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Daley Seeks Broad Strategy to Create “High Schools of Tomorrow”

$11.2 million in grants funds systemwide reform strategy and new schools

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Celeste Garrett
Chicago Public Schools

Mayor’s Press Office

CHICAGO --  Mayor Richard M. Daley, joined by a coalition of education organizations, today announced grants of more than $11 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to support a broad effort to improve Chicago public high schools and advance the Mayor’s school reform program. The grants fund development of a comprehensive strategy to oversee district-wide high school reform, help create new high schools, and support principal development initiatives.

At the announcement, Mayor Daley said, “Our high schools are really the last frontier in Chicago’s journey to create the best urban school system in America. We need a strategy to turn around our entire system of high schools and make them all high schools of tomorrow.”

Daley explained that Renaissance 2010 is focused only on the lowest-performing schools, whereas the high school reform strategy will focus on every high school in the system. According to recent research, barely half of Chicago’s high school students graduate, and only 47 percent of the graduates go on to college.

“Chicago’s no worse off than other large urban districts, but one district must be the first in the nation to change these statistics. One district has to find a way to ensure that students are prepared for success after high school. That district will be Chicago,” Daley said.

Today’s grant to CPS will help fund a comprehensive analysis of Chicago’s public high schools and the development of a clear vision for change. The grant supports CPS in conducting focus groups and holding meetings with hundreds of students, educators, civic and community leaders, speaking with local and national education experts, reviewing and analyzing data and surveying every single Chicago high school teacher, administrator and counselor. CPS will complete the analysis this summer and produce a broad set of ideas for moving forward. After completing this first phase, CPS will seek additional foundation funding to implement the strategy.

CPS Chief Executive Officer Arne Duncan said, “We’re listening to and learning from thousands of people involved in our high schools. This is the most comprehensive approach we have ever taken and will give us a great roadmap for systemwide change and improvement.”

Additional grants announced today support organizations focused on raising high school graduation rates and better preparing students for college. Grantees include: the University of Chicago, New Leaders for New Schools, Noble Network of Charter Schools, Perspectives Charter School, and Parents United for Responsible Education (PURE).

“It’s been our experience that a district-wide vision aimed at improving graduation rates coupled with community-based investments in new schools and parent supports are critical,” said Tom Vander Ark, executive director of education, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “The success of these combined strategies will ultimately enable all Chicago high school students to graduate as strong citizens prepared for college and work.”

Today’s grants from the Gates Foundation build upon an existing partnership that led to the creation of several successful small and charter high schools in Chicago. Two models funded today, Noble Network of Charter Schools and Perspectives Charter School, have both achieved early success in raising levels of student achievement and increasing the percentage of graduates who go to college. The graduation rate over the last three years at Perspectives was 100 percent, with 93 percent going on to college. At Noble Street Charter School, students had the highest composite score on the Prairie State Achievement Exam of all charter schools in the city.

At the same time, Chicago has created a Department of Postsecondary Education that has focused on preparing students for college. In addition to spearheading implementation of AVID, a college-prep program for mid-tier students, the department has created a web-based Choices Planner portfolio for all students in grades 7-12 to help map out college and career decisions, established online financial aid centers to help students search for college and scholarship information, organized summer programs on college campuses and put postsecondary coaches in 12 high schools.

Today’s announcement includes investments in:

  • Chicago Public Schools ($2.3 million) to develop a comprehensive strategy for managing a portfolio of high performing high schools. The Boston Consulting Group and the American Institutes for Research will support this effort. Contact: Celeste Garrett, 773-553-1620

  • University of Chicago ($6 million) to the University’s Center for Urban School Improvement (CUSI) to open two charter schools, and incubate and support seven additional high schools in Chicago as part of a strategy to create a research and development network of schools across the south side. Contact: Bill Harms, 773-702-8356

  • New Leaders for New Schools ($786,000) to foster high levels of academic achievement by recruiting, training, placing, and supporting the next generation of outstanding principals for Chicago public schoolsnew and existing. This grant will support approximately 20 New Leaders for new secondary schools and is part of a $10 million investment in principals for 127 new small high schools across the nation.  Contact: Kathleen Weaver, 312-829-6725

  • Noble Network of Charter Schools ($1.4 million) to fund two new schools and develop the infrastructure necessary to support additional schools based on the Noble Street model in Chicago. Contact:  Ron Manderscheid, 773-862-1449

  • Perspectives Charter School: ($550,000) to help fund one new school and develop the infrastructure necessary to support additional schools throughout Chicago based on the Perspectives model. Contact:  Martha Lincoln, 312-604-2128

  • Parents United for Responsible Education: ($200,000) to promote effective parent-school partnerships in the Chicago school system. Contact: Julie Woestehoff, 312-491-9101

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and its partners are focused on increasing graduation rates by supporting the creation of new high-quality high schools and the transformation of existing low-performing high schools into more focused and effective schools. To date, the foundation has invested $1 billion to improve high schools, including supporting the creation of more than 1,500 high-quality high schools in 40 states and the District of Columbia. This commitment builds on previous foundation investment of more than $30 million in support of Chicago-area schools.

The Boston Consulting Group, Inc. is a strategic management consulting firm. It was founded in 1963 and now has 60 offices in 37 countries. Its primary focus is corporate and business strategy and driving large scale organizational change. It has served organizations in all major industries and developed countries and also has offices and clients in several developing countries.

AIR, founded in 1946, is one of the largest educational research organizations in the world. It is a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization with substantial expertise in school system reform, program evaluation and accountability, student assessment and teacher professional development.

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