BIG IDEAS

EVERYONE MUST GRADUATE

One question we at Communities In Schools of Chicago are often asked is: If your organization’s goal is to end the dropout crisis in our city, why doesn’t it work exclusively in high schools?

Our answer: Because dropping out is usually a process, not the result of a single event that happens sometime between a child’s ninth-grade and twelfth-grade year.

The dropout process can start on a 5-year-old’s first day of Kindergarten. Or it can happen during the spring of their senior year. Sometimes a traumatic event – the sudden loss of a parent’s job, or a serious health problem – can divert even the most tenacious student’s path from graduating.  But more often, dropping out is a slow-drip process. A third-grade student, for instance, might struggle in the classroom, wind up repeating the grade, and, from then on, have nagging doubts about their ability to succeed in school. Or a middle-school aged student might have faced repeated bullying by one of their peers and slowly but steadily skip more and more school days.

Each day, principals, teachers and other school leaders reinforce to students that they can – and must – stay focused on graduating from high school. That’s because a high-school diploma, more than ever, is a differentiator in our society. Students who earn a degree enjoy much better economic, social and health outcomes, on average, than students who drop out.

More and more, school leaders in Chicago are turning to our organization to help them in keeping children on the path to graduation. At all 160 of our partner schools, we connect a range of high-quality programs in the arts, college and career preparation, health, and mental health and wellness. These are supports that all Chicago public school children need, but which their schools and families often have difficulty accessing due to cost, location, or the myriad challenges of running a school or leading a family.  At a growing number of these schools, we also place a full-time staff member to provide intensive supports to 40-50 children that are at significant risk of dropping out. These individual supports can include goal-setting, life-coaching, and clinical counseling.

Research shows that when schools – whether serving primary-age students or adolescents – receive these types of essential supports, children do better in core subjects like math and reading and, ultimately, they graduate from high school prepared for further life success.

KEY PROGRAMS

We have one goal: to prevent dropout.

We approach our work by providing three types of direct support:

  1. Support for Individual Students

  2. Support for Entire Schools

  3. Supporting Our Partners

Each day, principals, teachers, and other school leaders reinforce to students that they can – and must – stay focused on graduating from high school. That’s because a high-school diploma, more than ever, is a differentiator in our society. Students who earn a degree enjoy much better economic, social and health outcomes, on average, than students who drop out.