Here's the letter that the Gates Foundation's CEO, Sue Desmond-Hellman wrote earlier this month. Buried in there are some real gems about public education (couched of course in nuanced language.)
The lead paragraph:
From the beginning, Bill and Melinda wanted their foundation to be a learning organization; one that evolves and course corrects based on evidence. We want to get continually smarter. One of our greatest areas of learning has been our work in K-12 U.S. education.I actually laughed out loud. Well, the Gates Foundation may have "learned" something but it has taken them millions to do so and that "evidence" is more experience in failure. As well, they were using other people's children and schools as their guinea pigs.
However, all this learning never seemed to get them out of their echo chamber which is their biggest problem.
She goes into talking about Common Core and how it's helping and uses Kentucky as an example. Kentucky was one of the earliest adopters of CC. One thing Ms. Desmond-Hellman leaves out is this (from The Hechinger Report):
Once the state introduced the Common Core-aligned tests in the spring of 2012, that percentage dropped 28 points in reading (to 48 percent) and 33 points in math (to 40 percent), according to the Kentucky Department of Education. Middle and high school students’ scores also dropped. Scores have been edging up ever since.Desmond-Hellman also says this:
Despite that improvement, within those numbers are hidden divisions that have existed for decades. Breaking the scores down shows that African-American students fare much worse than their white peers.
And those gaps, in many cases, have widened, according to an analysis of state testing data by The Hechinger Report and the Courier-Journal.
Rigorous standards and high expectations are meaningless if teachers aren’t equipped to help students meet them.Okay then, what has the Gates Foundation done, either verbally or with dollars, to better equip teachers on a systemic level? I can tell you that if Bill Gates went to Olympia and testified before either the Senate or the House education committees about McCleary, they would listen.
Here's where they eat their humble pie:
Unfortunately, our foundation underestimated the level of resources and support required for our public education systems to be well-equipped to implement the standards. We missed an early opportunity to sufficiently engage educators – particularly teachers – but also parents and communities so that the benefits of the standards could take flight from the beginning.Of course, they then blame the confusion/problems around CC implementation on
This has been a challenging lesson for us to absorb, but we take it to heart. The mission of improving education in America is both vast and complicated, and the Gates Foundation doesn’t have all the answers.
"identifying or developing Common Core-aligned materials is a challenge."
As for the LA Times editorial, this is big. The LA Times, like the Seattle Times, has a "partnership" relationship for ed reporting. Many people have been troubled by how the Gates Foundation has tried to - well - buy media, create faux teacher and parent groups, etc. In short, control the messaging on public education.
That the LA Times is pushing back was quite a surprise. From the editorial:
It was a remarkable admission for a foundation that had often acted as though it did have all the answers. Today, the Gates Foundation is clearly rethinking its bust-the-walls-down strategy on education — as it should. And so should the politicians and policymakers, from the federal level to the local, who have given the educational wishes of Bill and Melinda Gates and other well-meaning philanthropists and foundations too much sway in recent years over how schools are run.
Philanthropists are not generally education experts, and even if they hire scholars and experts, public officials shouldn’t be allowing them to set the policy agenda for the nation’s public schools. The Gates experience teaches once again that educational silver bullets are in short supply and that some educational trends live only a little longer than mayflies.I'm with Michael - this could be a breakthrough.
end of update
Could this be the breakthrough where the really rich people actually start listening to teachers and parents and stop believing just because they went to school 40 years ago and they have made billions of dollars they have all the answers to public education in the country?
I doubt it, but we can always hope.
Gates Foundation failures show philanthropists shouldn’t be setting America's public school agenda