NEW YORK—Most people can remember how tough middle school was—trying to grasp higher concepts while puberty played tricks with one’s internal chemistry—it wasn’t easy. And according to Education Chancellor Joel Klein and others, performance in middle school is the strongest indicator of a student’s likelihood to graduate high school and continue on to college. Well, to this end, 55 lucky and industrious City middle schools across the five boroughs are set to receive $250,000 grants to help improve student performance.
The more than $13 million in grants is being awarded to the schools through a joint effort between the Department of Education and the GE Foundation—General Electric Co.’s charitable organization.
Bob Corcoran, President and Chairman of the GE Foundation joined Chancellor Klein and others at a press conference on Wednesday to announce the grants.
“These grants reflect an important development in the partnership between the New York City Department of Education and the GE Foundation. We are proud to see that our Developing Futures™ in Education program, which was created to raise student achievement through improved math and science curricula and management capacity at the schools, is taking root in Northern Manhattan and the rest of New York City,” said Corcoran.
The grant process began in the summer of 2008, when the City’s 250 highest-needs middle schools were offered the opportunity to apply for planning grants to help them develop comprehensive reform plans. Seventy-seven schools were then awarded small grants to allow them to draft a detailed proposal, and from this pool, the 55 schools with the most viable and well-thought out plans were awarded the $250,000 grants.
MS 326 in North Manhattan is one of the schools receiving a grant. It serves a large population of English language learners and has managed to improve from a “C” on its 2006-2007 Progress Report to an “A” this year. Principal Sharon Weissbrot said her school will use the grant money primarily to enrich its math, science, and technology curricula by introducing after-school and summer classes, as well as partnering with NBC to develop a rigorous graphic design program.
“We need to ensure that every student experiences a smooth transition to middle school and receives the support and resources to succeed in high school and college. With the support of the parents and the community, as well as a dedicated staff, the grant will enable our children to close the achievement gap,” said Weissbrot at the Wednesday press conference.
Also in attendance on Wednesday were City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and U.S. Congressman Charles Rangel. Quinn and Rangel have been supporters of Chancellor Klein’s Campaign for Middle School Success, which aims to improve the quality of middle school education in the five boroughs. Quinn said the Council worked hard to secure much of the grant money through its Middle School Task Force.
Fifteen of the 55 grants are paid for by the GE Foundation and the remaining forty by the NYC Department of Education. All schools receiving GE Foundation funded grants are located in North Manhattan.