Speaking at the annual conference of the Council of the Great City Schools in Cleveland on Thursday 19th, 2017, Bill Gates, the chairman and co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said the foundation will change strategy in regards to education philanthropy. This is largely becomes some of the foundation’s projects have failed to perform as expected.
In 2013, Gates realized that his original strategy of donating hundreds of millions of dollars to some districts schools to create new teacher development evaluation systems partly based on students standardized test results did not work out as intended. Despite having been pushed by the Obama administration, this program generated a lot of controversy, leading to a rebellion among students, teachers, and tutors who were all against the high-stakes standardized tests.
Prior to embarking on the teacher evaluation project, the foundation had funded an expensive three-year project called the effective teaching project. Designed to identify and promote great teaching, the effective teaching project involved videotaping teachers and interviewing students to find out what engaged them in class. However, despite sinking millions of dollars in this project, the project wasn’t able to reveal anything new or groundbreaking. Specifically, the project only demonstrated that it is possible to identify great teaching by combining student achievement gains, student surveys and classroom observations.
In 2009, the foundation was involved in another project in the education philanthropy space. The aim of this particular project was to build small schools New York City. The foundation donated $650 million towards this cause but pulled out of the project nearly a decade later. According to the foundation’s newsletter at the time, the foundation decided to stop funding the project because the project failed to meet its objective of improving students’ achievement significantly.
New Strategy — Support “Locally Driven Solutions”
Over the next five years, Gates said, the foundation will use nearly 60% of its education philanthropy dollars to support K-12 networks of schools, districts and teachers that create and implement their own “locally driven solutions” aimed at improving student achievement. The foundation will also fund curricula and professional development. The new approach will have a greater impact and create durable systemic changes, explains Gates. The new strategy aims to encourage continuous improvement as well as innovation and creativity. Specifically, the foundation will encourage stakeholders to come up with approaches that will work for their local setting. Although Gates did not specify which schools or districts would benefit from the new money first, he did say that the foundation would initially give preference to high-need schools and districts spread across six to eight states. With the new money, the foundation aims to create something similar to the CORE Districts in California, which have collaborated on a wide range of issues including sharing data.
Besides K-12 schools, innovations with the potential to change the trajectory of public schools over the next decade or so will receive funding from the foundation. Specifically, the foundations will use 25% of the new money to support such initiatives. Finally, the foundation will channel 15% of the money to charter schools, specifically to assist children with some degree of behavioral and learning disabilities.
As a private tutoring service in California, we were delighted to hear about the new approach to education philanthropy from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. We look forward to reporting on the progress of the program, so be sure to check back with our blog for further updates.