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Foundation calls for proposals to create new charter school model in Idaho

In order to jumpstart education innovation in Idaho, the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation has released a $5 million Request for Proposals (RFP) for applications to create a new school model whose students earn more than just a traditional high school diploma.

The Pathways to College and Careers Charter School plan asks applicants to design and launch a charter school in collaboration with a higher-education institution and a strong industry partner. By establishing critical partnerships, these entities will be able to offer individualized pathways to success that results in a quality industry certificate and/or a degree. Students will be in a position to excel in college or in a well-paying job in one of Idaho’s major industries.

The Foundation has budgeted $5 million for a successful school startup, including expenses to pay for trips to Idaho to discuss potential proposals. The money will also pay for the school’s establishment, to ensure that students can attend without having to pay tuition.

“Idaho students, regardless of their zip code or economic circumstance, deserve every possible advantage to help them launch meaningful careers,” said Jamie MacMillan, the Executive Director of the Foundation. “We’re excited to offer Idaho a school model that combines solid student achievement outcomes while producing graduates who are ready to fill positions in Idaho’s leading industries. I hope this sends a signal that Idaho wants to be ready for tomorrow’s jobs. Our economy is demanding this kind of innovation.”

The school envisioned in the Foundation’s RFP is inspired by the Pathways in Technology Early College High School, or P-TECH, model that is being piloted in Brooklyn, N.Y. and Chicago, IL. While those schools serve students in grades 9-14, the Foundation is open to funding projects that serve a different grade range as well. Applicants need not be from Idaho to participate.

“While this has been piloted in urban environments we see a great tie in for students in rural communities because they could benefit greatly from this kind of educational opportunity,” said MacMillan.

Letters of Intent are due March 8. The Foundation will host a “bidder’s academy” on February 27 to help interested applicants learn more. Final proposals are due April 5.

Gary Michael, a board member of the Foundation and a former chairman and CEO of Albertson’s, Inc., as well as a former chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank in San Francisco, will lead the committee to review applications that meet the criteria.

“I’m thrilled that Idaho students, no matter where they live, could get the kind of competitive advantage that this new form of charter school can offer,” said Michael. “Our industries need the talent from inside Idaho, and our students deserve every chance to get tomorrow’s best jobs. We know this works in New York and Chicago. It can work in any part of Idaho as well.”

The P-TECH school partners with an industry professional who ensures the school’s academic program is aligned to and meets the needs and trends in that industry.

“We applaud the Albertson Family Foundation’s focus on education and the economy, and hope to see successful proposals demonstrate the ability to replicate the successful P-TECH model that enables students to gain both a high school diploma and an associate’s in applied science degree through a structured six year program,” said Stanley S. Litow, Vice President, Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs at IBM. “We believe that this will enable them to establish a clear pathway to a college and career.”

The third leg of a P-TECH school is a higher education institution, to help guide and inform curriculum at the school.

“The idea of combining rigorous academics, post-secondary education and employers with a strong technical focus, resulting in a credential that has real value in the labor market, is a very attractive proposition,” said Robert Schwartz, the Francis Keppel Professor of Practice in Educational Policy and Administration at Harvard University. “Based on the early results of the first P-TECH school in New York City, there’s reason to believe that this can be a breakthrough model.”

“With the potential for providing students with a cutting edge model of schooling, Idaho will take an important leadership role among states creating innovative investments in educational opportunity,” said Jeanne Allen, President of the Center for Education Reform. “The evidence shows that charter schools exceed traditional public school achievement. Now Idaho will be offering even more opportunity to families to engage their students in new ways.”

To view the RFP itself, click here.

The J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation is a Boise-based, private family foundation committed to limitless learning for all Idahoans. Since 1997, the Foundation has invested more than $500 million to improve education in Idaho. For more information about the Foundation visit www.jkaf.org. To watch a short video about how Idaho educators responded to the Khan Academy in Idaho training session in October, click here.