CFES is grounded in scholarly research and grew out of a three-year research project on overcoming barriers to college access in disadvantaged communities.
The project culminated in the monograph Frontiers of Possibility. Shortly after Frontiers was published in 1988, the principal researchers from Middlebury College, University of Vermont and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, were awarded a grant to test and implement their ideas on improving college access in ten schools in the Southeast.
The results were overwhelmingly positive, including a 50% increase in college matriculation and significant gains in other key student achievement areas. Subsequently, the Clark Foundation asked the Frontiers research group to develop a program for students in rural New York state schools, resulting in the creation of CFES in 1991 (known as Foundation For Excellent Schools until 2007).
During the last two decades, a continuous improvement process, centered in research and evaluation has guided the development of the CFES approach to help low-income youth become college and workforce ready. Today, CFES uses three established Core Practices – Mentoring, Leadership Through Service, and Pathways to College and Career – to raise aspirations, improve students’ preparation for college, and develop Essential Skills – that help underserved youth move toward college success.