AT&T announces quarter-billion dollar expansion of education commitment through Aspire Program

AT&T’s ‘Socially Innovative’ Approach aims to increase high school graduates, boost workplace readiness

As access to skilled workers becomes increasingly vital to the U.S. economy, AT&T is launching a quarter-billion dollar campaign to help more students graduate from high school ready for careers and college, and to ensure the country is better prepared to meet global competition. Wisconsin organizations can now submit applications for funding through Aspire.

“AT&T Aspire works toward an America where every student graduates high school equipped with the knowledge and skills to strengthen the nation’s workforce,” said AT&T Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson, who announced the extended commitment during a keynote address at the second annual Building a Grad Nation Summit in Washington, D.C. The event brings together nearly 1,200 U.S. leaders to discuss progress and challenges in ending the high school dropout crisis.

The greatly expanded effort centers on a new, $250 million financial commitment planned over 5 years. AT&T Aspire will build on that commitment by using technology to connect with students in new and more effective ways, such as with interactive gamification, Web-based content, and social media. The company will also tap the innovation engine of the AT&T Foundry to look for fresh or atypical approaches to educational obstacles. Finally, AT&T Aspire will capitalize on the power of personal connections in the form of mentoring, internships and other voluntary efforts that involve many of AT&T’s approximately 260,000 employees.

AT&T Aspire will tackle high school success and college/career readiness for students at-risk of dropping out of high school through a much larger, “socially innovative” approach. Social ditional philanthropy – which typically involves only charitable giving – to also engage people and technology to bring different approaches, new solutions and added resources to challenging social problems.

The Aspire effort, already among the most significant U.S. corporate educational initiatives, has already impacted more than one million U.S. high school students, helping them prepare for success in the workplace and college.

The Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) recently received a $90,000 Aspire grant – the fourth installment in a $360,000 Aspire grant awarded in 2008 to support the district’s efforts to improve math achievement and reduce suspension numbers at Bradley Tech and Vincent High Schools. The AT&T Aspire grant funded two programs: the Restorative Justice Program to provide an alternative to suspensions and expulsions and the Math Achievement Program to improve student achievement in math.

“These programs have been critical to improving academic success, reducing suspensions, and improving attendance and graduation numbers at Bradley Tech and Vincent High Schools,” said MPS Superintendent Gregory E. Thornton. “With this generous support from AT&T, we’ve been able to expand these programs and help more students graduate prepared for higher education, careers, and citizenship.”

The Restorative Justice Program has been successful in helping to reduce suspension rates and increase attendance rates at Bradley Tech and Vincent High Schools for the first time in many years. The Math Achievement Program has helped both schools increase at least four percentage points on the November 2010 WKCE math test scores for the first time in four years, increasing the numbers of proficient and advanced students.

“In order to succeed in the increasingly global, high-tech economy, our young people need a quality education,” said State Senator Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee.

“These programs funded by AT&T Aspire are important to helping ensure every student in the Milwaukee Public Schools has the opportunity and resources to attain academic success and graduate from high school.”

Between now and April 18, 2012, AT&T is encouraging Wisconsin organizations to submit applications to prequalify for potential funding through the Local High School Impact Initiative Requests for Proposals (RFPs). AT&T is most interested in funding local programs that have strong, evidence-based practices grounded in the What Works Clearinghouse Dropout Prevention: A Practice Guide and data-driven outcomes demonstrated to improve high school graduation rates.

More information on the RFP process is available at

The new and expanded AT&T commitment builds on the work AT&T Aspire has completed in the last four years. AT&T and the AT&T Foundation have invested more than $100 million in Aspire since 2008 and more than $923 million in education since 1984. Wisconsin’s Aspire investment has amounted to $1,117,465 since 2008. In addition to the Milwaukee Public Schools, other organizations that have benefited from Aspire grants are the Foundation for Madison Public Schools and the West Allis – West Milwaukee School District.

Lacking a high school degree is a serious issue in the United States, where one in four students – more than 1 million each year – drops out of school, according to a new report issued Monday by Civic Enterprises, the Everyone Graduates Center, America’s Promise Alliance and the Alliance for Excellent Education. AT&T is a lead sponsor of the report. Education experts believe the lack of a high school degree significantly worsens job prospects in a rapidly changing, increasingly sophisticated jobs market. And if dropouts find jobs, they earn less. On average, high school dropouts earn 25 percent less during their lifetimes compared with high school graduates and 57 percent less than college graduates with a bachelor’s degree.

Although the problem is serious, there are signs of progress according to the report issued Monday:

  • The high school graduation rate increased by 3.5 percent nationally from 72 percent in 2001 to 75.5 percent in 2009.
  • From 2002 to 2009, six states experienced large gains in their graduation rates; 14 states made moderate gains; and four states made modest gains.
  • Wisconsin has seen a nearly 6 percent increase in 2009 graduation rates, compared to 2001.
  • The number of “dropout factory” high schools (a high school where 12th grade enrollment is 60 percent or less than the 9th grade enrollment three years previously) dropped from 2,007 to 1,550 from 2002 to 2010 – a 23 percent decrease.

“It will take all of us working together and supporting the hard work of the education community to continue to improve graduation rates and preparedness for careers and college,” said Scott T. Vander-Sanden, president of AT&T Wisconsin.

“American business has an enormous stake in the success of our students. It’s time to commit more innovation and resources to the task.”