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New Grant To Dramatically Improve Maine High Schools – Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Foundation commits $10 million to strengthen Maine high schools and help provide students with skills needed to succeed in college and work

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Bonnie Titcomb Lewis
Senator George J. Mitchell Scholarship Research Institute
Phone: 207.773.7700

PORTLAND, Maine -- To give students the skills they need to succeed in college and the workplace, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation today committed $10 million to improve high schools through Maine's Promising Futures initiative. Managed by the Senator George J. Mitchell Scholarship Research Institute, the initiative will create 10 to 12 high schools and strengthen the existing Promising Futures schools across the state. The initiative also will link key education organizations across Maine to share lessons and models of success.

While Maine's high school graduation rate is one of the highest in the nation, fewer than half of its high school graduates go on to college. Just one-quarter of the state's population holds a bachelor's degree. According to recent studies, 65 percent of graduating seniors in Maine say they intend to go on to college, but fewer than half actually enroll.

"Too many high school students in Maine are falling through the cracks," said Tom Vander Ark, executive director of education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "This initiative promises to build on the statewide effort to reform high schools already underway and improve the college-going rate for all of Maine's students."

Several organizations will collaborate with the Mitchell Institute to provide resources and expertise to schools throughout the state. These partner organizations include the Maine Department of Education's Center of Inquiry in Secondary Education, the Southern Maine Partnership at the University of Southern Maine, the Maine School Leadership Network at the University of Maine, the Seymour Papert Institute and the Maine Learning Technology Initiative.

"All of our young people deserve a fair chance to succeed, to go as high and as far as their talents will allow," said Senator George J. Mitchell, founder of the Mitchell Institute. "By implementing Promising Futures and building on the findings of our own report on the barriers faced by Maine students, we will be giving our young people that opportunity to succeed by strengthening their high schools and helping them to prepare for college, work and citizenship."
Maine is one of the only states in the country with a comprehensive effort to reform its high schools. The Department of Education's groundbreaking report on high school reform entitled, "Promising Futures: A Call to Improve Learning for Maine's Secondary Students," is the centerpiece of the state's reform efforts. The 1998 report highlighted the need for more personalized learning environments where students can develop close relationships with teachers, adults and other students, and connect with their communities.

"This major contribution will allow us to build on our work through continued focus on our high schools, strengthening their practice so that every graduate has a real choice to pursue a college education," said Governor Angus S. King, Jr. "The high school years are a critical transition to adult life, and we must prepare each student for continuing education."

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has committed more than $350 million to schools and districts throughout the United States to create new small schools and transform large high schools into smaller learning communities.

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