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Chicago's ambitious school-reform effort has received a substantial boost from the Joyce Foundation. The local philanthropy this month announced grants totaling more than $550,000 to organizations seeking to turn around the city's schools.

Craig Kennedy, president of the foundation, said the grants "are aimed at helping build a solid base ... to restructure the school system."

"The next two or three years are critical," he said, "and the foundation is putting its support behind programs that will encourage community residents and others to take leadership roles in carrying out the mandate of the new school-reform legislation."

Mr. Kennedy said the 13 grants awarded thus far are the first in a series of commitments during 1989 that will total more than $2 million for education renewal in Chicago and other midwestern cities.

The grants support efforts to promote parental leadership; to improve the management, teaching, and learning in selected Chicago schools; to increase the participation of teachers in public-policy debates; and to improve the use of city colleges as a stepping stone to four-year institutions.

Officials in Dade County, Fla., have announced a plan for attacking racial prejudice in schools, with the support of $450,000 from the Rockefeller Foundation.

The joint initiative between the school system and the local teachers' union will develop special programs in humanities classes to foster better relations between pupils of different ethnic backgrounds.

With 266,800 students, Dade County is the fourth-largest school district in the nation. It is also one of the most ethnically diverse: 21 percent of its students are white; 33 percent are black; and 45 percent Hispanic. Another 1 percent are from other ethnic groups, mostly Asian and Native American.

"Given the diversity of our community and the dramatic increase in refugees," said Superintendent Joseph A. Fernandez, "we must open the paths to better communication."

The project will bring together teachers of history, the arts, language, literature, and other subjects to develop interdisciplinary approaches that help break down students' racial and cultural prejudices.

In its first year, the project will involve teams of teachers from nine high schools who will work together during the summer to lay the groundwork for classroom activities in the fall. With matching funds, a new cadre of teachers will join the program in each succeeding year.

The initiative is the newest project in the foundation's Collaboratives for Humanities and Arts Teaching--or chart--a national network of 12 school-reform programs.--lo

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