American Institutes for Research and SRI International. (2004). The National School District and Network Grants Program: Year 2 evaluation report. Washington, DC: Authors.
This report is the second in a series of reports on the evaluation of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s National School District and Network Grants Initiative, a program which provides grants to organizations to assist in the creation of small schools around the country. It is based on data collected from 16 organizations, as well as the affiliated schools and school districts. While the report points out that it is still too early in the process to fully evaluate the foundation’s strategy for education reform, lessons can be learned and key questions can be addressed. In general, the evaluation results matched the foundation’s theories, and showed that intermediary organizations could, in fact, help create small high schools that foster personalization, high expectations, and teacher collaboration. The report also identifies key challenges for these small schools, including the effective implementation of innovative teaching approaches, the development of appropriate curriculum content, and the achievement of financial stability. Based on the findings, the report recommends a number of refinements to the program, including providing schools with more support in the development of curricula, creating a strategy to promote the new school culture among staff and students, and offering guidance on where to turn for financial support.