Schools for a New Society Leads the Way

October 1, 2004

Schools for a New Society:
Challenges and Opportunities
Take a look at the seven communities at the heart of
Carnegie Corporation of New York?s Schools for a New
Society initiative, and you?ll see how each is meeting some
of the most significant challenges and opportunities facing
large urban high schools today. With guidance from business
and civic leaders and diverse grassroots organizations, each
community is charting a course for high school reform that
can be supported by everyone with a stake in educational
success. The initiative?s goals are to ensure that all students
meet high standards for academic achievement, are prepared
for postsecondary education, the 21st century workforce and
their roles as citizens in a democratic society.
A top priority of the initiative is to make sure that all students
can read and understand the complex written materials that
make up the high school curriculum. The communities are
also intently focusing on addressing learning gaps in writing
and mathematics instruction that hinder academic progress.
Many are redesigning large, comprehensive urban schools
into small learning communities and all are adopting other
measures to personalize learning and bring accountability to
the urban student?s learning experience. In addition, all are
steadily transforming the obsolete ?factory model? schools
of yesteryear into schools that meet the individual learning
needs of each student.
Schools for a New Society is based on the assumption that
the know-how already exists about how to create good
high schools, but not about how to create entire systems of
good high schools. Accomplishing that will require changing
the way school districts manage and lead high schools, as
well as how they mobilize the resources of the larger
community to both demand excellent high schools where
all students can reach high levels of achievement and
contribute to their success. While all of these measures are
important for the communities involved with the Schools
for a New Society initiative, there also is a larger vision at
work. ?What we learn from this initiative we want to share
with other district and high school reform advocates, so
they can learn from our best practices and implement them
based on local needs and desires. Our goal is to build on
the momentum we are creating in this original set of seven
communities,? says Vartan Gregorian, President of Carnegie
Corporation of New York.
The Schools for a New Society communities are:
Boston and Worcester, Massachusetts;
Hamilton County (Chattanooga), Tennessee;
Houston, Texas; Providence, Rhode Island;
Sacramento and San Diego, California.
In these communities, supporters are working to create a
road map to urban high school improvement. These are
communities striving to ensure that students in large and
often overcrowded urban schools interact one-on-one with
caring adults every day. Communities that are committed to
vastly improving teaching, with stepped-up reading and
mathematics instruction across the curriculum. Communities
where every public school will one day be equal to the
community?s ?very best.?
and with additional support from the Bill & Melinda
Gates Foundation, Schools for a New Society is
effecting sweeping, large-scale reform and reinvention
of secondary schools in seven urban communities.
Schools for a New Society began in 2001 with Carnegie
Corporation and Gates Foundation funding, which will
last for five years. Each community is receiving $8
million, except for Houston, which is receiving $12
million because of its larger size. The funds, to be used
to carry out reforms, are locally matched. Additionally,
the Corporation is investing in a national technical
support strategy led by the Academy for Educational
Development with assistance from the Annenberg
Institute for School Reform and New York University?s
Institute for Education and Social Policy. SRI
International and the American Institutes for Research
are conducting the national evaluation.
to shape teaching and learning in high schools.
Through its grantmaking, the Corporation provides
resources to community organizations with a
substantial history of working to improve student
achievement and workforce preparedness, enabling
these organizations to lead and manage a school and
district renewal process. Critical components of the
initiative include:
Encouraging and supporting partnerships between
businesses, universities, parent and student groups
and community organizations committed to high
school reinvention.
Holding all schools accountable for helping every
student to meet high standards and to be prepared for
participation in higher education, in the workforce, and
in confronting the challenges and opportunities of 21st
century society.
Raising graduation requirements to ensure that all
students take rigorous courses and succeed in them so
they are prepared to accomplish their goals in college,
the workforce and life.
Transforming large, impersonal high schools into
small learning communities or small schools to
personalize the student learning experience.
Improving teaching by providing intensive
professional development and giving teachers time to
work as teams to help all students succeed.
A Common Approach for
Enduring Challenges
Creating schools that prepare graduates for the demands and
opportunities of a new society is an exciting challenge for the
hundreds of teachers, administrators, parents, students and
community leaders who are guiding this initiative. To
succeed, however, many must change attitudes and
perceptions created by school systems of the present and
past. Most daunting, according to many school and
community leaders, is the fear of change itself.
That fear can be manifested in strikingly personal ways. At
Feinstein High School in Providence, for example, some
parents were initially resistant to the proposed reforms simply
because they worried Feinstein would become too different
from its public school counterparts. Yet many of those
striving for improvements understand why they often seem
to come at a glacial pace. For example, one Houston
educator noted, ?you can?t expect these schools, which were
created more than a century ago, to change overnight.?
That belief is common among veteran educators who have
come to view school reform as a never-ending journey
riddled with detours spurred by, as one Schools for a New
Society observer noted, ?all sorts of new ideas that only
seem viable because they haven?t been tried before.?
Although many dedicated school leaders have successfully
?At the heart of Schools for a New Society is the concept of district reform,
reflecting the understanding that in order to improve education for all
students, entire school districts must change the way they deploy their
resources?fiscal, organizational and political?to support high schools. Each
community uses approaches tailored specifically to its students? individual
and collective needs to achieve these goals.?
prevailed in battles to raise achievement at some individual
schools, few have succeeded in scaling the Himalayan-sized
challenge of improving entire urban districts where the
topography of needs may differ greatly from school to school
and even from class to class.
While each of the Schools for a New Society communities do
have unique characteristics, all face one or more of the
challenges that are common to urban schools across the
nation: the rapid turnover of superintendents, school leaders
and teachers. The large number of students who cannot
read, write or understand English. The need to make large,
antiquated and often impractically designed school buildings
safe and nurturing places for learning. And the endless
struggle to raise enough resources amid limited budgets.
The school districts and core partners in this effort also recognize
that changes in district practices will be needed if the successful
practices of one school are to be replicated with significant
results community-wide. They acknowledge improvements can
only be sustained across entire school districts when education
and community leaders are committed to working in
partnership with political leaders to
address financial inequities that have
stunted progress in the past.
At Feinstein High, earlier worries
about reform have given way to
optimism as more college acceptance
letters are delivered to area homes. In
many schools serving a large number
Building a working partnership between the urban
school district and a leading community nonprofit.
Redesigning the district to change how
organizational and fiscal resources are mobilized and
deployed to support schools.
Leveraging community support and demand for
excellent education for all students.
Creating a citywide portfolio of excellent high
schools, not just isolated islands of high achievement.
of students for whom English is a second language, specially
trained coaches are leading teachers through small group
workshops on how to incorporate literacy instruction into
subjects across the curriculum. In many cities, overcrowded
secondary schools are being reorganized into small learning
communities, many of which have a clear focus on a career,
academic or thematic topic that enables students
to build on interests and aptitudes to create a
clear path to postgraduate success.
Will district-wide renewal be achieved quickly?
Of course not. But with the indomitable spirit and
will of educators, parents, students and core
partners working together to create Schools for a
New Society, thousands of students are finding
that the universe of possibilities is growing wider,
and brighter, day by day.
Reading for success in Boston, Massachusetts.
In Boston, school and community leaders were concerned
that so many of the city?s high school students felt
disconnected from their schools. And with so many
struggling to read, write, or speak the English language,
teachers were likewise struggling to engage them with
effective instruction or dialogue about the connections
between educational achievement and success in higher
education and careers.
But today that dialogue rings loud and clear as teachers
work collaboratively to boost student achievement across
the curriculum. They're guided by literacy coaches who have
established a corps of high school literacy ?anchors? who
share their knowledge and expertise with teachers. As literacy
grows, so do meaningful connections between teachers and
students and the challenging content they are working
together to master. This ambitious, system-wide literacy effort
is just one component of the strategy crafted through
a partnership between Boston Public Schools and its core
partners, the Boston Plan for Excellence in the Public Schools,
Jobs for the Future, the Center for Collaborative Education and
the Boston Private Industry Council. Working together, these
partners are also reorganizing the district?s comprehensive
secondary schools into small learning communities and small
schools with distinct identities that offer intensive instruction
in English and mathematics. These smaller settings allow for
close attention to every student?s needs.
In addition, school-business partnerships connect students
with job and training opportunities with employers.
Representing the financial services industry, the healthcare
community, the field of telecommunications and many other
career paths, these business partnerships ensure that more
students understand the connection between their school
experiences and the workplace?and gain valuable experience
on the path to graduation, higher education and careers.
Contributing to all of this success is the work of the Boston
Student Advisory Council, a citywide body of student leaders
who convene monthly, and meet with the superintendent and
members of the school board to offer their perspectives on
school renewal efforts and inform their respective schools
about progress on district-wide school improvement.
18,000 High School Students
9 Comprehensive High Schools
17 Small Schools
3 Exam Schools
1 Alternative School
Student Demographics
(Grades 9?12):
Asian 9.9%
African-American 48.3%
Caucasian 15.6%
Hispanic 25.8%
Other .4%
Schools for a New Society
Core Partners:
Boston Plan For Excellence in the
Public Schools
Jobs for the Future
Boston Private Industry Council
Center for Collaborative Education
One steady track to achievement for all students in
Hamilton County (Chattanooga), Tennessee.
Small learning communities are also a part of the strategy
in Hamilton County (Chattanooga), Tennessee, where the
community brought an end to the policy of having three
tracks for high school students: one for students headed
to college, another for students going immediately into
the workforce, and a third that offered students both
possibilities. Hamilton County?s single path to graduation
is being implemented in academies that offer career-based
lessons tied to state standards.
Each school has developed ambitious benchmarks for
improvement including 95 percent of all entering 9th grade
students proceeding to 10th grade in one year; attendance
rates exceeding 95 percent; 90 percent of all students
passing the state?s mandatory exams on the first try; 90
percent of students graduating from high school; more
students applying to and being accepted to college. The
schools based their plans on ideas generated in focus groups
and community forums, information from national experts,
visits to high-performing high schools, and extensive local
research to develop effective educational practices and
improve schools? learning cultures.
?The drive to do away with these tracks occurred after
attending a Schools for a New Society learning exchange with
other communities participating in the program. The
interaction with these colleagues created the right chemistry
for us to resolve to create a single path diploma for all of our
"We've already seen great progress from the Carnegie Corporation initiative, and
the funds will help us broaden the impact of these efforts through providing
much-needed resources to help more students apply and gain access to college."
12,300 High School Students
8 Comprehensive High Schools
3 Small Schools
4 Magnet Schools
2 Vocational Schools
1 Alternative School
Student Demographics (Grades 9?12):
Asian 1.6%
African-American 35.1%
Caucasian 61.9%
Hispanic 1.3%
Other .1%
Schools for a New Society Core Partner:
Public Education Foundation of Hamilton County
students,? says Bill Kennedy, the director of the Schools for a
New Society grant for the Public Education Foundation of
Hamilton County. The single academic path also increased the
number of math and science courses and added two years of
foreign language. With these adjustments, all graduates will
accrue 22 credits (versus the 20 that the state requires). The
community is pursuing these goals through four key activities:
fostering more personalized learning experiences, building
more engaging curricula, creating a professional learning
community, and ensuring flexibility in courses.
In Houston, Texas, personal attention guides
learning and achievement district-wide.
In Houston, educators and community leaders are
transforming the city?s large secondary schools into small,
personalized learning communities with a clear
focus on careers, academic disciplines or thematic topics.
This move from a ?factory model? to a ?custom-built?
education for each student drives improvements districtwide
as literacy coaches work in partnership with dedicated
teachers to ensure students strengthen basic skills and
tailor special aptitudes and interests to higher education
and career opportunities. Students are also gaining
personalized support through one-on-one meetings with
adult advocates (usually teachers). The adult advocate gets
to know each student on a personal, social and academic
level and stays with the same group of students for all four
years of high school. The advocate also makes the students
aware of academic scholarship opportunities. ?This is a new
take on the old ?home room? concept. This modern version
makes it more viable and more interactive,? says Armando
Alaniz, assistant superintendent for high school
improvement and accountability.
48,200 High School Students
23 Comprehensive High Schools
4 Charter Schools
4 Magnet Schools
1 Vocational School
10 Alternative Schools
and Programs
Student Demographics
(Grades 9?12):
Asian 3.7%
African-American 31.5%
Caucasian 12.2%
Hispanic 52.5%
Other .1%
Schools for a New Society
Core Partner:
Houston A+ Challenge and
All of this work is guided by support from the Houston
A+ Challenge, which conducts professional development and
community engagement activities to strengthen support for
the district-wide renewal effort.
Alaniz says, ?My advice for other districts going through this
is to ensure you have everyone at the table, including those
representing special populations and the business community.
You can?t work in isolation. Most importantly, we need to
continue improving teaching and learning because that?s at
the heart of all this work??the relationship between the
teacher and the student. The teachers must be rigorous and
relevant as they are building relationships.?
In Providence, Rhode Island, small schools and
schools within schools yield multiple paths to success.
Diversity is also an important issue in Providence, Rhode
Island, where 52 percent of the students come from homes
of Hispanic origin, and many parents know little or no
English. With support from the Rhode Island Children?s
Crusade, community forums are being held on an ongoing
basis to build stronger connections between the families
of these children and those in the school community.
The forums also enable school and community leaders to
share information about the district?s ambitious efforts
to create smaller schools and smaller learning communities,
where students can receive personalized instruction
tailored to their aptitudes and needs.
This is good news for Melody Johnson, superintendent of
Providence Public Schools. It?s also an incentive to keep
pushing for reforms that will lead to improvements at
schools across the district. ?Carnegie Corporation learned
from its middle school efforts that you can?t tinker around
the edges,? she says. ?We have to make substantial
changes, and you must stay the course.?
That?s a message that rings loud and true at Feinstein High
School, where the staff makes every effort to ensure that all
students and their families understand that hard work and
perseverance will continue launching more and more
students to success in higher education and beyond.
Feinstein?s principal finds that it often helps to compare the
offerings and the outcomes of Feinstein to those at
Providence?s ?best? public school, where admittance is
determined by test scores, and where academic achievement
is the highest in the district. She also focuses on efforts to
recognize achievement and raise aspirations school-wide. Just
outside her office is a ?Higher Education Destinations?
board?every time a student is admitted to a college, he or
she gets to affix a star to the board, indicating which college
or university the student will attend after graduation. The
board is covered with these stars??ample evidence that
students, teachers, administrators and the community as a
whole are indeed looking beyond ?limits.?
7,000 High School Students
4 Comprehensive High Schools
6 Small Schools
2 Charter Schools
1 Vocational School
Student Demographics
(Grades 9?12):
Asian 8.5%
African-American 24.9%
Caucasian 16.3%
Hispanic 49.6%
Other .7%
Schools for a New Society
Core Partner:
Rhode Island Children?s Crusade
At Hope High School, one of the first to be divided
into smaller learning communities, students have the
opportunity for personalized studies in information
technology, the arts or leadership development. While there
have been some challenges to having three separate school
sites located in one physical facility, the rigorous and
focused curricula are yielding benefits. Prior to the
reorganization, only 60 percent of Hope students took
the mandatory state exams. Now, more than 95 percent
take them, and scores are starting to rise.
In Sacramento, California, students gain from
a portfolio of small schools.
Some community members in the Sacramento City Unified
School District saw that as the 20th century was coming to an
end, there was a major crisis in the high schools. Less than
one-third of the district?s students were able to attend
college. The typical 9th grader received at least three ?Ds? or
?Fs? by the end of the school year.
Parents, students, teachers, elected officials and others came
together and decided major changes were needed. Realizing
they lacked a vision to match their energy, they studied why
and how some high schools across the nation succeeded and
others failed. They quickly saw a strong link between highperforming
schools and personalized learning. Research by
Michael Klonsky at the University of Illinois showed that
students in such communities attend classes more often,
exhibit fewer discipline problems, earn higher grade-point
averages and are more likely to stay in school.
Once the community was mobilized, traditional,
comprehensive schools gave way to small learning
communities (consisting of only 300?500 students) that are
housed in existing large high schools and literal ?small
schools? (enrolling no more than 500 students). While
students are quick to give a ?thumbs-up? to the improvement
of the learning experience, they?re also gaining confidence in
their ability to achieve, as indicated by the marked increases in
high school exit exam scores and literacy and mathematical
competence. The community?s common vision for its high
school students calls for ?graduates?who are prepared to
meet the highest academic standards in California, the nation
and the world and successfully compete in the workforce.?
13,000 High School Students
5 Comprehensive High Schools
5 Charter Small Schools
1 Charter consisting
of six schools
1 Magnet School
3 Alternative Schools
and Programs
Student Demographics
(Grades 9?12):
Asian 30.4%
African-American 20.1%
Caucasian 21.9%
Hispanic 24.8%
Other 2.8%
Schools for a New Society
Core Partner:
LEED Sacramento (Linking Education
and Economic Development)
In San Diego, California, aspirations and achievement are
an enduring mix.
In San Diego, where many students come from households where the
primary language is Spanish, Cambodian, Laotian, Somali or
Vietnamese, diversity is both a challenge and an opportunity for a
school district striving to increase academic rigor and personalize the
student learning experience. Many approaches?including the use of
mentors and ?impact teachers? who develop and share special
expertise in each core academic subject?are being employed.
The movement toward rigor also includes having 9th graders study
applied physics. ?I find it exciting to be part of this big effort. I think
of it as a challenge; it?s important for us as a society,? says Danine
Ezell, a science resource teacher in the San Diego City Schools. ?This is
the one part of society I think I can change because it?s important to
36,900 High School Students
13 Comprehensive High Schools
14 Small Schools
6 K?12, 6?12, or 7?12 Schools
4 Charter Schools
1 Alternative School
Student Demographics
(Grades 9?12):
Asian 19.8%
African-American 14.5%
Caucasian 28.7%
Hispanic 36.5%
Other .5%
Schools for a New Society
Core Partners:
New American Schools
University of California, San Diego
?Now there is an environment for every student and every need. Each school,
no matter how it?s structured, ensures that teachers know their students and
stay in contact with their families. This is a big contrast to the way it used to
be done, when each teacher saw an average of 185 students each semester.?
have citizens who understand science. And, best of all, we?re not just
one small part of the equation that is trying to improve education. We?re
an integral element of a larger renewal effort at the high school level.?
Another approach involves a push to empower students with intense
college preparation skills. At schools with this focus, all students attend
courses tied to the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID)
program. AVID has a long history of boosting achievement,
participation in Advanced Placement? courses and college admission
especially among African American and Latino students.
AVID succeeds by offering students intensive tutoring help,
activities that build their study and note-taking habits, motivational
sessions that encourage students to pursue leadership activities
and access to college scholarship and admission information.
The high school students also benefit from tutoring provided by
recent high school graduates who want to give something back
to their former learning communities.
6,800 High School Students
4 Comprehensive High Schools
1 Vocational School
2 Small Schools
1 Community Learning Program
Student Demographics
(Grades 9?12):
Asian 7.6%
African-American 12.9%
Caucasian 49.5%
Hispanic 29.5%
Other .5%
Schools for a New Society
Core Partner:
Clark University, Hiatt Center for
Urban Education
?I?ve been in AVID since 7th grade and have
been thinking about college ever since
then. I cried when I got the letter saying I
got into college. Without AVID I would
have just been an average student.?
In Worcester, Massachusetts,
diversity drives success.
In Worcester, observers of school renewal strategies will see
some of the best examples of the benefits of transforming
sprawling urban schools into small learning communities.
They will also see a remarkable effort to recognize and build
on the strengths of diversity across the community.
The effort started in 2001, when the Worcester Working
Coalition for Latino Students (WWCLS) joined the Worcester
Education Partnership at Clark University to begin
reconstituting the city?s comprehensive high schools into 17
small learning communities. The transition to a more
personalized learning environment has enabled Worcester
faculty and staff to place a greater emphasis on literacy and
individual attention for students. The move has also enabled
faculty to form closer relationships with students? families.
Throughout the community, efforts to improve students?
reading and writing abilities are driven by a cadre of
literacy coaches, each assigned to an individual school.
According to Secondary School Restructuring Coordinator
Jane Grady, the efforts are yielding results. ?Breaking up
comprehensive schools is a good idea in Worcester,? says
Brady, ?because it?s vital and important that educators
understand their students; it?s important that someone
knows and cares about the students. That is lost in a school
that has 1,200 students.?
Tom Del Prete, the director of the Hiatt Center for Urban
Education at Clark University, also credits improvements to
the ongoing effort to unite this diverse community around
the common goal of greater family involvement. ?One of our
main goals is building community connections through the
Latino, African American, Asian American and Caucasian
communities,? he says. ?We are trying to engage as wide a
spectrum of parents as possible.?
?My advice to other community core partners is to
understand who can assert leadership in each minority
community; identify the good education communicators,? he
adds. ?We have devoted a full-time person to organizing this
group and the activities??it?s important to have someone
focused on that task.?
?We have results from our state tests that show the percentage of students
passing them has increased since we started this literacy focus. The focus means
we?re seeing science teachers use science magazines and professional journals in
their classes. We?re seeing math teachers use novels and literature about math in
their classes. We?re all seeing teachers watch other teachers in front of the
classroom?that was not happening too long ago. The teachers are also working
together to plan and execute their lessons.?
Staying focused while reaching new heights is long tradition
for Carnegie Corporation. It has its roots in Andrew
Carnegie?s belief that, ?Only in popular education can man
erect the structure of an enduring civilization.? This belief has
guided the Corporation as it has moved from helping to
establish public libraries, to laying the groundwork for what
we know as Head Start, to its groundbreaking efforts to
improve middle schools. And, now, the challenge is
improving high schools and the districts that serve them
through Schools for a New Society. This is perhaps the
hardest challenge of all?along the lines of ?building the
Panama Canal,? in the words of Vartan Gregorian. The
Corporation is realistic that there may be setbacks along the
way that may ultimately lead to greater understanding of the
obstacles. But the results to date?higher test scores,
increasing attendance rates, and a stronger sense that
students are engaging in true, meaningful learning?show
that, just as the Canal broke new ground at the beginning of
the 20th century, Schools for a New Society can do the same
in this new era.
In New York City, Carnegie Corporation partnered
with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the
Open Society Institute in 2000 to create a specific
high school reform initiative called New Century
High Schools. The $30 million initiative has received
additional funding from the Gates Foundation and is
focused on transforming high schools in America's
largest urban area by building new theme-centered
small high schools, reconfiguring large
comprehensive high schools into schools within
schools, and by promulgating principles that are
part of Schools for a New Society.

New Society C a r n e g i e C o r p o r a t i o n o f N e w Yo r k
Schools for a
437 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10022
P (212) 371-3200
F (212) 754-4073