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Major Grant Supports New Four-State Partnership on Redefining High School
$1 Million from Nellie Mae Education Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation creates the New England Secondary School Consortium
December 15, 2008
AUGUSTA – Maine and three other New England states announced a groundbreaking regional partnership aimed at transforming high school for the 21st century in separate events across New England on Monday. Armed with a $1 million grant from the Nellie Mae Education Foundation and coordinated by the Great Schools Partnership at the Mitchell Institute, the New England Secondary School Consortium will redefine the traditional concept of the American High School to ensure that every student in the four states is competitive with his or her peers worldwide when it comes to academic performance and educational attainment.
Maine Governor John E. Baldacci, Education Commissioner Susan A. Gendron, educators, legislators, and other key stakeholder groups participated in the Maine press event in the Governor’s cabinet room on Monday. Rhode Island and Vermont also held similar press events on Monday and New Hampshire issued a press release. The governors and commissioners have pledged full support for the initiative. The announcement comes the week after the same four states announced collaboration on a common assessment program.
The Consortium has set five ambitious and specific goals: increasing the graduation rate to 90 percent; decreasing the drop-out rate to less than one percent; increasing the percentage of students who in enroll in a two- or four-year college to 80 percent; reducing the need for college developmental/remedial courses to 5 percent; and ensuring that more students who enter college graduate from college.
At the transformed high schools of the near-future, students will not be limited by building design, geography or educational convention. They will conduct research in their communities, acquire real-world skills through challenging internships, take online and on-campus college courses, use powerful new technologies to access the world, and engage in other innovative learning opportunities both inside and outside the classroom.
“The Consortium is built in part on an agreement that, contrary to the experiences of students a century ago, the skills needed by college-bound and work-bound students are the same,” said Governor Baldacci. “Our new partnership will bring bold, transformative innovations to the design and delivery of secondary education.”
“Maine has already made great strides in connecting and bridging the high-school experience with postsecondary options,” said Maine Education Commissioner Susan Gendron. “Working with the Consortium will allow us to pursue international standards and to explore the best ways to provide learners with the quality and variety that they need in a global society and economy. This partnership brings the sorely needed resources, tools, intellectual talent, and support our state needs to take our efforts to the next level.”
“For the past five years, I have had the pleasure of working with several high schools across Maine that are engaged in the challenging—but urgent and necessary—work of transforming their academic programs and teaching practices to make sure that every student graduates prepared for college, careers, and civic responsibility,” said Mark Kostin, Senior Associate for the Great Schools Partnership. “One of the keys to lasting school improvement is providing opportunities for educators from a variety of backgrounds to collaborate and learn from one another. Now students in every corner of these four states will benefit from the collective wisdom and growing expertise of the Consortium.”
The $1 million grant from Nellie Mae Education Foundation, the largest philanthropy in New England focused exclusively on education, includes a $500,000 partnership grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The grant provides initial support for the work of the Consortium.
During the initial eighteen-month phase of the multi-year effort, the participating states will conduct a comprehensive review of the rules, regulations, and laws governing education. The resulting policy map will inform the development of new state and local policies that will stimulate educational innovation, encourage the implementation of new models of teaching and learning, require personalized support for each student, and clarify performance expectations for both educators and students.
“We’re thrilled to be working with the Consortium and the Gates Foundation to stimulate the transformative change needed in our public schools,” said Nicholas C. Donohue, president and CEO of the Nellie Mae Education Foundation. “We also remain open to extending membership to the rest of the New England community as the work of the Consortium develops. This is a tremendous opportunity to ensure that learners across New England acquire the skills and knowledge necessary today to be economically self-sufficient, lifelong learners.”
“Far too many young people leave high school without the education they need or deserve,” said Andrew Smiles, Program Officer with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “We are proud to partner with the Nellie Mae Education Foundation and are excited about the prospect this work holds for improving education in New England and beyond.” The Consortium will also undertake a wide-ranging examination of state learning standards, teaching strategies, assessment practices, professional-development programs, and student outcomes in relation to the highest-performing international educational systems. New England students are part of a global community that has redefined the knowledge, skills, and habits of mind that students need, and this work will identify the characteristics of effective education in the 21st century and apply these lessons to the creation of new models of teaching, learning, and leading.
In addition to building in-state educational networks that will connect state agencies, and support organizations, postsecondary institutions, districts, and schools, the Consortium will also collaborate with the Council of Chief State School Officers, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, and the New England Board of Higher Education to bring greater coordination and alignment to the promotion of best practices and common expectations across the region.
A steering council consisting of representatives from governors’ offices and key legislative, education, and business leaders will be established to guide and build support for the Consortium’s work. More information on the Consortium can be found at: www.newenglandssc.org.
The Nellie Mae Education Foundation is the largest philanthropy in New England that focuses exclusively on education. The Foundation provides grants and other support to education programs and intermediary organizations in order to stimulate transformative change in public education systems and ensure that all New England’s learners are prepared for success. The Foundation investigates, promotes and supports a greater variety of high-quality educational opportunities that enable all citizens—especially and essentially those from underserved populations—to obtain the skills, knowledge and supports necessary to become civically-engaged, economically self-sufficient, life-long learners. Since it was established in 1998, the Foundation has distributed nearly $83 million in grants. Currently, it primarily provides funding through five strategic initiatives: Early Learning, Pathways to Higher Learning, Time for Learning, Adult Learning, and Systems Building. www.gatesfoundation.org.
The Great Schools Partnership at the Mitchell Institute works to redesign and strengthen public and private education to improve the quality of learning for all students. With decades of collective service in support of public secondary schools, the Partnership develops cutting-edge tools and resources, oversees the implementation of major public and private grants, and provides school coaching, professional development, technical assistance, and consulting to educators, schools, districts, organizations, and government agencies. The Partnership is led by J. Duke Albanese, former commissioner of education for the state of Maine, and David Ruff, former executive director of the Southern Maine Partnership at the University of Southern Maine. More at: www.greatschoolspartnership.org.
David Connerty-Marin, Maine Department of Education, 207-624-6880 | Nick Lorenzen, Nellie Mae Education Foundation, 781-348-4239 | Stephen Abbott, Great Schools Partnership, 207-773-0505
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