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Downsizing: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded nearly $37 million in grants in California that are aimed at creating smaller, more personal learning environments.

One grant, for $6.4 million, will be used to replicate a model program developed at Gary and Jerri-Ann High Tech High School, a small San Diego charter school that focuses on technology, in several other California cities. Another, for $6.8 million to the National Council of La Raza, a nonprofit Hispanic advocacy organization, will be used to create a network of 15 charter schools in low-income, largely Hispanic neighborhoods.

Noting that education "is the single most important issue in the Latino community," Raul Yzaguirre, the council's president, said in a prepared statement that the grant will help ensure that Hispanic community organizations play a central role in improving educational outcomes for Hispanic youths.

In northern California, the Bay Area Coalition of Essential Schools will combine its $15.7 million in grant money with other funding to restructure existing schools to create up to 35 smaller schools in Oakland, Berkeley, and other cities.

The Aspire Public Schools, a consortium of northern California charter schools, plans to use the $3.2 million it was awarded to open five small high schools in East Palo Alto, Lodi, Oakland, and Modesto in the next three years. And the New Technology Foundation in Napa, which received $4.9 million, will use a local, 11th and 12th grade technology high school as a model to create 10 small high schools in northern California.

The latest round of grants reflects the Gates Foundation's interest in encouraging the development of smaller schools. In September, citing a decade of research suggesting that students thrive in such environments, the foundation started by the Microsoft Corp. billionaire and his wife awarded $56 million to 11 districts and educational organizations that are researching smaller schools or working to create them. ("Gates Foundation Awards $56 Million for Small Schools," Sept. 13, 2000.)

The foundation also awarded $5.1 million last week to the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association to hone its administrators' skills at integrating technology into classrooms— another area on which it has focused its philanthropic efforts.

The New Jersey grant is the latest in a group of similar Gates grants aimed at strengthening school and district leaders' understanding of how they can use technology to improve instruction and administration.

—Catherine Gewertz [email protected]

Vol. 20, Issue 12, Page 14

Published in Print: November 22, 2000, as Philanthropy

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