Sunday, March 18, 2001

Big money for smaller schools

Two districts hope redesigns will improve grades, cut dropouts

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Millions of dollars aimed at creating smaller high schools are at work in two Tristate districts.

        Cincinnati Public Schools and West Clermont Schools — home to a combined 51,600 students — received nearly $3 million in September from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the KnowledgeWorks Foundation to involve communities in changing their high schools from large, impersonal institutions to more intimate environments.

        The goal is to reduce dropout rates and increase student achievement.

        In the six months since the grants were announced, both districts have been mapping new courses for students and new ways to teach them.

        How both districts develop their high schools will be used as a model for other American schools. More than 36 school districts in the country are trying out the “smaller is better” model.

        Early studies of the model show students post better grades, come to school more often and report better relationships with teachers.

        Cincinnati, which began the planning process on its own two years ago, will open the first of its new high schools in August. West Clermont started its redesign process last year. The district's new high schools will open in fall 2002, with three to five small schools of choice, each focusing on an area of high interest.


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