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New Report: High School Models Show Promise in Increasing Nation’s Graduation and College-readiness Rates

School leadership cited as key to new school success; New Leaders for New Schools receives $10 million to expand leadership training nationwide

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
206-709-3400
Marie Groark
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Phone: 206.709.3400
Email: media@gatesfoundation.org

SEATTLE -- A report examining student data at model “small-scale” high schools, representing a larger network of more than 135 schools, found that these newly designed schools are making significant progress in helping all of their students graduate prepared for college. Rethinking High School: Five Profiles of Innovative Models for Student Success, by WestEd, a nonprofit education research, development, and service organization, also found that these schools share certain characteristics key to their success, including an emphasis on strong school leadership.

Demonstrating their commitment to helping high schools develop effective leaders, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation today announced a $10 million investment in New Leaders for New Schools. This grant will support the recruitment and development of 127 new principals to lead small high schools across the country, each working to help all students graduate and prepare for college. New Leaders will launch an unprecedented effort to recruit and train a national corps of 2000 urban school leaders over the next decade—including 550 leaders over the next four years in Chicago; Memphis, Tenn.; New York City; Oakland, Calif.; Washington, D.C; and other cities to be designated. 

Nationally, nearly one-third of all students fail to graduate from high school and two-thirds of all students are not prepared for college success, according to a Manhattan Institute report also released today. Just half of African-American and Hispanic youth make it to graduation day and fewer than 20 percent are ready for college-level academics.

The report from WestEd, which was also funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, features small secondary schools that are new high schools. The models are representative of a growing network of more focused, academically rigorous high schools specifically designed to increase graduation rates and prepare all students for success in college and work. Each network uses instruction and design philosophies to improve student outcomes, especially among traditionally underserved youth.

“Our research finds these five high schools are doing what they set out to do: They are creating an environment where all students can excel—even those who have traditionally struggled,” said Tracy Huebner, senior researcher at WestEd. “The study shows it is possible to reverse the nation's alarming drop-out rates through schools, which are carefully designed to help all students meet academic success.”

The report cites strong school leadership as a critical component for any effective school. To that end, New Leaders will expand their efforts to transform public education through the selection and development of a new generation of outstanding urban public school principals. The foundation’s decision to make this investment reflects an understanding that great principals are critical to ensuring high-quality schools.

“The evidence is clear: you can’t start or change a company without a great CEO, and you can’t start or change a school without a great principal,” Said New Leaders co-founder and CEO Jon Schnur.

WestEd researchers found that students at all of the schools significantly improved their skills, even though many were performing below grade level when admitted to the school. In each of these communities, there is great interest and demand for these programs; on average, waiting lists at each school have about 200 students seeking admission. 

“If we fail to prepare all of our nation’s young people for college and work, the economic and civic health of our nation will continue to be at risk,” said Tom Vander Ark, executive director of education at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “These findings not only hold great promise for the schools featured in the report, but for students at hundreds of new schools embracing similar philosophies across the country. Strong leaders, like those trained by New Leaders for New Schools are critical to this effort.”

The models profiled in the WestEd report are: TechBoston (Boston), Chicago International Charter School Northtown Academy (Chicago), Arrupe Jesuit High School (Denver), Dayton Early College Academy (Dayton, Ohio), and High Tech High (San Diego). Also released today is a companion WestEd report, Rethinking High School: An Introductory Report from New York City, which analyzes data from new small high schools serving low-income and minority youth in New York and profiles the Marble Hill School for International Studies (Bronx, N.Y.).

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and its partners support the creation of new high-quality high schools and efforts to transform existing low-performing ones to help give students and parents high-quality options. More than 400 new small high schools opened across the country supported, in part, by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. To date, the foundation has invested nearly $1.2 billion on efforts designed to improve education for all young people, including supporting the creation of more than 2,000 high-quality schools in 41 states and the District of Columbia.

For more information on the WestEd report, Rethinking High School: Five Profiles of Innovative Models for Student Success, visit: www.wested.org.

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WestEd is a nonprofit research, development, and service agency, works with education and other communities to promote excellence, achieve equity, and improve learning for children, youth, and adults. While WestEd serves the states of Arizona, California, Nevada, and Utah as one of the nation's Regional Educational Laboratories, our agency's work extends throughout the United States and abroad. It has 17 offices nationwide, from Washington and Boston to Arizona, Southern California, and its headquarters in San Francisco.  For more information about WestEd: visit www.wested.org; call 415.565.3000 or, toll free, 877.4.WestEd; or write: WestEd, 730 Harrison Street, San Francisco, CA 94107-1242

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