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learn / 2015

Getting LA students to graduate: educating the whole child

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by Communities In Schools of Los Angeles

CISLA’s goal is to improve educational outcomes for underserved students at 12 schools in Los Angeles Unified School District, leading to an increase in graduation rates. Through the use of one-on-one case management and school-wide or small group interventions, we will place passionate and trained social service professionals onto school campuses every day to identify the needs – academic and non-academic - of students and offer on-site programs and referrals services that address those needs.


In what areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

  • Central LA
  • East LA
  • South LA
  • Westside
  • LAUSD

How do you plan to use these resources to make change?

  • Engage residents and stakeholders
  • Expand a pilot or a program

How will your proposal improve the following “Learn” metrics?

  • District-wide graduation rates
  • HS student proficiency in English & Language Arts and Math
  • Student education pipeline (an integrated network of pre-schools, K-12 institutions, and higher education systems that prepares students for seamless transitions between high school, higher ed
  • Suspension and expulsion rates (Dream Metric)
  • Students perceived sense of safety at and on the way to school (Dream Metric)

Describe in greater detail how you will make LA the best place to learn.

With 80% of students in LAUSD living at or below the federal poverty line, many students do not have the resources they need to be successful. Even the highest-quality teachers and the most state-of-the-art technology cannot effectively educate a child who is missing school, arrives hungry, or is experiencing the effects of unaddressed trauma. This is evidenced in the fact that only 77% of LAUSD students graduated from high school in 2014.

CISLA is helping to change the way children are educated in our city through an evidence-based and data-driven approach: addressing social-emotional needs first, so that students are equipped to learn. We start by focusing on underserved, high-poverty communities that are struggling to keep students in school. We assess their schools’ greatest overall barriers to student achievement, such as gang involvement, cyberbullying, or a simple lack of basic things like food and clothing, and we hire Site Coordinators – passionate and trained social service professionals – to create on-campus initiatives and broker resources to address these barriers.

In addition to implementing school-wide programming at each school, our Site Coordinators also seek out the 5-10% of students who need the most support and offer them individualized case management – continual, one-on-one guidance and a listening ear throughout the entire school year. Our Site Coordinators meet students where they are, working with them, their families, and their teachers to do whatever it takes to ensure that they stay in school and succeed.

CISLA’s approach has been proven to work. We have a four-year graduation rate of 92%, and throughout the 2014-2015 school year:

  • We served over 17,000 students with school-wide supports
  • We served 1,900 students most at risk of dropping out with individualized, one-on-one case management.
  • 95% of case-managed seniors graduated in 2015
  • 70% of case-managed eighth graders culminated in 2015
  • 75% of case-managed students reduced their number of behavioral infractions
  • 56% of case-managed students improved their grades
  • 62% of students improved their attendance rates

Funds from this grant will help us to place four full time Site Coordinators in underserved schools this year, where they will provide hundreds of students with the personalized support they need to focus on their education and stay on track to graduate.

Please explain how you will evaluate your work.

We measure our success by the progress our students make toward 8th grade culmination and high school graduation. This progress correlates directly with improvements in attendance, behavior, and coursework. A 2010 Johns Hopkins University study found that students who present at 6th grade with poor attendance, behavior, or coursework – known as Early Warning Indicators – are less likely to graduate high school. We also know that as students transition from middle to high school, aptitude in the areas of confidence, stress, and motivation is very important, so we employ Success Highways resiliency assessments at the beginning and end of each year. CISLA uses an off-track/on-track system to identify the most at-risk students and to measure their progress. Improvements in attendance, behavior, and coursework as well as improved results in resiliency are key interim success measures as we support students on the pathway toward eighth grade culmination and high school graduation.

How can the LA2050 community and other stakeholders help your proposal succeed?

  • Money (financial capital)
  • Publicity/awareness (social capital)
  • Community outreach
  • Network/relationship support