Project GRAD works across all grades from pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade to ensure a quality public education for all children in economically disadvantaged communities, increase high school graduation rates, and prepare graduates to succeed in college.
As CEO of conglomerate Tenneco Inc., James Ketelsen initiated a program in 1988 to provide scholarships to graduates of Davis High School, which was the lowest-performing high school in Houston at the time. In its first three years, the program helped quadruple the number of Davis graduates entering college, but Ketelsen had his eye on a bigger goal — ensuring that half of the school's ninth graders enrolled in college after high school. After retiring in 1992, Ketelsen spearheaded the development of a program that builds basic skills, improves student behavior, and catches children before they are at risk of dropping out. Designed to begin in kindergarten or earlier, the program was piloted in elementary and middle schools that send students to Davis. Over the last decade, Project GRAD has expanded to other schools in Houston and to schools in eleven cities across the United States.
The components of the Project GRAD model include MOVE-IT Math, which teaches mathematics by emphasizing student discovery, reasoning, and communication; and Success For All, a research-based reading and writing program to help all students succeed in reading in the elementary grades. The program also offers counseling, family case-management, and other social services. In high school, Project GRAD helps students attend summer programs, gain admission to college, and apply for scholarships. It also provides college scholarships to all of its high school graduates. Project GRAD USA, the national organization, provides evaluation, technical support, and funding for each Project GRAD site. School districts interested in becoming Project GRAD sites should contact the national headquarters for application information.
In addition to its Houston schools, Project GRAD works in Atlanta; Akron, Cincinnati, and Columbus, Ohio; Knoxville, Tennessee; Los Angeles, California; Newark, New Jersey; and Roosevelt, New York. Most recently, it launched programs in Brownsville, Texas, and Kenai, Alaska. The organization plans to serve more than a quarter of a million students in twenty cities by the 2006-2007 school year.
The Project GRAD Web site provides an overview of the program's approach, its history, and goals. The InAction section features profiles of the people who make Project GRAD work; case studies of the programs in Houston and Knoxville; and links to local sites, program news, and scholarship information.
Major national supporters of Project GRAD include the Ford Foundation, KnowledgeWorks Foundation, Lucent Technologies, the U.S. Department of Education, Verizon Foundation, and Continental Airlines.