Carnegie Sets $7.2 Million for Middle-Grade Reform Grants

By Robert Rothman — February 21, 1990 3 min read

The Carnegie Corporation of New York has created a $7.2-million program to help correct the “volatile mismatch” between middle-grade schools and the needs of early adolescents that was identified in a recent foundation-funded report.

Under the program, the foundation will provide to states 15-month grants of up to $60,000 each for planning or implementing projects that address the recommendations contained in “Turning Points,” the 1989 report issued by the Carnegie Council on Adolescent Development. (See Education Week, June 21, 1989.)

Participating states will also be eligible for additional $200,000, two-year grants to implement their efforts. The foundation has also pledged $3.2 million for technical assistance and consultation.

“Middle-grade schools must change, and change substantially to successfully meet the extraordinary challenges of early adolescence,” David A. Hamburg, the foundation’s president, wrote in a letter to the governors of the 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the mayor of Washington.

“The future of our youth and our nation,” he said, “depends upon our ability to create conditions that promote the development of healthy, productive adults, especially for those young people whom schools and other social institutions have historically failed.”

Carnegie officials said the grants would help support a range of projects, depending on each state’s existing efforts in middle-grade education. But they noted that the corporation would give priority to projects that link education, social-service, and health agencies, a key recommendation of the report.

To help facilitate such collaboration, Dr. Hamburg sent copies of his letters inviting participation in the project to the chief state officers in the three fields.

“The corporation believes strongly that the education of young ado8lescents requires the active support of professionals from each of these disciplines,” he wrote.

Aiming at ‘Transformation’

The new project is aimed at addressing problems in a sector the Carnegie task force’s report noted has been “virtually ignored” in the school-reform debate.

This omission may be costly, it pointed out, since some 14 million youths--half of all adolescents--are considered to be at some risk for developing damaging behaviors or failing in school.

That report argued that, rather than easing the transition into adulthood, “all too often [schools] exacerbate the problems youth face.”

To effect a “transformation” of junior-high, intermediate, and middle schools, the panel proposed a broad range of recommendations, including dividing schools into smaller units, eliminating tracking, creating a core academic curriculum, and retraining and giving more authority to teachers.

The grant program will support projects that “incorporate the major recommendations of ‘Turning Points,”’ Dr. Hamburg wrote.

“We’re looking for creative responses, particularly those that will have a significant impact on economically disadvantaged youth,” he said.

Specifically, the foundation’s guide for proposals suggests that states could: form task forces to analyze their efforts in the middle grades and develop plans for improvements; remove barriers to interagency collaboration; create inservice-education programs; reform curricula; and offer financial-aid incentives for encouraging candidates to enter middle-grade teaching.

The guide emphasizes that the “corporation does not encourage proposals for exemplary or ‘model’ schools unless they are part of a strategy for comprehensive reform.”

Three-Year Project

In the first year of the project, Carnegie will award up to 30 grants of $60,000 each, to support work from July 1, 1990 to Sept. 30, 1991. States must match the award with an equivalent amount; no more than half of the state’s contribution can be in-kind support.

During that period, the foundation will also provide technical assistance and consultation to participating states.

In addition, the foundation will sponsor a national workshop in October 1990 to encourage state officials to share information and to link project officers with national experts in education, health, and interpersonal development.

Beginning in 1991, the corporation will also make available “a limited number” of continuation awards of up to $200,000 each to participating states. Such grants would “support further implementation efforts over the succeeding two years,” Dr. Hamburg said.

The deadline for applications is March 30. For more information, contact: Middle Grade Schools State Policy Initiative, Carnegie Corporation of New York, 437 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. 10022.

A version of this article appeared in the February 21, 1990 edition of Education Week as Carnegie Sets $7.2 Million for Middle-Grade Reform Grants