. While case-managed students received more supports and showed improvements on non-academic outcomes, these changes did not translate into positive impacts on chronic absenteeism/average daily attendance, core course failure/grades, or suspensions. That is, case-managed and non-case-managed students generally performed similarly on these outcomes.

A separate MDRC case study and a blog post by Heather Clawson, CIS’s Executive VP of Research, Learning & Accreditation, describe how CIS is using these evaluation findings to continue to refine its model and increase its impact.


CIS is included in an ongoing evaluation by MDRC and ICF International of Talent Development Secondary’s Diplomas Now program. In addition, CIS is developing an evaluation agenda to complement the five-year strategic plan it is currently formulating.