Via Charter Blog, here’s a Business Week interview with Bill and Melinda Gates, who talk about their focus on improving high schools. They’ve given $1 billion to education so far, with most of that going to create smaller high schools. But improving achievement is harder than they thought. Small alone doesn’t work. Improving curriculum and teaching are critical too, says Melinda Gates, who responds to a recent Gates Foundation study showing that “math results at schools receiving money from the foundation are lower than at traditional high schools.”
Melinda One of the things we have to look at is what is it about the teachers today and the curriculum today that’s making math not successful in these schools? We just recently had those results. The best thing the foundation can do is really look at that and talk with our partners and say: “Do we need to change something about how we’re helping teachers teach math? Do we need to help change the curriculum in the schools?”
But that is what I think the unique role may be with the foundation: We’re not afraid to take those results and publish them broadly and tell everybody: “Yep, here are some things we’re finding. Let’s have a conversation about it and now, let’s figure out how to solve it,” as opposed to hiding it and saying: “Well, let’s not worry about math and science and kind of act like it’s working.”
I think the Gates people charged ahead at first with the “small is beautiful” idea but have been good at looking at results and rethinking. Bill Gates plans to shift his attention from Microsoft to philanthropy in the next two years. He has the potential to do a lot of good.