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Grant to give Milwaukee students high-quality choices through smaller high schools

$17 million investment to improve graduation rate

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
206-709-3400
Media Inquiries (Press Only)
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Phone: (206) 709-3100
Email: media@gatesfoundation.org

MILWAUKEE -- The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation today announced a $17 million investment to be used to redesign seven large Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) high schools and create 40 new high-quality small high schools throughout the Milwaukee area. The New Vision of Secondary Education grant aims to expand options for students and parents. Thirty of the 40 new high schools will be created within or in partnership with MPS. The additional 10 will be created in conjunction with Alliance for Choices in Education (ACE). 

“The Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC) is thrilled to be the recipient of this grant and we look forward to working with a host of public and private partners to implement this effort,” said Tim Sheehy, MMAC president. Support for the initiative comes from elected officials and business and educational leaders.

The long-term goal of the grant is to improve achievement and graduation rates, and increase the percentage of graduates who are prepared for college by creating stronger, more personalized schools. Only about 60 percent of the district’s high school students currently graduate, according to district statistics.

“We’re confident this grant will help more of our students make it to graduation day,” said MPS Superintendent William Andrekopoulos. “By giving students personal attention, rigorous courses, and close relationships with their teachers and fellow students, we will not only be giving them a better chance to make it in high school, but a better chance to make it in life.”

Milwaukee has led the way in offering students from all economic backgrounds a variety of schooling options with its pioneering parental choice program – the longest running and largest such program in the country – and its strong network of charter schools. Every year, thousands of students take advantage of these programs.

“While Milwaukee has been able to increase the educational options for elementary schools students, there simply aren’t enough high-quality high schools designed to give students the personal attention and challenging courses they need to succeed,” said Howard Fuller, ACE chairman.

Test scores reflect the emphasis on the early years. While the district made dramatic improvements in reading scores among its fourth and eighth-graders between 1998 and 2000, high school reading scores remained stagnant.
 
“Creating new schools throughout the city will give all students the option of a solid education and the promise of a brighter future,” said Tom Vander Ark, executive director of education at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “All parents - regardless of race, economic level or the neighborhood where they live – must have the option that wealthy parents have had for generations: a high-quality education for their children.”

Many education experts believe large high schools, where students tend to get lost in the shuffle, exacerbate low achievement and poor graduation rates. Smaller, more focused high schools that provide students with a personalized education are better suited to helping all types of students succeed. A recent study by the American Research Institute and SRI International showed that relationships between students and teachers are deeper and stronger in small schools than in larger ones.

“A new vision of public education has evolved in Milwaukee,” said Daniel Grego, who is heading the Technical Assistance & Leadership Center (TALC) to support the new small school development. “The whole community has to come together to insure every child is well educated.”
 
MPS has worked hard to create an environment where innovative and unique education models can succeed. It has sought to build teacher leadership models, created a leadership program for administrators that focuses on recruiting, mentoring and coaching small school leaders, and started the Alternative Program Information Center for parents.

UW-Milwaukee Chancellor Nancy Zimpher said, “Milwaukee is uniquely positioned to support a high school restructuring of this magnitude because of the strong relationships that already exist among all of the key partners - MPS, MTEA, MMAC, the Private Industry Council, the universities and other important constituencies — through the Milwaukee Partnership Academy. Together, we will further ensure student success.”

To increase the number of high-quality schools and give students and parents educational options, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has invested more than $450 million to create more than 1,200 small schools around the country.

Milwaukee Public Schools serves over 105,000 students and employs over 6,700 full-time, part-time teachers, and substitute teachers.

For more information on Requests For Proposals(RFP) for the grant, contact TALC at (414) 931-6225.

Milwaukee Public Schools, http://mpsportal.milwaukee.k12.wi.us/

Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, http://www.mmac.org/

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