Expanding Integrated Student Supports Through a Licensed Partnership: Success in West Virginia
Communities In Schools (CIS®) and the West Virginia Department of Education created a partnership in 2018 to deliver the CIS model of Integrated Student Supports to some of the state’s most at-risk students. Rather than expand the presence of an affiliated CIS nonprofit organization, the partnership “licensed” the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) to train local practitioners to implement an evidence-based model and granted permission to use the CIS name and logo for fundraising and community visibility.
WVDE began the project with a pilot in nine schools in school year 2018-2019. Finding success with students and support from local and political stakeholders, WVDE expanded the model to more than 110 schools serving approximately 50,000 students as of March 2021.
Supported by training from CIS, WVDE sets baselines and targets to achieve in student outcomes such as attendance, behavior, and course performance. Staff at the state department coordinate with county contacts and provide grant funding to hire school-based site coordinators. (In West Virginia, counties and school districts include the same geographic area, so the term “county” refers to the district or local education agency.)
Federal, state, and philanthropic funds are braided to ensure long-term sustainability. A three-year benchmark of program implementation indicates the evidence-based model is being implemented with fidelity and West Virginians have embraced the “secret sauce” of Integrated Student Supports: high quality relationships between adults and students served. Stakeholder cohesion and trust are reported to be high.
Key takeaways gleaned from continuous learning indicate the licensed partnership model can be replicated in other states.