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Here is an informative newsletter from Sue Desmond-Hellman, CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, reporting on the foundation’s big efforts around the world, including its program to fix US education.
The foundation remains convinced that Common Core works. The Gates Foundation was the funder of the Common Core standards. Bill Gates explained that the Common Core was valuable because standardization is necessary, just as standard electric plugs and outlets are necessary. Desmond-Hellman points to Kentucky as proof that it works. The letter does not mention that the black-white achievement gap has grown wider in Kentucky since the adoption of the Common Core standards. Did they not know?
She says that the problems are due to the complexity of the undertaking, and teachers’ need for more support and resources. The foundation intends to double down on its efforts to implement the standards, because it is convinced that high standards will produce equity.
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.
The letter underscores the foundation’s lack of understanding that standards are not enough to create equity. Holding everyone to the same standards while ignoring the vast inequities in the lives of children and the resources of their schools and communities will not produce equal academic outcomes.
The CEO writes:
Our learning journey in U.S. education is far from over, but we are in it for the long haul. I’m optimistic that the lessons we learn from our partners – and, crucially, from educators – will help the American school system once again become the powerful engine of equity we all believe it should be.
Now, I have been trying to understand that sentence. Help me. The American school system never produced equal outcomes, as the foundation seems to believe. It has always strived–and failed–to provide equality of educational opportunity.
And I wonder why the Gates Foundation thinks it is making the “American school system” better by pushing privately managed charter schools, which drain resources and motivated students from the public schools.
All in all, this letter is confusing because it appears to say that the Gates Foundation sees higher standards as the be-all, end-all of education, and that is not true. Even in districts and states (like Massachusetts) with high standards, there is a wide spread of outcomes.
When the CEO refers to “the American school system,” is she referring to public schools, or to the full array of public, charter, private, independent, and religious schools?
The only thing that is certain is that the Gates Foundation intends to keep trying to direct and lead what they think is best for other people’s children.