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Partner Spotlight:Communities in Schools


Recently, the Coalition interviewed one of our partners, Dan Cardinali who is president of Communities In Schools, Inc., the nation’s largest dropout prevention organizations, with operations in 26 states and the District of Columbia.  In addition to providing us with some updates and information on the work of Communities in Schools, he also shared some resources that we want to share.

1. Can you explain the overall mission of Communities in Schools?

Communities In Schools’ (CIS) mission is to surround students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life.  For nearly 40 years, CIS has been committed to both lowering dropout rates and increasing graduation rates. While other programs focus exclusively on academic needs, CIS is dedicated to the whole child, beyond the classroom. By bringing caring adults into the schools to address children’s unmet needs, CIS provides the link between educators and the community, so that teachers are free to teach, and students can focus on learning.

2. What milestones has Communities in Schools already reached or is currently moving towards?   

CIS has grown to serve 1.5 million of many of the nation’s most at-risk and poorest students with an evidence-based community school model.  It’s taken us 40 years to achieve this scale.  Today, in America, there are approximately 11 million K-12 students living at or below the federal poverty line.  Knowing that poverty greatly inhibits child development and success in school, CIS aspires to be part of a national community school movement that will remove poverty’s impediments in the K-12 education system and ensure that all young people have an equitable opportunity to become career and college ready upon graduation.

3. How does CIS’s principles tie into the Community School’s principles and philosophy? How do you see your work fitting into ours? 

CIS is a model of Community Schools.  It embraces all the principles of the Community School movement.  CIS sees itself as a colleague among many who are in this movement.  As such we are committed to learning with the Community Schools movement, contributing in ways that strengthen the movement.  We are a grassroots network of individual nonprofits run by citizen boards and lead by highly professional staff from the communities we serve.  Working in 2400 K-12 schools we partner with over 10,000 community-based partners, 40,000 community volunteers in over 375 schools systems in urban, rural, and suburban communities.  Each year we collaborate with 225,000 parents or guardians to ensure that families ensure their children are successful in school and beyond.  Finally, our work hinges on a trained, deeply committed community school site coordinator in the school catalyzing the Community School Model and fostering the school as the center of community. 

4. What are some exciting things coming up for CIS (events, publications)?

In early 2016, CIS will release its 13th rigorous evaluation done by MDRC.  Our hope is that this work will continue to contribute to the growing body of evidence that supports public and philanthropic will to grow the Community School Movement. 

5. Finally, what do you like about your job? 

Among the many things about my job I love, I adore getting into schools, talking to students, parents, teachers, administrators, and our extraordinary staff of passionate professionals.  Over the 16 years I have been doing this work, I’m still routinely amazed at the transformative power of intentional and loving adult-child relationships regardless of how challenging a situation a young person faces.

To learn more about Communities In Schools, you can view their website here. Also check out Dan Cardinali's Ted Talk Why Most Students are getting the least out of school, and Huffington Post blog The Problem With Poverty Statistics.

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