Gates, Zuckerberg … and the limits on educational philanthropy.

Both threw much money at education with disappointing results.

========

Two related reports hit over the weekend.

The first announced that the Gates Foundation would spend more than $1.7 billion over the next five years to pay for new initiatives in K-12 public education. The plan is a “redirection” of prior initiatives. More on that later.

As the Washington Post observed, Gates’ prior mega-contributions to improve K-12 education “didn’t go so well, but the man, if anything, is persistent.”

clip_image002

The second story dealt with Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million donation to improving Newark NJ’s schools. A report was released indicating disappointing results. More on that later, too.

========

I commend both Gates and Zuckerberg for throwing a massive amount of money at improving education. Their intentions seem good and the amounts of money are, as we say in academia, statistically significant.

That said, what’s going on?

 

=========

Let’s deal with Zuckerberg and Newark first.

Mark Z. threw his money into a political maelstrom stirred by Christie, Booker and the teacher’s unions.

So, odds were stacked against the initiative from the get-go.

Much of the money went down the rabbit hole of teacher and administrator pay raises.

Hoped-for gains from “within school reforms” – efforts to improve existing schools by replacing principals, redesigning accountability, and focusing on Common Core standards – generated equivocal improvements.

The most significant gains came when students transferred from bad schools to better schools – largely when low-performing schools closed (partially funded by the Zuckerberg money) and students were moved to better-performing schools … or when students voluntarily moved to charter schools.

The biggest takeaway: throwing well-intended money at improving under-performing schools just didn’t work … but closing them did.

========

The Gates initiative was more substantial – over $1 billion – and more controversial.

Much of the money went to supporting implementation of the politically-charged Common Core.

So far, gains from the Common Core are equivocal, so the pay-off from the Gates’ boost is, too.

Another chunk of money was dedicated to improving teacher effectiveness by implementing data-driven metrics.

English translation: paying and promoting teachers based on students’ standardized test scores.

Teachers haven’t bought in to that idea and data-driven evaluations are largely being shelved.

The third major thrust was supporting charter schools and smaller-sized public schools.

Bottom line: Gates concluded that these initiatives yielded equivocal results  … and, even when they worked, they couldn’t be scaled.

So, the new Gate’s money infusion is being directed to “data-driven continuous improvement in networks of public schools.”

Translation: business as usual with no expectation of noticeable near-term improvement.

Ouch.

=====

Again, I laud Gates and Zuckerberg for trying … and for putting their money where their mouths are.

But, their experiences reconfirm that getting the US education system up to a higher performance level is a major challenge … impeded, not speeded by political forces.

=========
#HomaFiles

Follow on Twitter @KenHoma            >> Latest Posts=========

One Response to “Gates, Zuckerberg … and the limits on educational philanthropy.”

  1. SJ Says:

    The equation in the US public school system is simple: better socio-economic demographics = better parenting = better students = better schools.

    It is demand what drives quality and not the educational supply. Conclusion: stop the war on the family stemming from the “Great Society” programs if you want to improve student performance.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s