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Ford Foundation To Reward Improvement in Urban Schools

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The Ford Foundation last week announced the creation of a $1.1-million grant program aimed at rewarding typical urban high schools that can document that they have made significant improvements in their overall performance over the past decade.

Approximately 250 schools in 40 cities will be eligible for grants, which range from $500 to $20,000, under the new City High School Recognition Program, according to Edward J. Meade, the program's chief administrator.

'Success Stories'

A panel of judges will select the top 25 "success stories" from the participants' reports. These will be included in a series of case studies intended to complement the national high-school-improvement efforts of such organizations as the Council for Basic Education, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, and the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Mr. Meade said that the winners will be selected on the basis of documented improvement in such areas as academic achievement, student life, parental and community participation in school activities, and the placement of graduates in jobs or colleges.

A recently created alliance of school superintendents and university presidents under the auspices of the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges is also working to encourage improvements in the nation's urban high schools. That program, which is being tested in Cincinnati, Detroit, and Milwaukee, aims to revive public education in the three cities through the creation of partnerships between the schools, col-leges, business leaders, and municipal officials.

Mr. Meade said that the Ford Foundation initiated the grant program ''because we believed that there were many urban schools out there that have done an exemplary job of improving themselves without having received any special attention."

Franklin A. Thomas, president of the foundation, said in a statement announcing the program's creation that "the impression persists, however, that our urban high schools do not educate, that students are disruptive, teachers demoralized, and parents unengaged."

Mr. Thomas said foundation officials anticipate that the program "will bring about a more positive public perception of our high schools, generate more active support for them, and increase understanding of the factors that make for school improvement."

"By recognizing schools that are achieving significant positive results," he said, "we hope to further encourage them in their work and inspire others to follow their example."

Eligibility Standards

Eligibility for the grants will be limited to schools in which at least 30 percent of the students come from low-income families, according to Mr. Meade. The schools, he added, must offer only a general academic curriculum and must admit students without regard to entrance examinations or achievement standards.

The schools have been invited to submit information comparing their current and previous performance in such areas as average verbal and mathematics test scores, percentage of students performing below grade level, in-service training for teachers, and school atmosphere.

According to Mr. Meade, foundation representatives will conduct investigations at all of the schools that are applying for the grants, then report back to a panel of representatives from 15 national education and citizens' associations. The panel, he said, would then decide which of the schools merit an initial cash award of $500.

Strengthen Improvement Programs

Approximately 100 of the schools earning the $500 awards will be invited to apply for a second round of grants, Mr. Meade continued. Half of those schools will receive awards of $20,000 in order to strengthen their current improvement programs, or to help another school develop a similar system.

"This not an attempt to re-define what the high school is or what it should be, but rather an attempt to illustrate how these schools took it upon themselves to make themselves better," Mr. Meade explained.

The first round of $500 awards will be announced in mid-May, according to foundation officials. The second round of grants will be announced in early September, and the case studies of the 25 schools judged to have the most original programs are expected be ready by spring 1983.

High schools in the following cities have been invited to participate in the program:

Albuquerque, N.M.; Atlanta; Baltimore; Birmingham, Ala.; Charlotte, N.C.; Columbus, Ohio; Denver; Des Moines; Detroit; Fresno, Calif.; Houston; Indianapolis; Jackson, Miss.; Jersey City; Kansas City, Mo.; Knoxville, Tenn.; Las Vegas, Nev.; Lubbock, Tex.; Memphis; Milwaukee; Minneapolis; New Orleans; Norfolk, Va,; Oakland, Calif.; Omaha; Pittsburgh; Portland, Ore.; Providence, R.I.; Rochester, N.Y.; Salt Lake City; San Antonio; San Diego; Seattle; Spokane, Wash.; Syracuse, N.Y.; Tampa, Fla.; Tucson, Ariz.; Tulsa, Okla.; Washington; Worcester, Mass.

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