North Carolina has traditionally made quality education a high priority. But for many students, poverty and related challenges—hunger, family problems, health issues, housing or transportation difficulties—stand in the way of stability and academic success.
Communities in Schools of North Carolina (CISNC) is a nonprofit organization that works to remove these obstacles. Operating in 396 schools in 38 districts from the mountains to the coast, CISNC places student support specialists in schools to work directly with those in need. The specialists carry out programs for entire schools, small groups, and individuals, reaching more than 160,000 students. All services are geared toward improving behavior, attendance, and other factors that increase a student’s chance of succeeding academically.
In 2013 and 2014, CISNC hired RTI to validate the data it collects to track its efforts across the state. After two years of working on this project, we began providing the service pro bono, enabling CISNC to devote more resources to students. We now engage in a blend of paid and pro bono work for CISNC, whose mission of improving students’ lives aligns closely with our own.
A Partnership Based on Shared Goals and Values
CISNC is a natural partner for us. We have decades of experience working with programs that pave the way to educational achievements for students around the world. As a data validation partner, we see ourselves as working hand-in-hand to serve CISNC’s purpose.
Each year, CISNC provides us with data on its activities at the school and affiliate level. We review the information for problematic data, investigate discrepancies, and prepare accurate tables for publication in CISNC reports and presentations. Our expertise in data management and data analysis—along with our understanding of the needs of educators, students, and schools—allows us to provide well-informed advice and support. In addition to data validation, we have also collaborated with CISNC on grant applications and other projects where our experience is an asset.
Data That Tell a Story of Success for Students and Communities
Based on our analysis, CISNC reported in 2016 that of the 12th-grade students helped by CISNC during the 2014-2015 school year, 98 percent graduated. Among the graduates, 78 percent went on to postsecondary education, 13 percent entered the workforce, 5 percent chose a certification or apprenticeship program, and 4 percent joined the military.
These results demonstrate the power of CISNC’s wraparound approach, which recognizes that conditions outside of school affect how students perform in school. Working one-on-one with students, CISNC identifies those who might otherwise have been held back a grade or dropped out of school. We believe CISNC’s targeted support can serve as an example to other organizations with similar goals. By ensuring that CISNC collects and disseminates valid data, we help increase the organization’s credibility with donors, education leaders, and communities.
Since 2013, our work with CISNC has grown from a relatively small project into an ongoing relationship. We are proud to contribute to the success of an organization that is helping improve the educational experiences of thousands of students in our headquarters state.