School Climate & Safety

White House Announces $375 Million for High School Redesign

By Catherine Gewertz — November 10, 2015 4 min read
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The White House announced Tuesday that it has gathered more than $375 million in public and private financing to be channeled into projects to redesign American high schools.

That was the big news from the first-ever White House summit on “next generation high schools,” held at the Old Executive Office Building adjacent to the West Wing. The financial commitments were announced during a daylong program saturated with high-flown visions from policymakers, teachers, entrepreneurs, philanthropists and students about how high schools could be remade to be more tech-savvy, hands-on, career- and college-focused, and just plain more interesting and exciting for students.

The financial commitments came on a day that new data were released showing a drop in high school dropouts from 1 million in 2008 to 750,000 in 2012, and not long after U.S. officials announced an all-time-high graduation rate of 81 percent. But leaders of the summit noted that high schools still fail to graduate far too many students, and fail to engage far more, so they argued that a fundamental reworking of secondary school is necessary.

Here are highlights of the commitments the administration announced today. (Additional details of programs, initiatives and other things—and there are a lot—are listed in the White House’s fact sheet about the summit.)

  • i3 grants. Later this week, the administration will announce that it will award the first Investing in Innovation grants to target high schools: $20 million to support reform and redesign of high schools that support low-income students.
  • The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation will lead a funder collaborative to support 1,000 local school leaders nationwide to redesign their schools. Stanford University and the School Retool project will help school leaders create schools that emphasize critical thinking, effective collaboration, and a growth mindset.
  • The Nellie Mae Education Foundation will invest up to $200 million to accelerate student-centered approaches to learning in New England by the year 2020. Those designs will emphasize competency-based education that doesn’t confine itself to the traditional classroom or school day.
  • The Carnegie Corporation of New York has pledged $25 million to back innovative school models “that reimagine the use of time, money, people, and technology, and through catalytic work across the education sector to integrate the elements of school reform, deepen learning about what works, and expand public knowledge of the school models of the future.”
  • The Institute for Student Achievement, a school turnaround model, has pledged to triple the number of high school students it serves, from 250,000 to 750,000, in 22 cities in the next five years. It will build up its career and tech-ed program and focus on STEM education, and on embedding noncognitive skills such as persistence into its instruction.
  • The National Math and Science Initiative with use $100 million in new investments and matching funds to expand its college-readiness program to 300 additional high schools.
  • IBM, which has drawn national attention for its P-Tech school in Brooklyn, will work with governors and the private sector to open an additional 25 P-TECH schools, bringing the total to more than 125 schools that will be in development over the next three years.
  • The New Tech Network has promised to expand by 50 schools in the next two years, bringing the total number of schools using its model to 200 by 2016.
  • The Silicon Schools Fund (SSF) will create a new $40 million fund in the San Francisco Bay area to create 40 innovative schools in the next five years.
  • Linked Learning, a California-based network of schools that focus on blending rigorous academic work with career preparation, has pledged to nearly double the number of students it reaches by the year 2010, to 310,000.
  • EDWorks will raise $12 million in start-up money to open a network of 12 early-college high schools on college campuses in the next five years. It will partner with the Black Belt Community Foundation, the Alabama Automobile Manufacturers Association, Selma City Schools, and others to “create a seamless link between high school, industry certifications, the workforce, and college completion.”
  • Thirteen Change the Equation companies have promised to donate more than 100,000 volunteer hours to bring their employees’ STEM expertise into schools.
  • The Funders’ Collaborative for Innovative Measurement has promised $700,000 to advance research on “hard to measure” interpersonal and intrapersonal skills.
  • The Expanded Learning Middle School Initiative will use a collective investment of $620 million on high-quality expanded-learning opportunities for 1.3 million middle-school students over the next five years.

As we reported to you in a post earlier today, President Barak Obama has been pushing for key elements in U.S. high schools since his 2013 State of the Union address, and he’s been visiting schools that he sees as models for the future, like P-Tech in New York and Worcester Technical High in Massachusetts. Those priorities—things like hands-on and project-based learning, a heavier focus on STEM education—are reflected in the presentations made at the summit by a host of education innovators, and in the financial promises announced on Tuesday.

A version of this news article first appeared in the High School & Beyond blog.