Gates Foundation Gives $40 Million To Create New High Schools
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is donating $40 million to create 70 special high schools for the disadvantaged. Saying that the last years of high school are often "squandered academically," and that too many disadvantaged students drop out of high school, the foundation vows to create schools that will offer personal attention and "accelerated learning." The goal will be a smoother transition between high school and college, or between high school and the workforce.
The plan to launch 70 schools-each with small student bodies-is a partnership effort. The Carnegie Corp., the Ford Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation will each be donating between $1 million to $2 million.
The money will be given to a mix of 12 education and non-profit organizations that will establish the new high schools. These new schools will focus on academic opportunities, allowing some students to graduate with college credits, or, in some cases, an associate's degree.
Foundation executives say this focus will reward motivated students who are economically disadvantaged. "We lose way too many," says Carol Rava Treat, public affairs manager. "The standard, overall graduation rate is 75 percent, but for African-American and Hispanic students, it is 50 percent. It is even lower for Native Americans."
Antioch University Seattle will use $3 million to design eight early college high schools for American Indian tribal communities in the Northwest. The National Council of La Raza will spend $7.2 million on 14 similar schools that will serve the Hispanic communities in California. Another organization, SECME, will use $4.8 million to establish eight early college high schools in the Southeast that will enroll no more than 400 students and that will be adjacent to colleges that primarily serve black and Hispanic students.
The Bard High School Early College program, based in Great Barrington, Mass., will be a model program for the new schools. Bard has already received $10 million from the Gates Foundation. Leon Botstein, Bard's president, was an architect of the early college movement. Qualified high school juniors and seniors attend Bard. Last September, Bard launched a similar program in New York City; current enrollment is close to 300.
Bored high school students thrive when they can interact with challenging teachers in a small class setting, Botstein said in comments to the media. He is optimistic about the new Gates initiative, because it expands the concept of accelerated programs beyond the most academically elite and makes them more available for all students. Botstein says he hopes the schools will be self-sufficient within three years, but notes that some of the programs may need additional funding.
Reports estimate that as many as 28,000 students will be helped by the new Gates initiative. Most schools are expected to open in 2003 or 2004. www.gatesfoundation.org
A Grant to Reward Urban District Excellence
Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda, aren't the only philanthropists bent on improving education. Eli Broad, businessman and noted giver to education, has created the Broad Prize for Urban Education. He will grant $500,000 to the urban school district that shows the greatest overall improvement in student achievement while closing the academic gap between whites and minority students.
The money will go toward student scholarships and will pay for college or vocational school education. Broad, who is the chairman of SunAmerica and the product of Detroit public schools, asserts that education is the key civil rights issue of the 21st century. "Our nation's knowledge-based economy demands we provide young people from all backgrounds and circumstances with the education and skills necessary to become knowledge workers," he says. If public education doesn't live up to this challenge, the gap between rich and poor will become even greater, he adds. www.broadfo