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$11 Million Grant Awarded to San Diego City Schools (SDCS) and New American Schools (NAS) to Create High-Quality Choices for Students in San Diego

Creation of 18 small high schools aims to improve student achievement, graduation rates and college preparedness

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Steven Baratte
San Diego City Schools
Phone: 619.725.5570

Louise Kennelly
New American Schools
Phone: 240.683.6882

SAN DIEGO -- The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awarded an $11 million grant to San Diego City Schools (SDCS) and New American Schools (NAS) to transform three large San Diego high schools into high-performing small learning communites. The under-performing high schools will be reorganized into 18 small, rigorous schools designed to increase student achievement and high school graduation rates. The grant will also support strategies for redesigning the district’s alternative education system, including the development of middle college high schools.

"This grant will help us bring a diverse portfolio of high-quality schools to all San Diego students," said San Diego City Schools Superintendent Alan Bersin. "By offering students and their families a variety of options, we know we can increase high school graduation and college attendance rates."

The primary goals of the programs that will be supported by the grant are to increase the number of college-ready SDCS high school graduates, particularly among low-income and minority populations, and to improve students’ post-secondary options, whether college, technical training or the world of work.

"We’ve already witnessed how small high schools benefit students," said Mary Anne Schmitt, president and CEO of New American Schools, which was founded to support breakthrough school designs "Now we must give all of our kids the chance to graduate high school, attend college, and go on to succeed in their chosen career."

Breaking down large, impersonal high schools into small learning communities is one aspect of San Diego’s ongoing, comprehensive reform plan, the Blueprint for Student Success. It focuses on providing rigorous curricula, enhanced teacher and administrator leadership, high-quality resources, and increased parent and community involvement.

In San Diego City Schools, the second largest district in California, just 62 percent of high school students graduate, and only one in three leave high school prepared to do college work, according to a Manhattan Institute study. The situation for Hispanic and African-American students, who total over 55 percent of the school district, is even grimmer. Fewer than half of Hispanic students and only 54 percent of African-American students make it to graduation day.

Evidence shows that good small high schools offer increased personalization, provide rigorous coursework, cultivate positive adult-student relationships, and better prepare students for college and work. According to multiple studies, students in good small high schools pass more courses, graduate, and go on to college in greater numbers than those in large schools. These positive outcomes appear to be greatest for low-income and minority students.

"San Diego’s young people deserve a solid high school education that prepares them for college and the world beyond," said Tom Vander Ark, executive director of education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "These new schools will ensure that students receive the personal attention, strong course of study and rigorous learning needed to succeed in high school, college and beyond."

Grant Builds on Previous Partnerships
The $11 million grant builds on two previous partnerships between San Diego City Schools and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In 2001, the foundation joined the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation to grant $22.5 million to support the city’s Blueprint for Student Success. Also in 2001, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York jointly granted $8 million to improve instruction and college preparation at 18 comprehensive high schools in San Diego.

This new investment is part of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s overall strategy to help create a diverse portfolio of small school options to meet students’ needs. To date, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has invested more than $670 million to support 1,800 schools nationwide.

New American Schools (NAS) is a leading provider of professional services and investment in K-12 education, and is committed to helping all students succeed by shaping, supporting and sustaining system-wide innovation and improvement in learning. As a business-led nonprofit organization, NAS and its strategic partners provide support to state departments of education, school districts, charter authorizers, and networks of districts, offering key stakeholders the tools and external assistance needed to facilitate and sustain both student and adult learning.

San Diego City Schools (SDCS) serving approximately 140,000 students, San Diego City Schools is the second largest school district in California, with more than 200 educational facilities and more than 17,000 employees. SDCS is improving student achievement through a focus on basic education skills in reading, writing and mathematics. The district is committed to supporting schools and enhancing the classroom learning environment through modernized facilities and resources and through parent, teacher and community involvement in the educational process.

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