KnowledgeWorks Foundation Receives Multimillion Dollar Grants for Public Education in Ohio

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The monies, totaling $31.5 million from KnowledgeWorks Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Ford Foundation will be used to undertake major initiatives to improve urban education in Ohio.

every child to succeed is my top priority as Governor, and I thank the KnowledgeWorks Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Ford Foundation for contributing substantial private resources for statewide initiatives focused on improving student achievement in Ohio's urban school districts," said Governor Bob Taft. "Ohio will be an active participant in this unique partnership, which promises to help us build on the progress we are seeing in our schools."

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has committed $20 million, which will be matched with $5 million from KnowledgeWorks Foundation, to create new small schools and transform large, impersonal high schools into smaller schools in four to six urban districts throughout the state. These small schools will provide students with rigorous, personalized learning environments in which they can achieve new levels of success. In both settings, more personalized environments will be created and feature high expectations for students, improved teaching and learning. The programs will also create an ongoing Leadership Training Institute where teachers, principals and district leaders will be provided in-depth professional development opportunities.

"It is very clear that Ohio is committed to creating great small schools in which all students can achieve," said Tom Vander Ark, executive director for education at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "Small schools provide a safe environment in which students can focus on their studies and ultimately graduate from high school prepared for college, work and civic contribution."

The Ford Foundation has committed $5 million along with $1.5 million from KnowledgeWorks Foundation to Project GRAD Ohio (Graduation Really Achieves Dreams), a comprehensive strategy for improving the success of large numbers of students in urban school systems. By aligning classroom instruction with the support of extensive social service and parental involvement, heavy emphasis on early reading, literacy and math as well as guaranteed scholarships, Project GRAD is designed to increase graduation and college attendance rates of students in urban schools. Project GRAD will be uniquely implemented in Ohio urban districts within the context of the small schools initiative.

"It's a great opportunity for the Ford Foundation to be collaborating with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in our joint efforts to support work that we hope will lead to dramatic improvements in public schools throughout the State of Ohio. We also hope that this initial collaboration between two of the largest foundations in the United States will lead to additional joint ventures in coming years," said Steven Zwerling, senior program officer for the Ford Foundation.

Ohio is unique in that this is the place where these prominent and successful initiatives intersect. KnowledgeWorks Foundation is pleased to serve as the operating intermediary in Ohio for the work of these national foundations. Throughout the project, KnowledgeWorks will collaborate with a Stakeholder Advisory Group, consisting of a representative from the Governor's office, Ohio Department of Education, members of important statewide education organizations and leaders across the state.

"The Ohio Federation of Teachers welcomes the opportunity to partner with other education associations and leaders around the state to improve Ohio's urban high schools. Our membership supports this important work, and is grateful to KnowledgeWorks Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for their leadership. The goal of our teachers is to help every student learn and succeed, and that is best achieved in the context of supportive learning environments such as those that will be created through this initiative," said Tom Mooney, president of Ohio Federation of Teachers.

Some Ohio communities have already started down the path of small school reform as evidenced by the success of the small school-oriented Freshman Academy located at Timken High School in Canton, Ohio and by the work of other districts to build schools that have small school learning environments and are centers of community.

To participate in the small schools initiative, urban districts will be invited to participate in an RFP process. The Ohio Department of Education will provide initial planning grants to assist in the development of proposals and districts will have the opportunity to attend an Urban High School Institute to learn more about the research on small schools. Based upon proposals submitted, districts will be selected for full planning grants, at which time they will outline their vision for the new small schools and identify implementation methods. Implementation grants will then be awarded to support professional development and other expenses associated with transforming schools and creating new schools. KnowledgeWorks will provide technical assistance and support from field advisors to participating districts throughout the process. These unique school environments will begin to open in Fall 2004.

"We cannot continue to run high schools as we have in the past if we want different results for all our students. School size is one important component of these new schools. To improve student achievement, these schools additionally must have high, clear academic standards, stimulating curriculum and caring, competent teachers," said Dr. Susan T. Zelman, Ohio's superintendent for public instruction.

"We are proud to be named intermediary for these initiatives by the most influential foundations in the country. And while urban districts have been chosen for launch, we recognize there is a need throughout the state. We will share best practices and the lessons learned from this and encourage other schools to begin small school initiatives. The districts not participating initially will have the opportunity to make use of training resources and leadership development aspects of both initiatives," said Chad P. Wick, president and CEO of KnowledgeWorks Foundation.

KnowledgeWorks Foundation is Ohio's largest public education philanthropy. KnowledgeWorks Foundation provides funding and leadership for education initiatives throughout the state and is focused on creating and improving educational opportunities. The Foundation is committed to sharing knowledge gained and lessons learned with others in Ohio and across the nation to help inform public policy. Learn more about KnowledgeWorks Foundation at www.kwfdn.org.

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