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Coalition of Essential Schools Receives $18.7 million from Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

CES National to create a network of “mentor schools” across the country

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Marie Groark
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Phone: 206.709.3400

SAN FRANCISCO -- The national office of the Coalition of Essential Schools (CES) announced today that it will receive an $18.7 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to expand and improve its growing network of small and personalized high schools. The CES Small Schools Project, a five-year initiative, will involve the creation of 10 new CES high schools, the improvement of five existing high schools, and the formation of a network of 20 “mentor schools.” The mentor schools will share their innovative practices and offer resources to both the new CES schools and other schools seeking to become more rigorous, personalized and equitable.

Seventy-six percent of the grant funds – about $13.7 million – will go directly to CES schools and regional centers participating in the project. The first group of five mentor schools will be announced at the CES Fall Forum in November 2003 and will be chosen from a geographically diverse group of schools, from California to Massachusetts.  An additional 15 schools will be selected as mentor schools and awarded grants over the next three years. High schools to be chosen as CES mentor schools are small (typically serving fewer than 400 students) and feature highly personalized learning environments that nurture each student’s intellectual passions.  These schools serve large percentages of students who, in other circumstances, would be considered “at risk,” but are graduating high school and entering college at extremely high rates.

 “The CES Small Schools Project helps us build on our 20-year history, expand the CES network and bring the wisdom of some of the country’s most innovative educators to a wider audience,” said Kathy Simon, co-executive director of CES. “With the help of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, we will be able to learn more about how to create schools that engage the hearts and develop the intellects of all young people – and then share what we learn.”

“Large, impersonal high schools, where students tend to get lost in the shuffle, can exacerbate low achievement and poor graduation rates,” said Tom Vander Ark, executive director for education at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “The CES Small Schools Project will help create smaller, more focused high schools that provide personal attention and rigorous coursework to help all students succeed.”

With the help of the mentor schools, the CES Small Schools Project will begin the process of putting together teams to start new schools in December 2003. These schools will be located across the country, in most cases near their mentor schools. The first group of five new school teams will be selected in April 2004, with five more new teams selected in the following year. All new school teams will receive significant grants to support their planning work and the launch of their schools.

In collaboration with the CES regional centers, CES National will help five existing high schools break into smaller, more personalized schools.

The initiative will also include the creation of a Web-based resource for schools interested in creating more equitable, personalized schools, as well as direct financial support for CES’ 17 regional centers to enhance their capacity to start new small schools and support existing ones. 

The Coalition of Essential Schools, founded in 1984 by Theodore Sizer, is an education reform organization dedicated to transforming American public education so that every child in every neighborhood, regardless of race or class, attends a small, intellectually challenging, personalized school.  The CES national office is in Oakland, CA, and there are currently seventeen CES regional centers across the country.
CES schools share a common set of beliefs about the purpose and practice of schooling, known as the CES Common Principles. Based on decades of research and practice, the principles call for all schools to offer:

  • Personalized instruction to address individual needs and interests
  • Small schools and classrooms, where teachers and student know each other well and work in an atmosphere of trust and high expectations
  • Multiple assessments based on performance of authentic tasks 
  • Democratic and equitable school policies and practice 
  • Close partnerships with the school's community

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