Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates announced Thursday that his foundation will invest more than $1.7 billion in public education, money that will go to support schools interested in developing and testing new approaches to teaching.
“Every student should get a great public education and graduate with skills to succeed in the marketplace,” said Gates, who delivered the keynote address before about 1,000 school officials at the Council of the Great City Schools conference in Cleveland. “The role of philanthropy here is not to be the primary funder, but rather to fund pilots, to fund new ideas, to let people — it’s always the educators coming up with the ideas — to let them try them out and see what really works super well and get those to scale.”
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has spent at least $3.4 billion on public education in the United States, most notably to develop the Common Core State Standards and to persuade state education leaders to implement them. His money also went to support charter schools, teacher preparation programs and an array of other improvement initiatives, including one to break up large high schools into smaller ones.
His investments have had mixed results, some of which he outlined in his address Thursday. The initiative to break up large high schools was not one that could be easily replicated elsewhere, he acknowledged. He also said he would no longer directly invest in developing models to evaluate teachers. His other models — which pushed districts to use test scores to size up teacher performance — were often controversial among educators.
Gates outlined his new investment in broad terms, saying that 60 percent would go to traditional public schools — an announcement that elicited applause in the audience of big city school superintendents — and that he wants to let schools and educators drive the process.