$31.5 million to urban schools in Ohio

Ohio has received $31.5 million in grants from three private foundations to improve education in the state’s city schools. State officials say the grant ranks among the biggest ever for K-12 schools.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will provide $20 million to help create smaller schools at four to six big city high schools. “Small schools provide a safe environment in which students can focus on their studies and ultimately graduate from high schools prepared for college, work, and civic contribution,” said Tom Vander Ark, the foundation’s executive director for education.

The Cincinnati-based KnowledgeWorks Foundation will provide an additional $5 million toward the smaller schools project. KnowledgeWorks also is giving $1.5 million, along with $5 million from the Ford Foundation, to help expand Ohio’s ProjectGRAD. This program, already in place in Columbus and Cincinnati, aims to improve graduation and college attendance rates at big city high schools.

The Ford Foundation believes ProjectGRAD “will lead to dramatic improvements in public schools throughout the state of Ohio,” said Steven Zwerling, senior program officer for the foundation.




$20 million to Baltimore city schools

The Baltimore City Public Schools have received $20 million from 10 national and local foundations to build nine innovative high schools.

The school district devised a plan, called “Blueprint for Baltimore’s Neighborhood High Schools,” to transform nine high schools into smaller learning communities and create six to eight Innovation High Schools. These schools will focus on improving academic performance and preparing students for higher education or the 21st-century work place.

The contributing organizations are the Aaron and Lillie Straus Foundation, the Abell Foundation, the Alvin and Fanny B. Thalheimer Foundation, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Baltimore Community Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Blaustein Foundations, the Clayton Baker Trust, the Lockhart Vaughan Foundation, and the Open Society Institute-Baltimore.


$100,000 from the Verizon Foundation

To help children with special needs, the Verizon Foundation has given $100,000 to the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) to digitize books and create an online learning center. The online center, to be named the Universal Learning Center, will provide teachers with digital classroom materials for special-needs students.

“Verizon’s support comes at a critical time in our efforts to leave no child behind because he or she is unable to learn from the same material as classmates,” said David Rose, co-executive director of CAST. “Today’s technology can transform textbooks and other learning material by making it available in a customized digital format so it can be used to match the learning needs of individual students.”

Once the books are digitized and web-based, material can be manipulated in different ways, such as making the text larger for children with low vision or turning pages with eye movements for students with physical disabilities. The center will make selected classroom material available in three different formats—HTML, Braille, and DAISY-NISO for teachers at the 100 participating pilot schools.



$25,000 from Washington Mutual

Eighteen schools in Portland, Ore., received nearly $25,000 in grants from the Washington Mutual Bright Ideas Grant Program, which funds initiatives that focus on literacy, integrating the arts into the curriculum, and other efforts that strengthen curriculum and teaching.

Science teachers at Fernwood Middle School, for example, plan to use their $500 grant to buy a helium-neon laser to teach students about physical and earth science through hands-on technology and laboratory exercises.

“The goal of the Washington Mutual Bright Ideas Grant Program is to provide support to public school teachers and encourage innovative classroom instruction,” said Charlotte Ellis, Washington Mutual’s consumer regional manager for Portland. “The grants, which were awarded to teams of two or more teachers, promote collaboration between educators in the development of curricula designed to raise student achievement.”