Three National Foundations Launch "New Century High Schoolks Consortium for New Yor City" with New York City Public High Schools

Carol Rava
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Susan King
Carnegie Corporation of New York

Jo-Ann Mort
Open Society Institute

Three major foundations have joined forces in an innovative partnership with New York City’s public schools to redesign some of the city’s large comprehensive high schools that serve approximately 76,000 students across the city. The New Century High Schools Consortium for New York City, established by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Open Society Institute (OSI), will make a five year, $30 million investment that promises effective high schools for all students and the implementation of small-school designs. The partnership was launched today at the Julia Richman Education Complex in Manhattan by foundation leaders, New York City Board of Education chancellor Harold Levy and United Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten, key partners in the consortium.

The consortium is targeting the lowest performing academic comprehensive high schools that serve students from low income neighborhoods and will back plans for both large-school redesign and development of small schools. The consortium expects to choose approximately ten large-scale high school redesigns and sponsor the creation of a number of new secondary schools serving grades 7 through 12. To be eligible for the grants, high schools will compete in a request for proposal (RFP) process that will judge applicants on the strength of their plans, their ability to create collaborations between teachers, school administrators, parents and business leaders.

"Small-school designs have a proven track record of helping all students achieve," says Patty Stonesifer, president and co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "A number of New York City high schools have successfully implemented small-school models and this partnership will help bring these innovations to scale by supporting both new small high schools and the redesign of large high schools."

"All of us in this consortium recognize reforming and redesigning urban high schools is a daunting challenge," says Vartan Gregorian, president of Carnegie Corporation of New York. "After years of elementary and middle school reforms it’s time to bring that energy to high schools. With New York State now requiring high school graduates to pass the Regents English exam and within a few years four others, the country’s largest system cannot afford to be left behind especially when there are such promising models that can make the difference in students’ performance."

"Open Society Institute is pleased to join our partners in this initiative because far too many failing high schools crush the aspirations of poor students of color, and serve as conveyor belts for the criminal justice system, not for the opportunity that is their birthright," said Gara LaMarche, director of U.S. Programs for OSI. "The good news is that we know how to do better, and in this New York City partnership, we will." 

New York City educates more public school students than any other urban district in America and more than a majority of the states. The system includes 1,100,000 students; 267,000 of them attend high school. About 60% of all students in the targeted city schools are eligible for free or reduced price lunchÊan indication of economic need.

"To work well, this consortium must create and support partnerships that will shape and nurture schools that are characterized by personalization, rich and rigorous curricula, effective teaching and learning, and clear pathways to college, technical schools careers and community participation," says Michele Cahill, senior program officer at Carnegie Corporation of New York. "All of us in the consortium understand that no other city has such a challenge of scale, but we also know that no other city has such a strong base of assets of experience and partnership on which to build systemic high school redesign."

New York City has experimented with a number of models for specific high school designs that have been recognized nationally for their innovation, results and targeted approach to teaching. (Attached is a list of some of those school designs.)

"We have a number of high schools in our system that by any measure are successes," says schools chancellor Harold Levy. "This commitment by the foundations ensures that we can spread outÊcarry these ideas and reforms deep into neighborhoods. And at this moment, when the knowledge economy is demanding workers navigate the new economy, the traditional high school cannot prepare students adequately. We are in the midst of an education revolution and we welcome the support from these foundations to invest in our city, in our students and in our teachers. This is an investment with a huge payoff for everyone involved."

Randi Weingarten, president of the teachers union, applauded the New Century High Schools Consortium for New York City for emphasizing the critical role teachers play in such reform. "Research shows the involvement of an adult in a young person’s life during the school experience can be an all-important ingredient. Smaller school design linked with curriculum reform will give teachers more of an opportunity to make that difference." 

The New Century High Schools Consortium for New York City will be administered by New Visions, an education reform organization with experience in small-school development and a proven track record of partnership with the New York City school system. New Visions will coordinate questions about the initiative and administer the RFP process, which will begin in January. The proposal review process will include leaders in all three foundations and a group of outside advisors. Planning grants will be made in the summer of 2001. 

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation ( is dedicated to improving people’s lives by sharing advances in health and learning with the global community. Major priorities include expanding access to vaccines in developing countries, bringing computers with Internet access to libraries throughout North America and providing scholarships to academically talented minority students in the U.S.

Carnegie Corporation of New York was begun by Andrew Carnegie in 1911 for the "advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding" and has an endowment of $1.7 billion as of September 30, 1999. The Corporation expects to issue grants of $75 million in the next year in the areas of education, international peace and security, international development and Special Projects: Civic Engagement for the 21st Century.

The Open Society Institute US Programs ( encourages debates in areas where one view of an issue dominates all others. Among the education programs funded by OSI are a series of youth initiatives, including Urban Debate Program, which seeks to support the institutionalization of competitive high school debate in inner city school districts in New York City and around the country, and a national youth media program. OSI also funds the largest after-school program in New York City. OSI US Programs is part of a network of foundations in nearly 40 countries, created and funded by George Soros.