For many years the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has gone through extensive efforts to improve education. It was in 2009 when the foundation launched a project to improve teacher effectiveness in select primary and secondary schools in California, Florida, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania. The project was aimed at improving student achievements and graduation rates through reforming teacher evaluations. Although $1 billion was poured into the project, after seven years it ultimately failed. The foundation has learned from this failure and is looking to begin new and more effective projects to improve education.
Looking to Change
With failure comes new knowledge. The Gates Foundation now knows that improving student’s achievements and success cannot be done solely by changing the way teachers are evaluated. It was found that most teachers were feeling demoralized and stripped of their job security due to the evaluations. Many principals of the select schools were also feeling overwhelmed and at a loss to completely change how educators were being evaluated. But through this project, it was made clear that a teacher’s effectiveness cannot be solely based on student outcomes. This knowledge will now delegate how the future Gates Foundation projects will be handled and how they will change for the better.
As new projects begin to take form, there is always the need for change. A major change the Gates Foundation will be implementing is their management and strategic plan. In the past, they have been criticized for its management approach. They are known to treat grantees more like contractors instead of their partners in projects. In order for their next project to be successful, that needs to change. To be more effective long-term, their strategy and management need to be handled much differently. While creating their newest projects, they will be taking some of their criticism to heart to make a difference in education by giving more power to the grantees.
Networks for School Improvement (NSI)
The Gates Foundation is taking a step in the right direction through their new project called the Networks for School Improvement (NSI). The NSI is a new initiative that will give $92 million in grants to 19 organizations working with middle school and high school students across at least 12 states. Over a five-year period, the Gates Foundation is planning on spending more than $450 million on the NSI. As opposed to their initiative to reform teacher evaluations, this initiative is encouraging grantees to propose how problems should be solved that will be specific to a group of schools or students. Many of these grantees have goals in mind that are aimed to increase the number of students graduating high school on time and ensuring high-achieving students are enrolled in colleges.
The Gates Foundation’s new initiative shows promise of improving education and student success. By learning from their past failures, they have a better chance of reaching their goals of higher graduation and success rates. Shifting their focus from the teachers to the students will surely give them the change and accomplishments they’ve been striving for.