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Nellie Mae, Gates Foundation Commit
to Reinvent High School in New England

QUINCY, MA: In a groundbreaking effort to reinvent secondary education, four New England states have formed a regional alliance to prepare every New England student for “college, career, and civic responsibility” in the global economy and community by 2016.

With $1 million from the Nellie Mae Educational Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the New England Secondary School Consortium will bring together education leaders from Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont to share resources, talents, and expertise and explore cost-saving efficiencies. Participation is open to Massachusetts and Connecticut as well.

Its work coordinated by the Great Schools Partnership at the Mitchell Institute, the Consortium is intended to speed the development and dissemination of “the next generation of educational standards, assessments, and other policies,” explained Nellie Mae CEO Nick Donohue.

The internationally competitive, high-powered high school of the future is imagined as a flexible, borderless, multi-dimension learning center that fosters cognitive, interpersonal, self-directive, and real world skills. Students are seen as conducting research in their communities, interning in challenging fields, taking online and on-campus college courses, and using technology to access the world community and engage in innovative learning experiences.

In the initial 18-month phase of this multi-year effort, participating states will conduct comprehensive reviews of education rules, regulations, and laws in order to create a “policy map” to guide new state and local policies to stimulate innovation, encourage new models of teaching and learning, give each student personal support, and clarify expectations for both students and educators.

The Consortium will conduct comprehensive reviews of state learning standards, teaching strategies, assessment practices, professional development programs, and student outcomes, comparing them with those of the highest performing international education systems, to identify 21st century standards and practices for New England. It will work to engage post-secondary institutions, organizations, and colleagues in a collaborative effort to ensure that more students earn college degrees.

The Consortium has set some ambitious targets: increase graduation rates to 90%, increase post-secondary enrollment in two- or four-year college degree programs to 80%, reduce drop-out rates to lower than 1%, and bring the percentage of students who need remedial courses in college to 5% or less.

Each state’s effort will be led by the Commissioner and key SEA personnel. A steering council of representatives from governors’ offices and key legislative, education, and business leaders will guide and build support for the Consortium’s work.

In addition to building in-state educational agencies to connect state agencies, support organizations, post-secondary institutions, districts, and schools, the Consortium will collaborate with several regional organizations, such as the Council of Chief State School Officers, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, and the New England Board of Higher Education, to promote best practices and common expectations.

January 2009