Program empowers Kansas students

When you consider the fragile condition of our economy, there is no more critical public policy issue than promoting proven strategies that stimulate economic growth and job creation. Toward that goal, dramatically increasing the number of our public school students who graduate from high school ready for college or a career is the most powerful fuel we can add to our economic engine.

When we graduate a young person from high school, we more than double their career earning capacity, we strengthen the quality of our Kansas workforce and we reduce the need for expensive social programs that drain tax dollars. Unfortunately, it is estimated that around 25 percent of Kansas high school seniors this spring will not graduate on time with their peers.

It's simple common sense to invest in proven solutions to the dropout problem. Communities In Schools of Kansas empowers young people to succeed in school and life by placing site coordinators in needy schools. They serve as a bridge between the social needs of students in danger of dropping out of school and resources that are available in their community. The Communities In Schools model is evidence-based and proven to reduce dropout rates, improve student academic performance and increase the number of young people who receive a high school diploma. In fact, this model demonstrated the strongest reduction in dropout rates among all existing fully scaled dropout prevention programs in the United States, according to an independent evaluation by ICF International. We believe this level of rigor is necessary to ensure that students, especially those most in need, are provided programs proven to be effective.

In 2010/2011, Communities In Schools served more than 15,000 students at more than 50 schools in nine Kansas communities, and we are trying to do more where the need is greatest. In 2011, we initiated new programs at Garden City High School and in Topeka, expanded our work in Kansas City, Kan., and continued the outstanding work we have done for a number of years in Wichita, Ottawa and Ulysses. This fall, we will begin services in Lawrence.

Communities In Schools of Kansas is also elevating the attention public policy officials are paying to dropout prevention. We have been active in informing the Kansas Legislature and Gov. Brownback's administration about the need to invest in solutions to the dropout epidemic as a critical component to stimulating the Kansas economy. We are also working with other Communities In Schools programs across the country to urge Congress to include support for nonprofit dropout prevention strategies during their deliberations of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

Please consider being part of this local, state and national effort by urging support for proven ideas that will improve academic performance and student success. By doing so, everyone can contribute to progressing the mission of Communities In Schools to surround students with a community of support to empower them to succeed in school and in life.

MALISSA MARTIN,

Lawrence

Martin is president of Communities In Schools of Kansas.

Band concert, clinic on tap

A rea music lovers will have a unique opportunity on May 5. The Flatland Big Band, founded by former director Julie Groom in 1994, will make its Scott City debut. Flatland is a select group of band directors and professional musicians from across the state who have met on the first weekend in May for the last 18 years to practice and then present a top-notch concert for their audiences.

Ms. Groom, who taught at Colby Community College and Atwood High School as well as other area schools, bequeathed the leadership of the band to me upon her death this year. All of her former students as well as those who just love live music are invited to honor her at this year's event. The 2012 concert will be held at Scott Community High School and will include SCHS music students as well. They will participate in a clinic with the Flatland Big Band during the day and in the performance at 7:30 p.m. A $4 admission fee will be requested at the door to defray expenses and provide for the continued existence of the group. Lodging information is available at the Scott City website www.scottcityks.org.

CLINT RAYNES,

Scott City