'Early College' High Schools Get Funding Boost

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The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation last week announced that it will award more than $40 million in grant money to create 70 small "early college" high schools.

Such secondary schools, which are also known as middle-college high schools, are often located on community college campuses and enable students to take college-level courses and earn college credit while they are still in high school. ("High School, With a College Twist," March 14, 2001.)

This latest grant brings the Seattle-based philanthropy's total donations to small-schools initiatives to $350 million. For this venture, the Gates Foundation joined with the Ford Foundation, in New York City, which has committed $1 million to the effort. The Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Battle Creek, Mich.-based W.K. Kellogg Foundation have pledged to give additional funding in the future.

Students who attend early-college schools have the opportunity to complete high school with a diploma plus two years of college credits, or an associate's degree, said Tom Vander Ark, the executive director of education programs for the Gates Foundation.

The new grant will work toward two ends, according to Mr. Vander Ark. In addition to setting up new small, urban schools, he said, it will help increase access to higher education for the students who attend those schools. The grant money will pay only start-up costs for the schools, he added.

Eight organizations will share the $40.4 million in grant money over five years:

  • The Middle College High School Consortium will receive $7.6 million to open five new small high schools in New York City and to redesign 15 existing middle- college programs, all of which will be located on community college campuses.
  • The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation in Princeton, N.J., will get $5.8 million to start nine small high schools and redesign one new one. All of them will be modeled after Bard High School Early College in New York City, and will be located in various sites throughout the country.
  • Antioch University Seattle will get $3 million to design eight early- college high schools in conjunction with American Indian communities in Washington state for students in grades 9-12, plus the first two years of college.
  • The KnowledgeWorks Foundation, based in Cincinnati, will receive $2.7 million to set up a state-level research laboratory to develop and refine the small-schools models in Ohio.
  • The National Council of La Raza, based in Washington, will receive $7.2 million to found 14 early-college high schools nationwide, most of which will be charter schools.
  • SECME Inc., based in Atlanta, will get $4.8 million to establish eight early-college high schools throughout the Southeast that will have no more than 400 students each. The first schools are scheduled to open in fall 2003.
  • The Utah Partnership Foundation, based in Salt Lake City, will get $3.5 million to act as a fiscal sponsor of the New Century High Schools initiative, which will help create six high-tech charter-magnet schools.

Ohio Initiative

In another move to encourage the growth of small schools, three philanthropies, including the Gates Foundation, have donated $31.5 million to urban school improvement efforts in Ohio. The grant is the largest the state has ever received for education. The first of the new small schools under the initiative are expected to open there in fall 2004.

The KnowledgeWorks Foundation, the largest philanthropy in Ohio, contributed $5 million to the initiative. It will act as an intermediary for the money.

In addition, KnowledgeWorks donated $1.5 million to a separate effort aimed at increasing the rates of high school graduation and college enrollment in Ohio. The Ford Foundation also gave $5 million to Project Graduation Really Achieves Dreams, or Project GRAD, Ohio. Project GRAD will focus on increasing parent involvement, emphasizing early reading, and guaranteeing college scholarships.

The Gates Foundation and eight philanthropies based in Baltimore recently committed $20.8 million to open new small schools and establish smaller learning communities within existing high schools in that city. ("$20 Million Grant Award Targets Baltimore High Schools," March 13, 2002.)

Vol. 21, Issue 28, Page 6

Published in Print: March 27, 2002, as 'Early College' High Schools Get Funding Boost
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