Spark Education Fund

Why does the Spark Education Fund exist?

In 2018, CFNLA set a goal to change the course or interrupt the cycle of poverty for children through education so they may grow up and attain a living wage job by the age 25. The Spark Fund is one of many CFNLA’s initiatives to help achieve this goal.

  • Over 30% of Shreveport-Bossier families with children under 5 years of age live in poverty.
  • The poverty rate for persons without a bachelor’s degree is over 20% versus only 6% with a degree.
  • High educational attainment lowers a person’s risk of poverty.

Children in poverty face many obstacles to achieving academic success. Seeking best practices in removing these barriers, Paula Hickman of CFNLA invited Bill Milliken, the founder of Communities In Schools, to visit Shreveport in 2013. This meeting eventually sparked a partnership between Communities In Schools (CIS), the Volunteers of America North Louisiana (VOA), Caddo Parish Schools and CFNLA. In 2014, the VOA and Caddo Schools launched a CIS pilot in three schools.

What is Communities In Schools?

CIS is the nation’s most effective dropout prevention initiative. CIS brings existing community resources into public schools so they are accessible, coordinated, and accountable. CIS ensures student success by using data to evaluate whether student goals have been achieved.

Data demonstrates the longer a student is involved in CIS, the more successful the student it. Thus, providing services beginning in elementary school and continuing through high school increases the likelihood of student success.

How Does CIS Work?

Caddo schools with CIS receive two tiers of services: school-wide services for all students and intensive case management for students who need it.

Data demonstrates providing school-wide services for a minimum of 75% of students and case-management services for 5-10% of the school’s students results in positive changes in climate and culture for the entire school.

CIS is evidence-based and has a proven track record of success. Nationally,  CIS operates in 2,900 schools and serves 1.61 million students.

In 2018, CFNLA committed $1.25 million over 5 years to the Spark Education Fund to award grants to evidence-based, scalable solutions which remove barriers to educational success faced by children in poverty.

Following four years of positive data from the CIS pilot, the VOA along with Caddo Schools and CFNLA committed to expanding CIS to 15 schools in Caddo Parish by 2023. The five-year expansion was carefully crafted to follow students from elementary school to high school to increase their likelihood of educational success.

Caddo/VOA-CIS Expansion Plan by school:

In 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, and 2023, the VOA received a Spark Education Fund Grant to be used to fund the Caddo CIS Expansion Plan.

Funding is also provided by Caddo Parish School and many other private donors. CIS is now present in 12 Caddo Parish Schools with 15 CIS Site coordinators and 2 Lead Site coordinators reaching a total of 5,477 students. According to CIS, this “evidence-based model connects students to caring adults and community resources to transform how they see and experience the world around them. By surrounding them with a network of trust they can turn to no matter where they are in their journey, we empower students to confront and overcome personal challenges and structural barriers – so they can take charge of the future they want for themselves, their communities and each other.”

2022-2023 Data Outcomes

  • 714 students received intensive case management services.
  • 67% of students met or made progress in their attendance goal.
  • 78% of students met or made progress in their behavior goal.
  • 70% of students met or made progress in the academic goal.
  • 93% of students met or more progress in their social-emotional learning goal.
  • 100% of students stayed in school.