A new direction for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation — and millions of dollars in new funding — will make their presence felt in Los Angeles schools as a result of newly announced grants, it was reported Tuesday.
The Los Angeles unified School District and others across the country hope to benefit from a foundation effort to build on what already is helping to keep students on track toward graduation, the Los Angeles Times reported.
It’s not as sexy or laser focused as the foundation’s past sweeping strategies, but that’s partly the point, according to The Times.
“We’ve come to understand how important context is,” said Bob Hughes, director of K-12 education for the foundation, The Times reported. “One size doesn’t fit all.”
The Seattle philanthropic institution is known for spending billions in pursuit of “the big idea” to transform public education. And even those billions don’t capture the extent to which the foundation has leveraged its influence to campuses in every corner of the country.
One such effort was to refashion large, impersonal middle and high schools into smaller academies. The results, in terms of improved student achievement, overall were lackluster. Later came a teacher-effectiveness initiative, which some critics and supporters characterized as a mission to find and fire bad teachers. Once again, the results were disappointing in terms of improving outcomes for students.
Such conclusions were made after schools and school districts across the country reshaped themselves based on the concepts. In many cases, they were forced to do so by new state and federal policies and laws.
The latest approach — and its initial $92 million in grant money — emphasizes networks of schools that can work together and learn from one another. In many cases, the foundation sought to support educators doing work that already was showing progress. The goal is to push this progress further and make successful ideas available to others, especially those trying to help minority and low-income students.
The types of grants are varied, so measuring how much they help will be challenging.
A $16 million grant will go to Core Districts, a consortium of large California school systems that includes Los Angeles Unified, the nation’s second-largest district, The Times reported. Here, the effort will focus on keeping ninth-graders on track for graduation and academic achievement. The work will probably look at multiple factors that thwart students and try to focus on what aid works best.
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