The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has announced that it has chosen sixteen public high schools to participate in the Washington State Achievers Program. The schools chosen will share more than $9 million to support improvement and redesign efforts; another $100 million will be earmarked for scholarships for students at these schools.
Launched two months ago, the Washington State Achievement Program is geared to helping more students in the state prepare for, attend, and complete college.
"It needs to start in middle school," said Tom Vander Ark, the foundation's executive director for education. "This program will work with students beginning in middle school, through high school, and even into college. It's a comprehensive approach to addressing issues of access to higher education."
The selected schools, representing a cross-section of the state's public high schools, will move toward learning environments of no more than 100 students per grade level. The average size of the high schools selected is about 1,000 students. Schools will also redesign how they approach teaching and learning, personalized instruction, and the use of technology as a tool.
"The research on small schools is conclusive," said Rick Lear, director of the Small Schools Project at the University of Washington. "Kids thrive when teachers know their names and can follow their progress. Redesigning schools is hard work, but the results are worth every effort invested."
The scholarship component of the program will be administered by the Washington Education Foundation. Under the program, 500 scholarships will be awarded every year to low-income, high achieving students to attend Washington public and independent colleges and universities. Additional information on the scholarship program is available at the Washington Education Foundation Web site (www.waedfoundation.org), or by calling (877) 655-4097