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Wednesday, May 28, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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$3.36 million in Gates grants awarded to innovative school programs

Seattle Times staff reporter

At Everett Community College, students soon will be able to spend the last two years of high school studying oceanography and leave with a high-school diploma and an associate's degree. A similar program under development at Highline Community College will focus on information technology.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation yesterday announced $3.36 million in grants to 10 more Washington schools, including two that plan to merge the last two years of high school with the first two years of college.

The other grants, which ranged from $70,000 to $675,000, went to a variety of schools across the state. In this area, they included a new Highline high school with an aviation theme; Todd Beamer High School in Federal Way; and Marysville Junior High, which plans to create four small learning communities within its walls.

The two community-college programs, however, are the latest twist on the foundation's efforts to change the American high school and provide more opportunities for students to go to college.

Last year, the foundation announced $40 million in grants to 70 high schools (eight in Washington state) that plan to provide enough college curriculums on their campuses so that students would leave with a diploma and an associate's degree.

This time, two Washington community colleges were awarded grants to do essentially the same thing — only on their campuses rather than at a high school.

The oceanography program at Everett Community College is the dream of a longtime Snohomish teacher, Ardi Kveven, who took a leave of absence this year to seek financial support for a program that will do more than she could provide in a traditional high school.

"I wanted to be able to have more than 55-minute periods, and be able to take students to the ocean, instead of trying to bring the ocean to them," Kveven said yesterday.

The two new community-college programs also may be one answer to the question of what high-school students do after they pass the state's 10th Grade test, the Washington Assessment of Student Learning, or WASL.

"It's fascinating that in Washington and across the country, we're implementing high-stakes tests in 10th grade," said Tom Vander Ark, the foundation's executive director of education. "One of the undiscussed questions is ... what happens after 10th grade — what do we really want kids to do?"

The other schools that received grants yesterday were: Clover Park New School in Clover Park, a new 5-12 school; Elk Plain School of Choice in Bethel; Robert E. Lee Elementary in East Wenatchee; Waterville School in north central Washington; and Wind River Middle School in Skamania County.

The foundation looks for schools that have strong leadership, and a commitment to creating small, personal learning communities, among other things. The schools also must provide a budget match of at least 20 percent.

For the new schools, the grants will be used largely for planning, and most expect to open in fall 2004. For the existing schools, the grants will go toward planning, teacher training, materials and technology.

To date, the foundation says it has given more than $148 million to Washington schools and districts, and $100 million in college scholarships for Washington high-school students.

Nationwide, it has spent nearly $2 billion on education in the past three years, including $400 million to create new small high schools and redesign large ones, and $1.3 billion in college scholarships.

Linda Shaw: 206-464-2359 or lshaw@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2003 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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