Last week, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pledged more than $31 million to create a nationwide network of 168 alternative high schools that will serve over 36,000 students who cannot get the support services they need from traditional large comprehensive high schools. The schools will be in cities across the country, including Boston, Denver, Washington, D.C., and Atlanta. The gift is part of a Gates campaign to create no fewer than 1,000 new small schools in the next 18 months.
“When millions of children are not graduating, we have a civic, economic and social disaster on our hands,” said Tom Vander Ark, the foundation’s executive director for education. “This represents nothing short of a massive failure of America’s high schools. The good news is that we can reverse this trend. More students will succeed if communities provide a rich variety of education options, and effective alternative schools are one such option.”
According to research conducted by the Manhattan Institute, between the ninth and 12th grades, more than 1 million students will leave school without a diploma. The problem is even more striking among Hispanics and African Americans, who are only graduating at a rate of 50 percent. The Gates Foundation believes part of the dropout problem can be blamed on large, impersonal high schools that are particularly common in urban and other high-poverty settings.
Read the complete announcement on the Gates Foundation Web site at:http://www.gatesfoundation.org/education/smallhighschools/announcements/announce-030226.htm