Gates Foundation’s new focus: Building networks of schools
Thursday, November 30, 2017
The Gates Foundation is synonymous with philanthropy and innovation in education. Bill and Melinda Gates wanted to change the way future generations learn. They have worked on closing the knowledge gap in regions where the literacy rates are low and dropout rates are high.
Now, they have shifted their focus to invest $1.7 billion in building networks of schools.
The Gates Foundation will step back from its traditional education reform agenda and focus on collaborative school networks. Over the next five years, they plan to fund up to 30 networks of schools. The focus will be on high-needs schools and school districts. These will lean on locally-driven solutions to close the achievement gap through shared data.
Each district can decide on an approach to overcome these differences between students and improve student performance. Evidence-based interventions and data-driven continuous learning will be the basis of these programs. The districts can continue with their already-existing partnerships that are working well, and they can build new ones to benefit their curriculum and address their most significant challenges.
Bill Gates emphasized that they are passionate about education, but it is one of the most challenging areas of work. Over time, they have come to realize that local community buy-ins and participation are essential to the success of education policies.
The Foundation envisions productive outcomes from these partnerships. Giving districts and schools more flexibility will likely lead to solutions befitting the needs of local communities. The shift in focus will bring better and more lasting results, impacting more communities.
The aim is to close the knowledge and achievement gap among students of various races and socioeconomic backgrounds. Despite various efforts, too many U.S. students are still lagging behind.
Among its many efforts, the Gates Foundation has made serious forays into backing the Common Core State Standards and on comprehensive K-12 policies for smaller schools. These yielded mixed results and had disparate outcomes across the country. The Foundation hopes to use their past experiences to create better programs that will yield faster and more comprehensive results.
Gates commented that their revamped vision for the future seeks to bring about a lasting change in student achievement.
Some successful examples cited in this regard include the Network for College Success. This is a partnership between the University of Chicago and a group of schools. Educators and researchers created a set of indicators for predictive student behavior. This helped them keep tabs on student graduation and college enrollment.
Then, there is Tennessee's Lift Education, where superintendents from rural and urban districts from all over the state come together to collaborate on best practices and implement them. Finally, there are California's CORE Districts which have shown great collaboration since 2010. This is a group of school districts that came together to administer effective teacher training programs and a strong Common Core curriculum.
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