Carnegie Corporation announces $60 million of support for its Schools for a New Society initiative, aimed at transforming high schools in seven cities


Broad-based Partnerships of Schools and Communities in Boston, Chattanooga, Houston, Providence, Sacramento, San Diego and Worcester Receive Multi-Year Foundation Support for Transforming All General High Schools

To help school-reform pioneers in seven cities reinvent the high school experience for more than 140,000 students in more than 100 schools, Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation today committed a total of $60 million to Schools for a New Society, an initiative that aims to reinvigorate efforts to improve high schools around the country.

Over the next five years, school and community partners in six of the cities--Boston, Chattanooga, Providence, Sacramento, San Diego and Worcester--will each receive $8 million, to be matched locally, in carrying out reforms. The seventh city, Houston, because of its larger school district, will receive $12 million. Additional funds will also be invested in technical assistance and evaluating the initiative, which has the goal of effecting sweeping, large-scale reform based on new ideas for secondary education and new expectations of teachers, students, parents, administrators and curricula. During the last 15 months, the Corporation has supported these reform efforts with $2.5 million in planning grants. Now the Corporation is investing $40 million and Gates $20 million in grants to help cities carry out their plans.

Educators say that the nation's general, or comprehensive, high schools in urban areas represent the Mt. Everest of school reform challenges. Years of piecemeal efforts to improve them on a school-by-school basis have typically produced poor results because of unaddressed systemic problems. A common, district-wide problem--one of many addressed by Schools for a New Society--is that nearly half of incoming high school freshmen can't read their textbooks fluently and teachers are not given the time or training to teach literacy skills during all academic classes. Typically, one-third of ninth graders fail several academic courses and fewer than one-third of all entering freshmen graduate within four years from many of these non-specialized high schools. Yet the timing is right for redesigning general high schools because communities have had a lot of experience and success in improving elementary and middle schools.

It is hoped that the initiative's model for systemic change will give a real boost to the high-school reform movement. "We are joining citizens in these seven cities in saying that public high schools, with community support, can become communities of learning that prepare every student for success in our knowledge-based economy and in our knowledge-based democracy," said Vartan Gregorian, president of Carnegie Corporation.

The reform plans vary enormously from place to place, but the districts have common problems and, by participating in the initiative, share some strategies. Reform efforts focus on 85 comprehensive high schools in the seven cities, but plans also include improvements in a score of urban vocational and alternative high schools. Throughout each school district, the vast and impersonal high schools are being reconfigured as small learning communities that foster academic growth and caring relationships and, in many instances, tailor learning to student interests in a particular issue, academic subject or career. Poor reading and math skills, which cripple student success in school, will be addressed with intensive remedial programs as well as by subject teachers who will be trained to emphasize literacy and numeracy skills in nearly every course. Low expectations for success, which often amount to self-fulfilling prophecies, present the toughest challenge. The reformers plan to attack the problem from many angles, which include ending the system of sorting students into academic tracks of widely varying rigor based only upon their apparent aptitude, disregarding their effort and determination to learn. Strategies to raise students' own expectations will include holding all students to high standards; improving support and communications systems; giving students more responsibility for their education and school affairs; and mobilizing each community's business, cultural, educational, religious and recreational resources in the cause of youth development.

Michele Cahill, the Carnegie Corporation senior program officer who designed the Schools for a New Society initiative, said the school-community partnerships in the seven cities were chosen following their participation in a Corporation-supported planning process--which, in turn, began in June 2000 after 21 urban districts with records of innovative leadership had been invited to submit initial proposals. "The winning reform plans," said Cahill, "were chosen on the basis of the depth of their analysis of current problems and the quality and scope of their vision, ideas and goals." The seven partnerships came out on top in terms of a number of selection criteria, including having the political will and a demonstrated ability to forge broad-based partnerships that welcomed businesses, universities, parent groups, youth development agencies and community-based organizations. They also had to designate a coordinating agency to manage the work of the partnership and demonstrate their ability to raise matching funds. The reform proposals were reviewed by Corporation staff and by a panel of external education and youth development experts. Corporation staff will provide technical assistance and support a network for the cities to share and learn from each other.

Tom Vander Ark, executive director of education for Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said: "We are very pleased to support this initiative, which is based on a great deal of educational research as well as common sense. We know that students and teachers tend to thrive in small schools, and these grants will result in dozens of small urban schools."

Cahill said the Schools for a New Society initiative is guided by four "strategic assumptions":

  1. School and community representatives--including students, teachers, school officials and leaders in higher education, politics, unions, business and civic organizations--must jointly redesign their outmoded comprehensive high schools.
  2. Obsolete factory-model high schools must be transformed into learning communities that help all children reach high standards; one approach is to create small schools--or schools within schools--that can create a caring culture of learning. 3) The challenges presented by high schools are systemic and require district-wide leadership and reform. 4) Schools cannot succeed alone. To raise expectations for students and provide the means for them to succeed, school districts must raise community expectations for students and recruit community partners who will share public and private resources in a coordinated effort to help all young people develop into healthy, well-educated, productive citizens.

*Please refer below for a thumbnail description of the seven partnerships, their contact information and a sense of local challenges and reform strategies.

Carnegie Corporation of New York was created by Andrew Carnegie in 1911 to promote "the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding." As a grantmaking foundation, the Corporation seeks to carry out Carnegie's vision of philanthropy, which he said should aim "to do real and permanent good in the world." The Corporation's capital fund, originally donated at a value of about $135 million, had a market value of $1.9 billion on September 30, 2000. The Corporation awards grants totaling approximately $75 million a year in the areas of education, international peace and security, international development and strengthening U.S. democracy.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is dedicated to improving people's lives by sharing advances in health and learning with the global community. Led by Bill Gates' father, William H. Gates, Sr., and Patty Stonesifer, the Seattle-based foundation has an asset base of $24.2 billion.



 The Boston Public Schools and the Boston Plan for Excellence in the Public Schools will implement a high-school reform plan. It is designed to fundamentally transform the structure, instructional strategies and cultures of Boston's 12 large, comprehensive high schools. Currently, most of the 13,000 students in these schools are not meeting competency standards in language arts and mathematics. The plan was developed over the past year by students and teachers as well as by representatives from the district, schools, unions and many community organizations; notably, the Boston Private Industry Council and Jobs for the Future. All are committed to working together to ensure a high-quality high school education for all students in Boston.

During planning, an analysis of student achievement data revealed that that many students are entering high school unable to read well enough to comprehend high school texts. Findings from focus groups of students also revealed a profound sense of student alienation from their schools. The action plan, which is designed to dramatically increase literacy levels and student engagement, represents a significant advance in the promising standards-based reforms underway in the district's elementary and middle schools. The plan for high schools includes a reorganization of the district's comprehensive secondary schools into small learning communities. These small schools will benefit from a new curriculum, which will be supported by intensive professional development and coaching.

As a result of the planning, the district has reorganized the high school governing structure and its professional development system; plans call for designating "effective practice" schools as training centers to provide a system for continuous learning. Jobs for the Future will provide technical assistance to assist in the change to small schools. The Private Industry Council will provide internships and career education. The plan also includes hiring organizers to engage parents and community members, keep them informed about key reform issues, address their concerns and increase collaboration among community organizations. Boston has also created a fund, called Next Steps, to help high schools, institutions of higher education and community partners to help address the problem of student alienation. Innovative projects will be awarded grants averaging between $10,000 and $15,000 per school.

The Boston contacts: Thomas Payzant, Superintendent, Boston Public Schools, 617-227-8055 and Ellen Guiney, Executive Director, Boston Plan for Excellence in the Public Schools, 617-227-8055.


 Like other award winners, the Hamilton County Schools and the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Public Education Fund engaged in a broad-based planning process that resulted in a community-wide and district-wide partnership that is committed to high school reform. The local partners include elected officials from the city and county; district administrators, principals, teachers, parents and students as well as leaders in community organizations, higher education and business.

Driven by the imperative that schools must educate young people for success in the new economy, the partners plan to overhaul the 16 high schools that serve 12,300 students in Chattanooga and its surrounding county. During the planning period, high school principals and teachers analyzed achievement data, barriers to achievement and options for redesigning high schools. While their work was complicated by the diversity of Hamilton County's secondary schools--urban, suburban and rural--their plan reflects the need for all high schools to become true learning communities that engage both adults and young people in challenging courses.

Key aspects of the plan include the elimination of low-level courses in all high schools; increasing the number of low-income and minority students who take rigorous academic courses; creating small learning communities; providing professional development for principals to lead and manage instructional reform; increasing professional development for teachers; expanding the use of literacy coaches--which is an approach used successfully in local middle schools; and, in some schools, adopting a school reform design called Talent Development, which was developed at Johns Hopkins University, and focuses intensive efforts on increasing student achievement in the ninth grade. The State Department of Education has also given the district a special status--similar to that of charter schools--that will give the district more regulatory freedom to create innovative small schools.

The Chattanooga-Hamilton contacts: Jesse Register, Superintendent, Hamilton County Department of Education, 423-209-8600 and Daniel Challener, President, Public Education Foundation, 423-668-2424.


 The Houston Independent School District, the Houston Annenberg Challenge and their school, community, business and higher education partners have developed a comprehensive reform plan. It will dramatically change the city's high schools. Houston, which has the nation's seventh largest school district, serves nearly 50,000 high school students in 23 comprehensive schools, but graduates only 45 percent of them within four years. In June, the district's school board publicly committed that the district is moving its high schools away from "a factory model of instruction to one where students are prepared to thrive in the 21st century."

Partners have developed several major strategies to achieve their goals. High on the list is professional development, including pedagogical training in literacy for teachers of all subjects. School restructuring plans include creating a "change agent" to facilitate reforms and transforming schools into small, personalized and caring learning communities that have a clear focus on a career, academic or thematic topic. Efforts to engage greater public participation include expanding existing partnerships, networks and leadership teams. The action plan builds on the district's prior work in reorganizing management and school accountability, strengthening curriculum and raising the percentage of students, especially students of color, who take rigorous courses. The large high schools will be broken into small learning communities through a variety of approaches, including creating new schools and redesigning comprehensive schools so that they include small learning communities--creating schools within schools. During the planning period, teams of teachers, administrators and students developed school reform plans for each of the 23 high schools as part of a competition, and their work will be incorporated into the reform agenda. District-wide reforms include plans for greatly improving communications and placing about 80 percent of the district's funds under the control of school principals and staff.

The progress of reforms will be monitored by a leadership group comprised of district administrators, principals, teachers, students, staff from the Houston Annenberg Challenge and representatives of other partnership organizations. To ensure that strategies are integrated, Houston Annenberg Challenge will coordinate many partnership efforts, including a five-university consortium working to improve teacher education.

The Houston contacts: Kaye Strippling, Superintendent of Schools, Houston Independent School District, 713-892-6300 and Linda Clarke, Executive Director, Houston Annenberg Challenge, 713-658-1881.


 Providence Public Schools, the Rhode Island Children's Crusade for Higher Education and other community and higher education partners in Providence will work to transform city high schools into learning communities where all students meet or exceed high academic standards and are prepared for success in life. The action plan focuses on improving the "single most important interaction--that between teacher and student." Providence will make this happen primarily by creating small schools, improving instruction and supporting young people's social, emotional and character development.

Providence will restructure its four large high schools, which serve 6,000 students, into small, personalized learning communities to improve instruction and nurture youth. The district will create four-year academies with career themes. The district is also opening new, small schools. One is called a performance-based school; it will have no grade levels and students will progress at their own pace as they meet achievement standards.

Other strategies include setting high standards for all students and employing "principles of youth development in teaching, learning and school organization." Plans call for expanding professional development and coaching, with a special focus on incorporating literacy instruction into each academic discipline. To make schools more relevant, students will be offered more opportunities for community service projects and apprenticeships.

The Providence contacts: Diana Lam, Superintendent, Providence Public Schools, 401-456-9211 and Mary Sylvia Harrison, President and Executive Director, Rhode Island Children's Crusade for Higher Education, 401-854-5500.


 Over the past year, Sacramento has formed a broad-based partnership for high school reform that includes leaders of community organizations representing its diverse population, universities, the City Manager and other public officials, California Department of Education staff, faith-based organizations and business leadership. The Sacramento City Unified School District and Linking Education and Economic Development in Sacramento--as well as school principals, teachers and students--have developed a plan to reinvent the secondary education system. The plan calls for creating an education system that meets the needs of individual students as well as promoting rigor and relevance in academics. It also will create a system designed to support both excellent teaching and maximum student interest in learning. The plan recognizes the need for a transformation in city high schools, where a majority of students are reading and doing math well below grade level. At the center of the transformation will be the creation of small learning communities.

To create small learning communities across the district, teachers, students, parents and community members will divide each of the eight large high schools, which now serve nearly 13,000 students, into six-to-ten small, autonomous learning communities. To support this redesign, Sacramento is developing a model program for professional development and supervision. The model emphasizes standards for academic content and a core curriculum--as well as building students' skills in reading, writing and language in all subjects. Sacramento's plan includes strengthening principal leadership--and support for this effort comes from the Broad Foundation. Linking Education and Economic Development in Sacramento will work with all high schools on increasing young people's access to career and higher education opportunities.

The Sacramento contacts: Jim Sweeney, Superintendent, Sacramento City Unified School District, 916-264-4000 and Brenda Gray, Executive Director, Linking Education and Economic Development in Sacramento, 916-641-4180.


 The San Diego Unified School District and the Center for Research on Educational Equity and Teaching Excellence have developed a district-wide plan that is strongly focused on increasing student achievement by improving instruction and instructional leadership. It builds on the district's vision and commitment to equity and excellence.

Curriculum reforms will target two major problems at 18 comprehensive high schools that serve 31,300 students: only about one in three high school graduates meet course requirements for admission to California state colleges and universities. And of those who go to college, a majority require remedial courses. The action plan calls for expanding the district's intensive professional development program, with a strong emphasis on literacy. Reformers will also expand the district's highly regarded "genre literacy" model, which has resulted in significantly improved reading skills among adolescents with the weakest skills. The plan also calls for the district to phase in smaller schools over the five-year period of the grant.

The Center for Research on Educational Equity and Teaching Excellence will expand its existing partnerships with schools. The San Diego Dialogues will coordinate activities of community and business leaders, engage them in the reform process and encourage them to increase their contributions as the plan unfolds.

The San Diego contacts: Alan Bersin, Superintendent of Public Education, San Diego City Schools, 619-725-5506 and Anthony Alvarado, Chancellor Instruction, San Diego City Schools, 619-725-7104, and Hugh Mehan, Director, Center for Research on Education Equity and Teaching Excellence, University of California, San Diego, 858-822-2271.


 To create effective public schools for all young people in Worcester, a broad-based partnership has produced an ambitious plan with support from a community that has mobilized around high school reform. The partners include the Worcester Education Partnership--which was formed by the Worcester Public Schools--along with Clark University, the teachers union and other leaders in higher education, business and civic organizations. The plan builds on the district's proven strategies and partnerships, which have boosted student achievement in elementary and middle schools. At the same time, the reformers acknowledge that it will be more challenging to improve the four comprehensive high schools that serve 7,500 students. The plan aims to increase student achievement in their city's high schools, which have been hamstrung in their educational efforts by their large size and compartmentalization. Worcester is planning to create new schools and cultures to create more caring, educational environments. They will also be designed to give students a greater sense of purpose as well as greater sense of relevance to the worlds of work, community and higher education. The plan also calls for schools to develop a richer and more rigorous curriculum through a partnership with the College Board and local institutions of higher education. In the same vein, teachers will use new instructional methods designed to increase student engagement and persistence.

Central to the reform plan is redesigning Worcester's large comprehensive high schools as small schools that foster high levels of academic achievement, healthy youth development and good use of community resources. Partners in higher education and the arts will pair with schools to develop thematic and career-oriented educational programs. District-wide, there will be an increased emphasis on literacy and numeracy across the curriculum and an expansion of professional development for principals and teachers, including more time for teachers to share best practices and create inter-disciplinary plans. Students will be given more responsibility in academic, social and service realms of school life as part of an effort to promote youth development.

The Worcester contacts: James Caradonio, Superintendent, Worcester Public Schools, 508-799-3115 and Thomas Del Prete, Director, Jacob Hiatt Center for Urban Education, Clark University, 508-793-7197.