Bill Gates Gates Foundation

Laura Chapman Explains the Gates Foundation’s Latest Gambit

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As you read recently, the Gates Foundation is investing $92 Million into the creation of “networks.” For the Gates Foundation, this is chump change. After all, it spent as much as $2 Billion on the Common Core, and $575 Million on trials of teacher evaluation by test scores (both failed to make any difference). So what is this tiny series of grants for? The education director of Gates is Robert Hughes, a lawyer who previously led New Visions for Public Schools in New York City. New Visions received the second largest grant.

Laura Chapman explains these grants, which promise remarkable results, results that have eluded Gates again and again.

She writes:


” It is still not clear what the $92 Million will do, although it’s likely to add a new layer of administrators.” Most of the Gates grants for “Networks for School Improvement” go to nongovernmental “intermediaries” and a theory of action (sort of) intended to induce targeted schools into some version of continuous improvement sharply focussed on improved test scores in math, plus college/career readiness.

I looked at the Gates Foundation press release and fact sheet about their current “portfolio of investments” in nineteen Networks for School Improvement. Almost all focus on improving test scores in math, middle school and 9th grade. Why? These test scores are viewed as “on-track indicators” for postsecondary enrollment.

Most of these grants require participating schools to adopt a continual improvement process (or continuous improvement process) determined by outside groups and “change experts.” The “science of school improvement” is a new slogan from reformers who wish to conduct experiments on students, teachers, and schools, while masking the corporate and science lab contexts from which the processes have been adapted. The Gates grants offer incentives for different versions of improvement science, some of these seeking incremental improvements, others seeking breakthrough improvements from “rapid” experimental cycles. All of these grants assume major deficiencies in the staff working in schools that that serve low income and mostly Black and Latino students, especially teachers of math.

In the following, I have edited the press release leaving in place only some of the jargon attached to justifications for each grant. Only one grant sends money to a public school district. Allmost all grants go to an intermediary organization structured to prevent direct oversight from elected school boards and supported by private dollars from foundations and corporations.

ACHIEVE ATLANTA: $532,000, 24 Months. Achieve Atlanta will help to develop a tool to support the successful matching of high school students to good-fit colleges and support students in selecting, applying to, and enrolling in good-fit postsecondary institutions. Aims: Create a matchmaking “tool” to aid students in selecting a postsecondary institution. Develop the “match and fit tool” as a predictive indicator for student success.

BALTIMORE CITY PUBLIC SCHOOLS: $11,160,000, 48 Months. BCPS will hire onsite literacy coaches trained to use “high quality, standards-aligned materials and continuous improvement strategies” to support teachers and accelerate literacy in 12-15 middle schools selected as Literacy Intensive Sites. Aim: Improve “8th and 9th Grade On-Track outcomes.”

BANK STREET COLLEGE: $700,000, 16 Months (Yonkers, NY) Bank Street will organize, train, and support school-based math teams and team leaders in 10 Yonkers Public Schools. Teams will analyze data to track student improvement. Aims: Increase the number of Black, Latino, and low-income students who successfully complete 8th grade math. Support Bank Street’s own data collection and analysis capacity in addition to the skills of teams and team leaders.

ED PARTNERS: $12,000,000, 61 Months (CA). California Education Partners (Ed Partners) will launch a network that will manage up to 50 secondary schools across 18 small and middle-size districts. Aims: Improve outcomes for Black, Latino and low-income students. Build the capacity of Ed Partners and these schools to improve outcomes (design, deliver, measure, learn from, and evaluate interventions).

CENTER FOR LEADERSHIP AND EDUCATIONAL EQUITY (CLEE): $560,000, 20 Months (RI) The Center will create a network that serves ten high schools in Rhode Island. CLEE will train teams of school and district leaders to be receptive to “a culture of change, identify equity gaps in 9th grade course completion, study root causes, and test interventions.” Aims: Increase the number of Black, Latino, and low-income students who complete a 9th grade college-prep math course. Induce school and district leaders to accept prescriptions and methods for change from CLEE.

CITY YEAR: $520,000, 18 Months (MILWAUKEE, WI). City Year and the “Everyone Graduates Center” at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Education will organize and train teams from 10 middle schools serving predominantly Black, Latino, and low-income students to embrace “continuous improvement by utilizing Early Warning Indicators” and leveraging “innovative human capital, including AmeriCorps members.” Aims: Enable all students to complete 8th grade “on-track to high school graduation.” Induce teams to accept and practice the “continuous improvement” methods from City Year and Johns Hopkins University’s School of Education.

COMMUNITIES FOUNDATION OF TEXAS: $503,000, 15 Months (NORTH TX ) EducateTexas will lead the regional Texas Network for School Improvement (TXNSI) Collaborative. The Collaborative will also be supported by Learning Forward (expertise in continuous improvement) and The Charles A. Dana Center (subject matter expertise in math education). Aims: Increase the math proficiency of Black, Latino and low- income students 8th grade students in 10 North Texas schools. Train leaders in those schools to ”adopt continuous improvement processes,” accelerate change, and increase outcomes.

COMMUNITY CENTER FOR EDUCATION RESULTS (CCER): $515,000, 24 Months (South King County, WA). CCER and the Puget Sound College & Career Network, will expand the College & Career Leadership Institute’s work on “systems improvements” congruent with the Gates funded “Road Map Project for South Seattle and South King County high schools. Aims: Provide support for more low-income students to have a meaningful, high-quality plan for college and career. Long term, “Eliminate opportunity gaps by race and income, and for 70 percent of the region’s students to earn a college degree or career credential by 2030.”

CORE: $16,000,000, 61 Months (CA) CORE stands for the non-governmental California Office to Reform Education, since 2013 active in steering accountability measures for large, urban districts in Fresno, Garden Grove, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Oakland, Sacramento, San Francisco and Santa Ana. CORE Districts participate in a system of “data-driven continuous improvement.” Aims: Sustain the CORE-PACE (Policy Analysis for California Education) research partnership and publicize findings. Enhance the use of CORE’s data and improvement management systems to improve “9th grade on-track rates.”

HIGH TECH HIGH: $10,300,000, 60 Months (Southern California). The High Tech High Graduate School of Education will lead a College Access and Enrollment Network of 30 (high) schools. Focus is on financial access, college application process, bonding and belonging, reducing failure to enroll after admission. Aims: Increase the number of Black, Latino, and low-income students who apply, enroll, and ultimately go to a four-year college. (The High Tech High Graduate School of Education offers teacher certification and a master’s program. https://hthgse.edu/programs/teacher-residency-program/).

INSTITUTE FOR LEARNING: $7,400,000, 60 Months (Dallas, TX). Leaders from two University of Pittsburg programs will train participants from 12 secondary schools in the Dallas Independent School District in continuous improvement efforts. Aims: Increase the number of Black, Latino, English learners, and low-income students who are proficient in English Language Arts and on track at the end of 9th grade for high school graduation. Induce teams of school and district leaders to lead continuous improvement efforts. (The University of Pittsburg programs are: The Institute for Learning an outreach program of the Learning Research and Development Center and Center for Urban Education).

KIPP FOUNDATION: $499,000, 23 Months, (Multiple states). Convene and support KIPP’s college counselors in 31 charter high schools in 16 states, improving and refining how they help young people matriculate to and graduate from college. Aims: Accelerate the development of practices, tools, and approaches that predict and increase college success for their students. Keep high-achieving students from “under-matching” to colleges that are less rigorous than they are qualified to attend.

NETWORK FOR COLLEGE SUCCESS (NCS): $11,700,000, 60 Months, (Chicago, IL) NCS will train participants in 15-20 Chicago high schools to “engage in cycles of continuous improvement—testing which student, teacher, and school interventions create the school conditions that build upon the abilities, intelligence, and creativity of Chicago’s youth.” Aims: Increase the number of Black, Latino, and low-income students who are on-track to high school graduation and earning a 3.0 GPA or better at the end of 9th grade. Induce participating high schools to seek “continuous improvement” by using NCS methods.

NEW VISIONS FOR PUBLIC SCHOOLS (NVPS): $13,900,000, 60 Months (New York, NY. NVPS will work train teams in up to 67 New York City high schools (over five years) to “use data and continuous improvement strategies (design, implement, test) to help more students maintain competitive GPAs, succeed in advanced coursework, and achieve college-ready scores on state Regents exams.” Aims: Increase the number of Black, Latino, and/or low-income students who graduate from high school prepared to succeed in college. Induce participating high schools to seek “continuous improvement” by using NVPS methods.

NORTHWEST REGIONAL EDUCATIONAL SERVICE DISTRICT: $586,000, 24 Months (OR) This Service District (NWRESD) is the largest of in Oregon, serving 20 school districts. NWRESD’s Deeper Learning and Equity Network will train participants in 32 regional high schools a use a continuous improvement process focused on “deeper learning and culturally sustaining pedagogies.” Aims: Increase the number of students who are on track by the end of 9th grade to graduate. Induce participants to use the network’s method of continuous improvement.

PARTNERS IN SCHOOL INNOVATION: $499,000, 15 Months (Philadelphia, PA). Partners will convene and help middle school math teachers, instructional coaches, and principals in 10 schools to improve math performance for selected students. Aims: Help students who begin the year below grade level in math to rapidly catch up to their high-performing peers. Increase the capacity of Partners to connect schools in virtual communities and to use classroom-level data in the continuous improvement process.

SEEDING SUCCESS: $560,000, 24 Months (Memphis, TN). Seeding Success (part of the StriveTogether national network of cradle-to-career collective impact organizations) will enlist 15 Shelby County Schools (middle school feeders into high schools) for a 24-month “rapid improvement cycle process” of identifying “8th grade and 9th grade on-track outcomes, root causes of students who fall off track, and testing aligned interventions. Aims: Help more students stay on track toward college and career readiness. Induce the participating schools to engage in “rapid improvement cycles” based on Seeding Success methods.

SOUTHERN REGIONAL EDUCATION BOARD (SREB): $3,300,000, 36 Months. SREB will enlist 10 secondary schools in Birmingham, AL (Jefferson County) to increasing the proficiency rates of Black, Latino, and low-income students on 8th grade math and 9th grade Algebra 1. Aims: Improve scores indicating “math proficiency” in grade 8 and in Algebra I. Promote “improvement science and cycles” in two national networks: High Schools That Work and Making Middle Grades Work.

TEACH PLUS: $619,000, 23 Months (Chicago, IL & Los Angeles, CA). Teach Plus will use an “evidence-based Change Management Framework” from the Boston-based Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy (has deep connections to Teach Plus) to develop continuous improvement skills among the teacher leaders and principals in ten middle schools located in two cities. Aims: Increase the number of African American, Latino, and low-income students achieving proficiency in 8th grade math. Promote use of the Change Management Framework from the Rennie Center https://www.renniecenter.org/change-management

I hope this post is of use in understanding how the $92 dollars will be used to extract compliance with the Gates-favored methods of intervening in schools. It is not obvious how much of the money will actually reach schools, teachers and students. It is not yet obvious how much collatoral damage will be done by these ventures. Gates is a sucker for anything that looks like a short-term fix or formula for public schools.

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