A new $1.9 million investment from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will enable the Talent Development High Schools (TDHS) program to more than double the number of low-performing schools it serves over the next three years.
The school reform model, developed by the Center for Social Organization of Schools (CSOS) at Johns Hopkins, is currently used at nearly 100 high schools. The program’s goal: to reduce dropout rates and increase graduation rates among students in low-performing high schools, as it prepares them for college and the workforce.
The Gates Foundation investment will allow the program to expand to an additional 110 schools by 2010, says Nettie Legters, a TDHS co-director.
“There is an increasing demand for solutions to the challenges faced by low-performing high schools and the students they serve,” says Legters, who is also a research scientist at Johns Hopkins. “This grant will enable TDHS to grow with intention and a vigilant eye on quality and results.”
Over the next three years, the program will expand its technical support, improve curriculum materials and instructional tools, develop new methods for data collection and evaluation, and share its best practices for high school improvement with those outside the TDHS network.
The reform model may prove even more useful as new research by CSOS shows that dropping out of high school is both predictable and preventable. In Unfulfilled Promise: The Dimensions and Characteristics of Philadelphia’s Dropout Crisis, 2000-05, Ruth Curran Neild and Robert Balfanz draw on extensive data from Philadelphia schools and social service agencies not only to outline the crisis but also to provide insight on how cities across the country can solve their dropout problems.
The research report, released last fall by the Philadelphia Youth Network, has significant implications for how cities can effectively use their resources to encourage more students to stay in school.
The TDHS model features extensive training and coaching for teachers, particularly around 9th- and 10th-grade transition courses that enable students to acquire skills and knowledge they often lack when they get to high school. The program also includes structural elements such as 9th-grade academies, teacher teams, extended class periods, and career academies to engage students, support academic progress, and help them connect learning to everyday life and future plans.
This new investment will allow TDHS to carry out its multi-year strategic plan, which was developed through consultation with the Bridgespan Group and funded through an initial one-year Gates Foundation grant that TDHS received in 2004.
“The Gates Foundation grant will help us accomplish our mission of both research and development, to follow up our studies of the major problems in public education with practical solutions we design and evaluate,” says TDHS senior director James McPartland. “With Gates’ assistance, we can expand our TDHS improvements throughout the country, and study the processes of nationwide education reform.”
TDHS, which began at CSOS in 1994, is working with high schools in New York City and Los Angeles through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation partnership grants. It also operates the Baltimore Talent Development High School through a partnership with the Baltimore City Public Schools. Talent Development has multiple sites in Chicago; Kansas City, Mo.; and throughout North Carolina; as well as single sites in a dozen other states.