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How We Measure Success
Since our first scholarships were awarded in 1999, CSF has provided $524 million in scholarships to more than 130,000 low-income children nationwide. Over this period, CSF (the only national privately-funded K-8 scholarship organization) has built up expertise and experience over more than a decade of awarding and administering scholarships for low-income families. We believe we succeed every time parents use one of our scholarships to send their child to the school of their choice.
Specific measures of success include:
Retention Rates: One way of measuring progress and effectiveness is CSF’s retention rate – in other words, the number of CSF Scholars who remain in the program. Over the thirteen years we have been awarding scholarships, our retention rates have been improving steadily, as fewer families leave the program.
As well as keeping parents informed, we regularly communicate with school personnel, sending them progress reports during the annual requalification period. We find that increased communication with families and schools improves and speeds up the process for our staff and the families, and targets our efforts where they are most needed. CSF staff members make regular school visits during the academic year, keeping written reports of each tour. By visiting the schools and meeting our recipients, we encourage continued cooperation between the scholarship program and school personnel. We also invite donors to tour schools, to get a direct look at the schools and children they support. School visits help us to identify families at risk of leaving the program who may need extra assistance.
Continued Demand for Scholarships: Since our initial application drive, when the parents of 1.25 million children applied for CSF scholarships, we have continued to receive application requests by phone, e-mail, and mail on a daily basis. The demand for scholarships continues to outpace the supply. Even in areas where funds are not currently available for new scholarships, program offices are keeping waiting lists of interested parents. We use these waiting lists to determine the level of interest in and demand for new scholarships.
Academic Studies: Many of our partner programs have been the subject of studies that measure progress of scholarship recipients against families who applied but did not receive scholarships. (You can download the studies here.) CSF actively welcomes and encourages such studies, and works with researchers to make sure they get accurate information and data. To that end, we have modified our application forms to include permission from parents to gather test scores and grades from our recipients. This step allows current and future researchers to study the effects of scholarships, eliminating the need to seek permission again before getting data from the schools.
Internal CSF Alumni Tracking: It is the consensus of CSF’s board of directors and our partner programs that measuring high school graduation rates of CSF Scholars is the best indicator of CSF’s success. We know a child’s prospects greatly improve if he graduates from high school:
• boys who drop out of high school are 47 times more likely to end up incarcerated than college graduates;
• high school graduates are more likely to be employed (dropouts are three times more likely to face unemployment than college graduates);
• high school graduates are less likely to suffer ill health and premature death, and
• college graduates can expect to earn double the income of a high school dropout.
As a result of this decision, CSF is initiating a process to track our CSF recipients internally as they graduate from 8th grade and progress through high school, college, and beyond. At least twice a year, we will survey our recipients by mail, following up by telephone and email when necessary, to track which high school they attend after 8th grade, and when they graduate from high school. We will also ask recipients to inform us of their post-high school plans, and track whether they matriculate into college. This will allow us to compare high school graduation rates, college entrance rates and college graduation rates of CSF recipients compared with the city, state, and national averages.
As we progress with this tracking project, we will share our results with the other CSF partner programs, encouraging them to develop internal tracking systems so we can measure the high school graduation rates (and eventually the college entrance and graduation rates) of all CSF scholarship recipients.