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Published in Print: January 5, 2005, as Gates Foundation Expands Support for ‘Early College’ High Schools

Gates Foundation Expands Support for ‘Early College’ High Schools

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New grants totaling nearly $30 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will underwrite dozens of new “early college” high schools, with a goal of more than tripling the nation’s supply of such schools over the next four years.

Often located on college campuses, early-college high schools are designed to enable disadvantaged students, in particular, to earn two years’ worth of college credits or associate’s degrees along with their high school diplomas. In recent years, a number of philanthropies, led by the Gates Foundation, have begun making grants designed to form a national network of such schools.

Upping its total commitment to that network to nearly $114 million, the Seattle-based foundation announced on Dec. 7 that it was making seven grants worth more than $22 million to start 42 early-college high schools. The foundation also announced a grant of $7 million to Jobs for the Future, a nonprofit organization based in Boston, to provide technical help to the network and set up a data-collection system aimed at evaluating the schools’ effectiveness.

The announcements ended a yearlong pause for the Gates Foundation in its education grantmaking, which has focused on spawning and supporting networks of smaller, more personalized high schools around the country. (“Gates-Financed Initiative Faces Instructional Hurdles, Report Says,” June 23, 2004; “Major Gates Foundation Grants to Support Small High Schools,” June 16, 2004.)

Tom Vander Ark, the executive director of education for the Gates Foundation, noted that high school students for many years have been getting a taste of higher education and earning college credits through dual-enrollment programs and Advanced Placement courses. While the early-college model is not for everyone, he said, it should be more widely available to students from disadvantaged circumstances.

“This initiative seeks to provide that same benefit to low-income and minority students in a highly supportive environment,” Mr. Vander Ark said during a teleconference. “It’s not our vision of high schools for all, but it’s one of the options that ought to exist in every urban area in America.”

Major Expansion Seen

For the Gates Foundation, the early-college high school initiative is part of a larger effort to improve the graduation and college-going rates among poor and minority students, largely by stimulating the creation of various kinds of smaller high schools with challenging academic programs. The foundation says it has committed $806 million to that broader effort, counting the new grants.

Foundation officials estimate that by fall 2008, the early-college network will have grown to include some 170 schools, serving more than 65,000 students, up from the 46 schools serving 8,000 today. The network has received more than $124 million since 2001 from the Gates Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, and the W.K. Kellogg, Woodruff, and Ford foundations.

Most of the grants announced last month went to organizations that previously received money from the Gates Foundation.

As the recipient of the largest grant, Jobs for the Future is to strengthen the early-college network and to set up a student- information system that will result in public reports on student achievement in the network. That system will also enable schools to track their students’ progress over time and share data about student demographics and performance, foundation officials said.

Other grants include:

• $6.1 million to Antioch University Seattle, to add 10 schools targeting American Indian students to the eight schools that the university now coordinates in Washington state;

• $6 million to the New York City-based Middle College National Consortium, to add 10 more schools by 2008 to its existing network of 20 schools;

• $5.4 million to Portland Community College in Portland, Ore., to support nine new schools based on its Gateway to College model, which targets students who had previously dropped out;

• $2 million to the University System of Georgia and the Georgia education department to create six new schools in Atlanta and elsewhere;

• $1.2 million to the Knowledge Works Foundation of Cincinnati to add two more schools in Ohio;

• $1 million to the Rochester Area Community Foundation and the Rochester, N.Y., school district to support up to five new schools; and

• $891,000 to the National Council of La Raza, a Washington-based Hispanic-advocacy group, to develop a school design based on its existing network of 12 schools.

Vol. 24, Issue 16, Page 9

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