Helping Municipal Leaders Expand Options and Alternatives for High School

Through the Helping Municipal Leaders Expand Options and Alternatives for High School project, which was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation from 2005-07, five cities received in-depth technical assistance as they sought to expand options and alternatives for students who struggle in traditional high school settings.

The project cities included Corpus Christi, Texas; Hartford, Conn.; Phoenix, Ariz.; San Antonio; and San José, Calif. YEF Institute staff and consultants helped each city form a team of municipal, school district, and community-based organization leaders, and supported those teams in creating and fulfilling action plans for expanding high school options and alternatives during the two-year project.

Monthly conference calls provided a regular opportunity to discuss challenges and progress in the project cities. The YEF Institute also responded to cities' requests for information, referrals, or specific assistance on various topics, and connected team leaders to national or regional resources as appropriate. For instance, Institute staff linked San Antonio and Corpus Christi with the resources and expertise of the Texas High School Project, which supports high school reform and innovation initiatives across the state.

YEF Institute staff also visited each of the cities at least once early in the project to confirm plans with mayors and gauge support among city councilmembers and school district collaborators. Throughout the project, NLC brought site representatives together for cross-site conference calls to promote peer learning and exchange, and convened site representatives in person at the close of the project for further exchange of information and experiences.

The project helped cities and their partners take a closer look at the range, strengths, and weaknesses of existing high schools and build strategies retaining the best of the familiar while blending in effective new practices. These cities quickly came to understand and respond to the need for new high school structures, curricula, ways of supporting and designing the roles of teachers and administrators and linkages with postsecondary opportunities.

City leaders helped spark the redesign or startup of schools through strategies such as engaging parents and the general public, establishing local infrastructures for city-school coordination and collaboration and assembling and targeting new resources. Their efforts are documented in the YEF Institute report, Expanding Options: City Roles in Creating High School Alternatives.