WWC review of this study

Case Management for Students at Risk of Dropping Out: Implementation and Interim Impact Findings from the Communities in Schools Evaluation

Corrin, William; Parise, Leigh M.; Cerna, Oscar; Haider, Zeest; Somers, Marie-Andrée (2015). MDRC. Retrieved from: https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED558497

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
    , grades

Reviewed: September 2017

No statistically significant positive
Meets WWC standards without reservations
Progressing in school outcomes—Indeterminate effect found for the domain
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
Significant? Improvement

Did not fail any core courses (%)

Dropout Prevention vs. Business as usual

1 Year

Full sample;
2,048 students





Evidence Tier rating based solely on this study. This intervention may achieve a higher tier when combined with the full body of evidence.

Characteristics of study sample as reported by study author.

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    North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas


The study takes place in 28 middle and high Communities in Schools. These schools are located in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas. All schools receive Title I funding. Communities in Schools is comprehensive service model that works with low-income students at risk of failing or dropping out in the nation's poorest performing schools. The intervention model includes Level 1 services and Level 2 case management services that are provided to all students and a subset of students, respectively.

Study sample

The analytic sample for the Level 2 case management intervention condition was 61% Hispanic, 35% black non-Hispanic, 2% white, 1% Asian, 1% other, 44% male, and 54% free and reduced price lunch eligible. Twelve percent spoke English as a second language, 3% qualified for a gifted program, 9% were chronically absent, and 26% failed at least one core course. The average attendance rate was 96% and the average core course marks were 80%. The analytic sample for the non-case management control condition was 60% Hispanic, 34% black non-Hispanic, 3% white, 2% Asian, 1% other, 46% male, and 51% free and reduced price lunch eligible. Eleven percent spoke English as a second language, 4% qualified for a gifted program, 9% were chronically absent, and 26% failed at least one core course. The average attendance rate was 96% and the average core course marks were 80%. The authors reported that with the exception of the percent of FRPL-eligible students, none of the differences between the groups were statistically significant using OLS and controlling for random assignment blocks.

Intervention Group

Communities in Schools works with low-income students at risk of failing or dropping out in the nation's poorest performing schools. Students in study schools who display risk factors such as poor academic performance, high absentee rate, or behavioral problems are randomly assigned to the Level 2 case-managed services intervention condition are provided services by school site coordinators. The site coordinator may be assisted by other intervention staff, school staff, volunteers or other paid outside providers such as AmeriCorps volunteers and interns. Site coordinator caseloads vary by affiliate based on other available staff, with 44, 66, 77, 92, and 130 students per caseload on average in the 5 affiliates. Fourteen of 28 schools had 1 site coordinator, 13 had 2 site coordinators, and 1 had 3 site coordinators. Services begin as early as 6th grade and occur throughout the year. Yearly student assessments determine the duration and intensity of services. Site coordinators/staff provide individualized support to address student needs through assessments, goals, and plans. Student services fall under eight categories: academic, behavioral, attendance, social/life skills, basic needs/resources, college/career preparation, enrichment/motivation, and family-related. Among these services, site coordinators emphasize and monitor attendance, academic progress, and general mental and emotional health. These results are measured during the first year of implementation, and are considered interim results by the authors. Students were enrolled in case management on average for 30 weeks, which is about 3/4 of the 2012-2013 school year. 89 percent of students in the intervention group report having at least 1 direct service contract during the school year. On average students received 19.4 service contacts for an average of 16.2 service hours during the year. Case management services include academic, behavior, attendance, social/life skills, and other services. Academic, Behavior, and Social/life skills were the most common types of services received.

Comparison Group

Students in the comparison group have access to whatever student supports are available other than Communities in Schools Level 2 case management, and receive services described as "business as usual." The study reported that a wide variety of many services are available in study schools and described the school characteristics in detail as a part of the implementation study on a larger group of schools.

Support for implementation

Each school has one or more Communities in Schools site coordinators who are responsible for all on-site operations. Many had or were pursuing advance degrees in social work or counselors. A host of support staff were also present at study schools including guidance counselors, social workers, and other support staff such as behavior specialists, college advisers, and parent advocates. It is hard to distinguish support for Communities in Schools generally from support for the case management piece. In addition, local affiliates build community partnerships and provide funding support to the program. Site coordinator staff training and other supports were not described.


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