|Office of the Chancellor / Public Affairs||
Wednesday, December 8, 2004
Contra Costa Times 12-8-04
Nontraditional schools get boost
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced Tuesday that it will give $30 million in grants to increase the number of nontraditional high schools nationwide where at-risk students can earn college and high school credit at the same time.
The Middle College National Consortium, of which Middle College High School in San Pablo is a member, will receive $6 million. The money will be used to open 10 new schools in California and five other states starting in fall 2006.
Antioch University in Seattle will use its $6.1 million to expand its programs for Native American students into California and several other states by 2008. Overall, the money will be spread among eight groups.
The idea is to replicate the success of schools like Middle College, which opened on the Contra Costa Community College campus in 1989. The 260-student school, which is 25 percent African-American and 38 percent Latino, has an Academic Performance Index of 811 -- the highest of all West Contra Costa school district high schools. Last year, the graduation rate among seniors was 100 percent, said principal Gary Carlone.
"We believe this is one of the options that should be available to all students, particularly low-income and minority students," said Tom Vander Ark, executive director of the foundation's education program, during a Tuesday teleconference. "It's one option that ought to exist in every urban area."
About 50 early college high schools in 19 states serve 8,000 students, according to the foundation.
California has 11 such schools, more than any state. Two new early college programs, including one at UC Berkeley, are expected to open next year.
This type of school model -- where students go to class on a college campus or take college courses for credit in high school -- has been around for 30 years, said Cece Cunningham, consortium director.
But statistics have not been kept systematically. The foundation gave Boston-based nonprofit group Jobs for the Future a $7 million grant Tuesday to better track demographics and academic results of early college students.
Jobs for the Future coordinates the Early College High School Initiative, funded by the Gates foundation, the Ford Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Woodruff Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation. The group, which has given $124 million to start early colleges, aims to open 150 of them by 2008.
"We see that it has enormous attraction for kids that we would least think would be interested in college," Hoffman said. "Academic challenge, not remediation, is the best way to motivate students."
Ninth-grader James Burbridge, 14, said the rigors of Middle College gave him the jolt he needed to stay engaged.
Though always good at math, Burbridge said he lost interest in classes as he got older.
"In middle school, my brain kind of shorted out. I became unmotivated," James said. "I think I realized in order to pass, I didn't have to work five or six hours a night."
That kind of attitude doesn't work at Middle College. There, James takes health science and theater with college kids and other classes among his high school peers. As the years go on, he will gradually bump up the number of college courses and take fewer high school ones.
What he has learned in his few brief months on campus: "If I want to get what I want out of school and out of life, I have to work hard," James said. "I would say that Middle College has kind of broken my lazy habit."
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