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New Investment Broadens College Board’s National Education Reform Effort to Ensure More Students Graduate Ready for College and Work


Promising “EXCELerator” school improvement model launches in 11 urban high schools in three large districts

August 31, 2006 - NEW YORK -- The College Board is launching a new school improvement model in three large urban districts this school year. Through a $16 million investment from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the College Board will complement its promising new school development efforts in New York with its new “EXCELerator” program in 11 high schools in Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Duval County, Florida. This work builds on its efforts to provide America’s high school students with the support and services necessary to prepare them for success in post-secondary education.

Through a four-year partnership with each of the three school districts, the College Board will work with the schools selected for the EXCELerator program to improve graduation and college readiness rates-particularly for low-income and minority students. The EXCELerator program helps high schools to create a culture of high achievement and high expectations; promote a rigorous college preparatory curriculum and more personalized learning; and strengthen professional development and instructional leadership. By the 2007-08 academic years, the College Board expects to bring its high school transformation model to an additional 19 high schools, serving as many as 45,000 students.

“We are extremely excited about the launch of the EXCELerator program,” said College Board President Gaston Caperton. “We anticipate reaching thousands of students in urban districts with a program that is designed to prepare them for advanced courses and fortify them with the skills they need to succeed in college.”

Like many large urban districts throughout the country, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Duval County are struggling to ensure that all students receive a high-quality education that prepares them for success in today’s global economy. According to national and state data, the graduation rate in all three districts lags behind the national average. Diplomas Count, a recent national report on graduation rates, cites minority enrollments and on-time graduation rates for each district:

Chicago - minority enrollment: 49.2 percent African American, 38.4 percent Hispanic, and 3.3 percent Asian American. On-time graduation rate: 52.2 percent.

Washington, D.C. - minority enrollment: 84.4 percent African American, 9.4 percent Hispanic, and 1.6 percent Asian American. On-time graduation rate: 58.9 percent.

Duval County - Minority enrollment: 43.4 percent African American, 5.9 percent Hispanic, and 3.5 percent Asian American. On-time graduation rate: 53.4 percent.
The districts’ commitment to turning those numbers around and giving more underserved students access to a high-quality education that will prepare them for college and work success is, in large part, why they were selected as the launch sites for the EXCELerator program. High school reform efforts such as those of the College Board are beginning to show improved student academic performance and graduation rates, but there are still many high schools failing to prepare all students for success in college and work:

Out of every 100 American students in ninth grade, only 70 will graduate from high school on time, 40 will go to college, and 34 will graduate prepared for a four-year college.

The numbers are even more troubling for African American and Hispanic students: only about half of African Americans (51.6 percent) and Hispanics (55.6 percent) graduate from high school with their freshman classmates.

Of the 1.3 million U.S. students who took an Advanced Placement (AP) exam in 2006, 6 percent identified themselves as African American (less than half of the 14 percent of 2004 seniors who were African American), 12.7 percent as Hispanic (equivalent to their 13.8 percent of 2004 seniors), and 0.5 percent as Native American (less than their 1.2 percent of 2004 seniors).
The College Board’s EXCELerator program helps create the conditions for low-income and minority students to succeed. The EXCELerator model emphasizes increased rigor in the classroom; a stronger focus on school-based college planning and preparation; more personalized support for students; professional development for superintendents, teachers, principals, and counselors to strengthen instructional leadership; and the use of data to measure progress and help drive curriculum and instructional improvements. The model is designed to dramatically increase enrollment in advanced courses such as AP courses in mathematics, science, English, world languages, and social studies offered in each school, and to eventually lead to improved SAT scores.

With support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the College Board currently operates 11 small schools in New York City and New York State that focus on providing opportunities for students to pursue post-secondary education. Early indicators suggest that these schools are increasing the level of student aspirations and academic performance.

“Every student in America deserves access to a quality education that fosters high academic achievement,” said Jim Shelton, program director for the education division of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “The College Board has been an important partner in the effort to redesign our high schools, and its EXCELerator model has the potential to serve as a national leader in transforming our schools and putting more young people on track for success in college and work.”

The EXCELerator schools join more than 1,100 foundation-supported high schools in 42 states and Washington, D.C. that are providing the new “3Rs”: rigor, relevance and relationships - a rigorous curriculum for all students, relevant classes, and meaningful relationships with adults who push all students to achieve. To date, the foundation has invested more than $1 billion to improve the nation’s high school system. The new EXCELerator schools include:

John F. Kennedy High School
Morgan Park High School
Roosevelt High School
The Al Raby School for Community and Environment

Washington, D.C.
Cardozo High School
Wilson High School
H.D. Woodson High School

Duval County
Robert E. Lee High School
Terry Parker High School
Samuel Wolfson High School
Sandalwood High School

The College Board is a not-for-profit membership association whose mission is to connect students to college success and opportunity. Founded in 1900, the association is composed of more than 5,000 schools, colleges, universities, and other educational organizations. Each year, the College Board serves seven million students and their parents, 23,000 high schools, and 3,500 colleges through major programs and services in college admissions, guidance, assessment, financial aid, enrollment, and teaching and learning. Among its best-known programs are the SAT, the PSAT/NMSQT, and the Advanced Placement Program (AP). The College Board is committed to the principles of excellence and equity, and that commitment is embodied in all of its programs, services, activities, and concerns. For further information, visit

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to reduce inequities and improve lives around the world. In developing countries, it focuses on improving health, reducing extreme poverty, and increasing access to technology in public libraries. In the United States, the foundation seeks to ensure that all people have access to a great education and to technology in public libraries. In its local region, it focuses on improving the lives of low-income families. Based in Seattle, the foundation is led by CEO Patty Stonesifer and Co-chairs William H. Gates Sr., Bill Gates, and Melinda French Gates.


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