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$250M investment aims to boost graduation with ed tech

A $250 million initiative will use technology and social media to strengthen U.S. graduation rates.

A new $250 million campaign from AT&T seeks to help more students graduate from high school ready for college or a career through a “socially innovative” approach that will engage education stakeholders as they use educational technology to devise new solutions to challenging social problems.

The AT&T Aspire program has put more than $100 million into educational initiatives since 2008, and the new $250 million investment will focus on using technology to connect with students in new and more effective ways, including interactive gaming, web-based content, and social media.

The Aspire program intends to help every student graduate from high school “equipped with the knowledge and skills to strengthen the nation’s workforce,” said AT&T Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson.

Lacking a high school degree is a serious issue in the United States, where one in four students—more than 1 million each year—drops out, according to a March 19 report by Civic Enterprises, the Everyone Graduates Center, America’s Promise Alliance, and the Alliance for Excellent Education. Education experts say the lack of a high school degree significantly worsens job prospects in a rapidly changing, increasingly sophisticated job market.

See also:

Ed-tech grants and funding: March 2012

And, if dropouts find jobs, they typically earn less. On average, a high school dropout earns 25 percent less during the course of his or her lifetime compared with a high school graduate and 57 percent less than a college graduate with a bachelor’s degree.

Part of the new $250 million investment will allow the Aspire program to fund smaller, proven programs in need of additional investments so they can expand on a larger scale, said Beth Shiroishi, vice president of sustainability and philanthropy for AT&T and president of the AT&T Foundation.

The expanded initiative will build support for high school graduation in multiple ways.


  • Collaborating with innovators, educators, and other companies at the AT&T Foundry innovation centers to blaze new ground in developing solutions to improve education. For example, the company will sponsor challenges or contests for mobile application developers to create cutting-edge solutions to complex problems in the nation’s educational system. A June “hackathon” in Palo Alto, Calif., is the first scheduled educational technology development event.
  • Expanding strategic alliances with organizations that specialize in developing and marketing new interactive learning tools that better engage today’s students.
  • Incorporating gaming, the internet, video, and social media into educational programs.
  • Enabling students in underserved communities to explore careers before graduating through internships in areas related to 21st-century skills.
  • Collaborating on a revolutionary nationwide initiative with GameDesk, aimed at transforming traditional instruction and equalizing education for all students.


  • AT&T will launch the Aspire Mentoring Academy later this year, which will let employees help students at risk of dropping out of school succeed in the classroom and in life.
  • AT&T’s Job Shadow initiative will create a program in which employee-student teams learn work/life skills, explore real business problems, and form lasting relationships.
  • AT&T employees will provide skills-based mentoring, which pairs them with students based on shared interests to encourage and support career path development.
  • Inspiring more AT&T customers, companies, and stakeholders to step up to the challenge of addressing the education crisis.


  • Deepening the financial commitment to local education-focused groups that deliver results, especially groups that embrace social innovation, focus on 21st-century skills, or focus on STEM disciplines for students in underserved communities.
  • Making local contributions to community organizations that specialize in helping students and improving the quality of education.

Between now and April 18, 2012, AT&T is encouraging groups to submit applications for pre-qualification for possible funding through the Local High School Impact Initiative Requests for Proposals (RFPs). AT&T is most interested in funding local programs that have strong, evidence-based practices grounded in the What Works Clearinghouse Dropout Prevention: A Practice Guide and data-driven outcomes demonstrated to boost high school graduation rates. More information on the RFP process is available at  (click on the “Aspire Local Impact RFP” option).

Eligible entities include:

  • School districts, campuses, and school district nonprofit foundations. Private foundations are not eligible.
  • Charter school foundations and private school foundations. Foundations must have 501(c)(3) public charity status. Private foundations are not eligible.
  • Nonprofit public charities that work on-site with public and private education institutions
  • Nonprofit public charities that work with public and private education institutions on a project basis

See also:

Ed-tech grants and funding: March 2012


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