The schools now are eligible for even bigger grants to implement their plans.
By RON COLE
VINDICATOR EDUCATION WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Youngstown and Warren schools will receive nearly $435,000 in grants to help make their high schools more intimate and less intimidating.
The grants -- $248,200 for Youngstown and $185,000 for Warren -- will focus on improving achievement and increasing graduation rates by developing smaller "schools within a school" in the high schools.
"For urban students, smaller learning communities lead to better achievement," said Harold Brown, senior program officer for the Cincinnati-based KnowledgeWorks Foundation, which is overseeing the grants.
"It doesn't mean separate buildings as much as it means creating environments where teachers have relationships with students and know their names and are able to track them."
Chaney, Rayen and Woodrow Wilson high schools in Youngstown and Harding High School in Warren are among 42 urban high schools in 17 Ohio school districts to receive the grants totaling $4.8 million.
The grants are funded mostly by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, as well as the Ohio Department of Education and KnowledgeWorks, a $200 million foundation that helps finance education initiatives in Ohio.
Plans to be designed
Over the next year, the school districts will use the money to design plans to transform large, impersonal, inner-city high schools into smaller, more personalized learning environments.
Districts with the best plans will get additional funding from a separate $12.24 million pot of money to implement the plans. Brown said about 15 of the 42 schools will get the implementation grants.
Kathleen Sauline, supervisor for libraries and media in the Youngstown schools, said Youngstown proposes breaking its three high schools -- which average about 850 students each -- into units of 350 or fewer students.
Each unit would have a principal, a guidance counselor and one set of teachers, allowing students and adults to develop closer ties.
"Our dream is that there would never be a kid, for example, who could skip school" with no one noticing, she said. "There should be no anonymity."
She said such small-school configurations have been successful in Chicago, Washington, D.C., and other school districts nationwide.
"This isn't somebody's pipe dream," Sauline said. "These are things that are actually going on."
Warren Superintendent Betty English said a major goal of the program is to increase the number of students going to college.
She said Warren's program will focus "on relationships among teachers and students that we hope will foster achievement and reduce the feeling of isolation that some students sometimes have in large learning settings."