Education Funding

Gates Grants to Assist With 168 Alternatives To Traditional Schools

By Caroline Hendrie — March 05, 2003 3 min read

As part of a broader push to create hundreds of small, personalized high schools across the country, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced the launch last week of a five-year, $31 million, initiative to start 168 alternative schools geared to young people who are falling through the cracks in traditional high schools.

Awards ranging from $887,500 to $6.3 million apiece will go to eight organizations, with a ninth grant of $1.9 million going to the Big Picture Co., which will coordinate the initiative. The Big Picture Co. is currently in the fourth year of a five-year, $4.1 million grant from the Gates Foundation to replicate the Metropolitan Regional Career and Technical Center, or the “Met,” an alternative school it runs in the nonprofit organization’s hometown of Providence, R.I.

Tom Vander Ark, the Seattle-based foundation’s executive director for education, said the grant recipients subscribe to the Met’s approach of marrying a commitment to high academic expectations with an individualized, supportive environment for students who have had trouble in other settings. (“What’s Up, Doc?,” April 28, 1999.)

“They combine rigor, relevance, and relationship in unique ways with the goal of preparing every student for college and work,” Mr. Vander Ark said. “In many of these schools, students leave with the skills to get and keep a family- wage job, but they’re also prepared for further education.”

The largest single grant will go to the Georgia chapter of Communities in Schools, a national nonprofit group based in Alexandria, Va. The grant to the Atlanta- based chapter, which currently runs two alternative schools and plans to raise that total to 25 over three years, was trumpeted at a press conference last week by state schools Superintendent Kathy Cox.

Another top recipient is YouthBuild USA, a national nonprofit group based in Somerville, Mass., that runs 200 programs that allow former dropouts to prepare for General Educational Development exams or earn their high school diplomas while helping to build affordable housing. The organization will use the grant to strengthen its 23 diploma-granting sites, including 19 charter schools, and to create 10 more.

Tim Cross, the vice president of field services for YouthBuild, called the Gates initiative “an amazing opportunity” that will ultimately help participants amplify the voice of dropouts in national discussions of how to improve education.

“We think it’s really important that their experience not be lost in this debate,” he said.

Scaling Up

Other grant recipients include two national organizations based in the nation’s capital— one representing municipal governments and the other focused on helping expand educational choices for black parents—as well a charter school located there.

A Denver-based network of Christian alternative schools also is receiving funding, along with a community college in Oregon that already runs alternative high schools serving 1,500 students.

Dennis Littky, the co- director of the Big Picture Co., said he hopes his experience in quickly replicating an alternative, but academically oriented, school model will help ease the way for other grant recipients trying to pull off a similar feat.

“The hope is it helps everybody: We learn from them, they learn from us,” Mr. Littky said.

The Gates Foundation is in the midst of a major national initiative to foster and replicate successful small schools and to break up existing, large high schools, especially those in urban areas. Such a broad-scale assault on the prevailing approach to secondary schooling is justified, the foundation asserts, by worrisome dropout rates and forecasts that the high school population will double by 2009.

To reverse what he called “a massive failure of America’s high schools,” Mr. Vander Ark said school and civic leaders need to assemble “portfolios of options” that include more of the kinds of alternative schools that the latest grants will support.

The grants announced last week will be supplemented by additional fund- raising efforts by the recipients, foundation officials said. They added that the $31 million will cover, on average, roughly 70 percent of the costs of the projects being supported.

Since March 2000, the Gates Foundation has committed more than $400 million to help establish or strengthen nearly 1,100 small, personalized high schools, foundation officials report. That includes nearly 230 new schools, in addition to the 168 alternative schools to be supported by the latest grants.

Mr. Vander Ark said the foundation would announce efforts bringing the new schools’ total to around 1,000 over the next 18 months.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Equity, Care and Connection: New SEL Tools and Practices to Support Students and Adults
As school districts plan to welcome students back into buildings for the upcoming school year, this is the perfect time to take a hard look at both our practices and our systems to build a
Content provided by Panorama Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Classroom Technology Webinar
Here to Stay – Pandemic Lessons for EdTech in Future Development
What technology is needed in a post pandemic district? Learn how changes in education will impact development of new technologies.
Content provided by AWS
School & District Management Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Strategies & Tips for Complex Decision-Making
Schools are working through the most disruptive period in the history of modern education, facing a pandemic, economic problems, social justice issues, and rapid technological change all at once. But even after the pandemic ends,

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Funding Schools Can Help Families Apply for Federal Help in Paying for Home Internet Access
Families who qualify for the free and reduced-price lunch program can get $50 off their monthly broadband bills.
2 min read
Image of a child's hand on a keyboard.
kiankhoon/IStock/Getty
Education Funding Miguel Cardona's First Budget Hearing Becomes Forum on In-Person Learning, 1619 Project
In his first public testimony to Congress as education secretary, Cardona also touched on standardized testing and student discipline.
6 min read
Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, right, talks to 12th grade art student Madri Mazo at White Plains High School in White Plains, N.Y. on April 22, 2021.
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, left, talks to 12th grade art student Eugene Coleman at White Plains High School in White Plains, N.Y. in April.
Mark Lennihan/AP
Education Funding States Are Waffling Over Billions in K-12 Federal Relief. Schools Are Getting Antsy.
Schools in some states have already started spending money from recent federal stimulus packages. Others don’t yet have the dollars in hand.
6 min read
Conceptual image of money dropping into a jar.
iStock/Getty
Education Funding Opinion The COVID-19 Stimulus Money Won’t Last Forever. Here’s What's Next for Schools
There are three important first steps for states to start helping schools prepare now, write two policy experts.
Zahava Stadler & Victoria Jackson
5 min read
a group of people water a lightbulb plant, nurturing an idea
iStock/Getty Images