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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 13, 2007

Governor Blagojevich announces new partnership with Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to better prepare students for college and workplace
Partnership will focus on developing state policies and programs to better prepare all students for success

SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today announced the Illinois College and Work Readiness Partnership, which will focus on developing policies and programs to better prepare Illinois students for success in the workforce and in continuing their education after high school.  Partners include the Office of the Governor, the Illinois State Board of Education and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
 
“Preparing our students for success in college and in the workforce is one of our top priorities,” said Gov. Blagojevich.  “I am excited that the Gates Foundation shares our goal, and supports our efforts to improve expectations, student achievement and build a stronger, more successful Illinois in the future.”
 
This Illinois College and Work Readiness Partnership is focused on developing a set of state policies that will encourage more students to graduate ready for continuing their education after high school.  The Gates Foundation, through its partner the Holland + Knight Education Policy Team, will look for ways to improve curriculum, better coordination between elementary, secondary and higher education, improve the state's data systems and targeting assistance to schools that need it most.  The partnership will work to create an overall framework for developing and implementing policies to improve student performance beyond high school.  
 
“We’re excited to be partnering with Illinois to increase student achievement and better prepare our young people for success beyond the classroom,” said Steve Seleznow, Program Director with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  “Illinois is an important partner in our national goal to help all students graduate as strong citizens ready for work and college.”
 
Illinois has begun the process of ensuring that its high school diplomas are truly a measure of preparedness for continuing education after high school and the work force, and that a higher percentage of students obtain a diploma.  Gov. Blagojevich successfully led the effort to increase Illinois’ high school graduation requirements for the first time in more than 20 years and has supported policies leading to increased rigor at our high schools, as well as better addressing the linkage between secondary and higher education.
 
The Illinois State Board of Education is focusing on post-secondary education and workforce preparation by selecting high school reform as one of its top issues and by adopting as a central component of its strategic plan the goal of fostering 21st century literacy skills.  ISBE is also working with other state agency partners on improving the preparation of students for work and careers and is chairing the Illinois Workforce Investment Board Task Force on K-12 career development.  
 
“Gov. Blagojevich and the Board have made preparing our students for success in life after high school a priority,” said Interim State School Superintendent Christopher Koch.  “This truly is a win-win situation for Illinois, as this partnership will bring to the table expertise that we would not otherwise have had access to, and we’ll be able to get that expertise at no additional cost to the state.”
 
Based in Seattle, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to reduce inequities and improve lives around the world.  Through its partnerships in communities across the nation, the Foundation is committed to raising the high school graduation rate and helping all students, regardless of race or family income, graduate as strong citizens ready for work and college.  
 
The Holland + Knight Education Policy Team, with extensive expertise in the process of educational policy change, will lead the provision of technical assistance.  This partnership with the Gates Foundation will help ensure that Illinois decision-makers have access to high-quality information and action plans that will help prepare students for continuing their education after high school and success in the workforce. 


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