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Gates Foundation to invest in next-generation instructional tools

Annual report says the world’s largest charitable foundation spent $373 million on U.S. education in 2009

The Gates Foundation will invest funds to develop “next-generation instructional tools” to help implement the Common Core state standards.

The Gates Foundation will invest funds to develop “next-generation instructional tools” to help implement the Common Core state standards.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation plans to invest up to $250 million over the next eight years to develop “next-generation instructional tools” that will help states and school districts implement the Common Core state standards, the foundation said in its annual report Sept. 7.

The Gates Foundation, one of the largest givers of money to K-12 and higher education in the United States, also plans to fund “data-driven research that explores ways states can modify the [Common Core] standards and assessments to improve student success in school and the workforce.”

Led by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association, the Common Core State Standards Initiative established a set of shared K-12 standards for English and math that states could adopt voluntarily. The idea was to replace the patchwork of state standards that vary dramatically from state to state with a single, rigorous set of guidelines for what students should know and be able to do at each grade level.

The final common standards were released earlier this year, and as of press time 36 states and the District of Columbia had adopted the new standards.

“The more states that adopt these college- and career-based standards, the closer we will be to sharing innovation across state borders and improving achievement for all students,” said Gates Foundation co-chair Bill Gates. “As states adopt the standards, policy makers will need to make sure that our teachers have what they need to do their jobs—rich assessment systems that yield useful, timely data; tools that translate that data into more effective instruction; and evaluations and compensation systems that reward teachers for performance.”

Supporting the development and adoption of the Common Core standards was one of the Gates Foundation’s many education investments in 2009. All told, the foundation spent $373 million on U.S. education last year and another $19 million on libraries, according to its annual report.

Besides the Common Core standards initiative, the foundation also invested in projects to improve teacher quality and improve education data systems.

Despite its work in these areas, the world’s largest charitable foundation acknowledged in its annual report that it is too secretive and hard to work with.

The report, posted online, includes the usual financial information and a look at the foundation’s plans. But it also offers a glimpse of the organization’s attempts to be more open.

CEO Jeff Raikes draws attention in the report to a grantee survey that gave the foundation poor marks for communicating its goals and strategies, and for confusing people with its complicated grant-making process.

Raikes originally released the survey results in June—a day before Bill Gates made headlines for launching a campaign with investor Warren Buffett to get other American billionaires to give at least half their wealth to charity.

Few but charity insiders noticed the unfavorable review, and the foundation could have let it fade into obscurity.

Instead, Raikes points out the results for all to see in the annual report, right next to his letter outlining the foundation’s priorities for the near future.

The editor of the Chronicle of Philanthropy believes the foundation is clearly making an effort to improve its communications.

Stacy Palmer credits Raikes, with his years at Microsoft Corp., for knowing the importance of customer relations. But she thinks the foundation has a ways to go.

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Comments:

  1. lmj.norris

    September 9, 2010 at 3:03 pm

    I suppose there are many views on what Bill Gates ought to spend his money on. The premise of the operation for education seems to be based on logic – - see the standards — implement the standards with technology — test the results — adjust the program — and repeat. I believe that all the technology that is being administered in the process should free the educators to allow teachers to not only teach, but along with parents and family convince children that they are good, that they are loved and that there are fundamental principles of behavior, which must be followed. Children who have the right fundamental outlook on life will likely be good learners. We can’t lose track of the fact that education is not only a process, it is life. Life needs poetry and prayer and inspiration. Technology is a shadow of life, it is not life itself. Gates Sr. certainly understands that the baby image on the ultrasound may give great joy to the expectant mother, but that shadow is nothing compared to the actual baby born to her. I suspect the Gates’ understand these things and that the end game in education is helping shape the person not just his or her knowledge, skills and abilities. Unfortunately, technology offers as many bad influences on character development as good influences. The amoral Internet, social network bullying and degradation, senseless electronic communications constantly interloping into human face-to-face interactions, driving while techtoxified, etc. — there are huge impediments today to education and development caused by poor use of technology. The fact that Gates has this huge foundation suggests that he believes he can direct investment in education better than those who have been at it. I wish him more than good luck, I wish him God’s speed.

  2. lmj.norris

    September 9, 2010 at 3:03 pm

    I suppose there are many views on what Bill Gates ought to spend his money on. The premise of the operation for education seems to be based on logic – - see the standards — implement the standards with technology — test the results — adjust the program — and repeat. I believe that all the technology that is being administered in the process should free the educators to allow teachers to not only teach, but along with parents and family convince children that they are good, that they are loved and that there are fundamental principles of behavior, which must be followed. Children who have the right fundamental outlook on life will likely be good learners. We can’t lose track of the fact that education is not only a process, it is life. Life needs poetry and prayer and inspiration. Technology is a shadow of life, it is not life itself. Gates Sr. certainly understands that the baby image on the ultrasound may give great joy to the expectant mother, but that shadow is nothing compared to the actual baby born to her. I suspect the Gates’ understand these things and that the end game in education is helping shape the person not just his or her knowledge, skills and abilities. Unfortunately, technology offers as many bad influences on character development as good influences. The amoral Internet, social network bullying and degradation, senseless electronic communications constantly interloping into human face-to-face interactions, driving while techtoxified, etc. — there are huge impediments today to education and development caused by poor use of technology. The fact that Gates has this huge foundation suggests that he believes he can direct investment in education better than those who have been at it. I wish him more than good luck, I wish him God’s speed.

  3. rick-

    September 10, 2010 at 1:19 pm

    Pablo Eisenberg states that Gates’ foundation has a moral obligation to include more people in the decision-making process. Bull. It’s Bill Gates’ money. He can do with it as he pleases. If it were my money, I’d be the sole decision-maker for any place my money was spent. I’d consult others and gather as much information and wisdom as I could from various sources, but I’d have the final say over how any of *my* money was spent.

    Pablo, you are out-of-your-mind to think that Bill Gates has *any* obligation to allow yourself or others to decide how he spends his money.

  4. rick-

    September 10, 2010 at 1:19 pm

    Pablo Eisenberg states that Gates’ foundation has a moral obligation to include more people in the decision-making process. Bull. It’s Bill Gates’ money. He can do with it as he pleases. If it were my money, I’d be the sole decision-maker for any place my money was spent. I’d consult others and gather as much information and wisdom as I could from various sources, but I’d have the final say over how any of *my* money was spent.

    Pablo, you are out-of-your-mind to think that Bill Gates has *any* obligation to allow yourself or others to decide how he spends his money.

  5. toolkit

    September 11, 2010 at 9:12 am

    I agree that Bill and Melinda Gates can spend their money any way that they see fit. But, rather than complaining that Bill and Melinda Gates “don’t’ spend their money the way that you believe they should,” why not complain that “our school districts spend an obscene amount of money on things that they shouldn’t.”

    In Texas alone, for example (according to the Oct. Texas Monthly); the state could easily save $1.5 billion on education. $500 million could be saved by delaying the purchase of new science books. (The reason for the new science books is political, not science…based upon antagonism by some groups over the “Theory of Evolution.” Sheer waste of taxpayer money!) Another huge chunk of wasted money could be saved by holding every school district to the TX state average number of administrators at 2006 levels.

    Of course, the basic logic of Bill and Melinda Gates reforming education is flawed. “If educator executives and managers can’t figure out how to structure schools so that students learn, how can business experts do any better?”

    Besides, the confounding variable (pun intended) is political meddling into education. If religion and education should not mix, then education should be “off limits” to politicians. I suggest hard-time prison sentences with “hard labor” for any politician that does anything related to exerting influence upon our educational system. If business leaders are “in the dark” about how education functions, then politicians are “blind and clueless.”

    Here is the secret to education:

    Students learn in unique and idiosyncratic ways, and good teachers tailor instruction to every single one of their students. Change one student in a class, and the educational strategies appropriate for that class changes. Master teachers adjust instinctively. Lesser teachers and educational outsiders don’t have the wherewithal to perceive the dynamics of what happens in a learning classroom.

    Bill and Melinda Gates will spend a lot more money, but achieve marginal success at improving the instructional outcomes generated by our schools if they hold to their current course. This lack of Return on Investment (ROI) is caused by the foundation’s backward approach.

    Here are some erroneous assumptions:

    * The problems of meager educational results stems from limited funding.
    * Corollary: Money can solve educational problems.
    * Uniform standards will result in better instructional outcomes.
    * Corollary: A lack of standards created the mess that education is in.
    * Better data allows teachers to make better decisions.
    * Corollary: A lack of data created the mess that education is in.
    * Corollary: Teachers will use more data if they have it.
    * Corollary: Teachers make decisions based upon data.
    * Corollary: Data is important to teaching and learning.

    Bill and Melinda Gates might turn prospects for reform around if they replace the Foundation’s Board with teachers, parents and students. This change is imperative if they want to make a positive impact on teaching and learning.

    Bill Gates is an expert marketer, and should know that you “sell what people want,” and you “can’t sell what people need.” This holds for education..for both teachers and students. This is also the reason that the ROI for the failed technology integration movement was so dismal.

    Although Bill and Melinda Gates can spend their money any way that they see fit, it is still sad to see them wasting money in our schools on strategies that only stand to deliver marginal results and miniature measurable improvements.

    Many master teachers could advise the Gates Foundation on effective instructional strategies that would make better use of their money…if only the Foundation Folks knew who to ask. And, if only the Foundation Folks knew the right questions to ask.

  6. toolkit

    September 11, 2010 at 9:12 am

    I agree that Bill and Melinda Gates can spend their money any way that they see fit. But, rather than complaining that Bill and Melinda Gates “don’t’ spend their money the way that you believe they should,” why not complain that “our school districts spend an obscene amount of money on things that they shouldn’t.”

    In Texas alone, for example (according to the Oct. Texas Monthly); the state could easily save $1.5 billion on education. $500 million could be saved by delaying the purchase of new science books. (The reason for the new science books is political, not science…based upon antagonism by some groups over the “Theory of Evolution.” Sheer waste of taxpayer money!) Another huge chunk of wasted money could be saved by holding every school district to the TX state average number of administrators at 2006 levels.

    Of course, the basic logic of Bill and Melinda Gates reforming education is flawed. “If educator executives and managers can’t figure out how to structure schools so that students learn, how can business experts do any better?”

    Besides, the confounding variable (pun intended) is political meddling into education. If religion and education should not mix, then education should be “off limits” to politicians. I suggest hard-time prison sentences with “hard labor” for any politician that does anything related to exerting influence upon our educational system. If business leaders are “in the dark” about how education functions, then politicians are “blind and clueless.”

    Here is the secret to education:

    Students learn in unique and idiosyncratic ways, and good teachers tailor instruction to every single one of their students. Change one student in a class, and the educational strategies appropriate for that class changes. Master teachers adjust instinctively. Lesser teachers and educational outsiders don’t have the wherewithal to perceive the dynamics of what happens in a learning classroom.

    Bill and Melinda Gates will spend a lot more money, but achieve marginal success at improving the instructional outcomes generated by our schools if they hold to their current course. This lack of Return on Investment (ROI) is caused by the foundation’s backward approach.

    Here are some erroneous assumptions:

    * The problems of meager educational results stems from limited funding.
    * Corollary: Money can solve educational problems.
    * Uniform standards will result in better instructional outcomes.
    * Corollary: A lack of standards created the mess that education is in.
    * Better data allows teachers to make better decisions.
    * Corollary: A lack of data created the mess that education is in.
    * Corollary: Teachers will use more data if they have it.
    * Corollary: Teachers make decisions based upon data.
    * Corollary: Data is important to teaching and learning.

    Bill and Melinda Gates might turn prospects for reform around if they replace the Foundation’s Board with teachers, parents and students. This change is imperative if they want to make a positive impact on teaching and learning.

    Bill Gates is an expert marketer, and should know that you “sell what people want,” and you “can’t sell what people need.” This holds for education..for both teachers and students. This is also the reason that the ROI for the failed technology integration movement was so dismal.

    Although Bill and Melinda Gates can spend their money any way that they see fit, it is still sad to see them wasting money in our schools on strategies that only stand to deliver marginal results and miniature measurable improvements.

    Many master teachers could advise the Gates Foundation on effective instructional strategies that would make better use of their money…if only the Foundation Folks knew who to ask. And, if only the Foundation Folks knew the right questions to ask.

  7. tinydancerwwjd

    September 12, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    AMEN!

  8. tinydancerwwjd

    September 12, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    AMEN!

  9. rblong

    September 15, 2010 at 1:10 am

    I work in a district where the Gates Foundation funded the creation of a tech high school. They found that technology takes a back seat to the skill of the teacher. You can’t “technology” your way around weak teachers, but technology in skilled hands can improve learning.

    Why aren’t there more highly skilled teachers out there? They are too smart to work for the relatively low pay and under the conditions teachers work under. Talk about ROI: spending $60,000-120,000 for a college education to land a job that starts below $30,000 and tops out at around $50,000 (in my state) makes no sense.

  10. rblong

    September 15, 2010 at 1:10 am

    I work in a district where the Gates Foundation funded the creation of a tech high school. They found that technology takes a back seat to the skill of the teacher. You can’t “technology” your way around weak teachers, but technology in skilled hands can improve learning.

    Why aren’t there more highly skilled teachers out there? They are too smart to work for the relatively low pay and under the conditions teachers work under. Talk about ROI: spending $60,000-120,000 for a college education to land a job that starts below $30,000 and tops out at around $50,000 (in my state) makes no sense.