The last program evidently receives the most attention in terms of payment for grants, as in 2007 it reached $1.22 billion and accounted for 61% of all donations (Gates Foundation, Annual report, 2007). Additionally, the Gates Foundation works to improve economic conditions around the world through agricultural developments, financial services, and technology services. In the United States, the Gates Foundation focuses on community grants in the Northwest, technology services in libraries, and education across the country (Hill, 2006). From the critical perspective, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation represents the modern ideal of giving and philanthropy, of what Payton and Moody eloquently described as "[it] is about ideas and values as well as about actionis always an effort to blend the idea and the practical" (Payton and Moody, 4).
In 2000, the leadership of the Gates Foundation Education Division was committed to being the most publicly scrutinized philanthropy in American history. The main philanthropic goal of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's Education Program is to increase significantly the number of low-income minority students who graduate high school with academic skills needed for success in post secondary education and in the workplace (Smerdon and Means, 1). In February of 2005, Bill Gates spoke at a governor's conference in Washington, DC regarding the condition of American high schools (Hess, 2005). The 45 governors in attendance listened as Bill Gates declared America's high schools obsolete. He elaborated by saying, "By obsolete, I mean that our high schools - even when they're working exactly as designed - cannot teach our kids what they need to know today" (Rhodes et al, 7). Additionally, Gates reviewed some troubling evidence to support his comments regarding the lack of success in American high schools. Gates made his point with the nation's governors by stating that only 71% of students graduated high school in 2002, and only 34% were minimally prepared for college (Rhodes et al, 7). In addition to improving American high school system, the Gates Foundation actively seeks to change public policy regarding American schools, which include implementation of transparency in school finance, multiple independent school providers, and performance-based accountability (Hill, 2006).
The Foundation's commitment to increasing the number of smaller, personalized high schools, and a knowledge base for success in these schools, has led to the National School District and Network Grants Program. This program is taking a twopronged approach with regard to grantee organizations: (a) grantee organizations are developing new, smaller high schools; and (b) grantee organizations are converting larger high schools into smaller learning communities. As a part of the new high school initiative, the foundation provides grants for Early College High Schools (ECHSs) (Smerdon and Means, 1). The Early College High School Initiative focuses specifically on increased academic rigor through blending high school and college education (Smerdon and Means, 1). The ECHSs are purposefully designed to provide students with a high school diploma and an associate's degree, or 2 years of