Gates: Invest in charters

Investing in high-quality charter schools will help more students complete a college degree, says Bill Gates.

In schools across the country, we’re seeing results that smash old prejudices about what poor students can achieve. High Tech High School in San Diego, Green Dot Schools in Los Angeles, Aspire High Schools in California, KIPP schools that have spread across the country, and YES College Preparatory Schools in Houston. These schools are doing work that should be talked about everywhere.

All are charter schools, points out Nelson Smith on CharterBlog.

Even if they expand rapidly, charters will educate only a minority of students, Gates said. But other public schools can adopt ideas from successful charters.

About Joanne


  1. The Crimson Avenger says:

    Yes, that’s what will happen: the public schools will adopt ideas from successful charters.

    Has this man not been paying attention at all over the past several years?

  2. Yeah, what Crimson Avenger said.

  3. Give Gates a break. He’s only recently discovered that one sovereign remedy, small high schools, is edu-crap. So he’s sniffing around for ways to spend his money that might have what he feels is a beneficial effect. I’m sure there are various purveyors of edu-crap who until recently sported a paid-for-by-the-Gates-Foundation grin but that’s the past.

    Trouble is, the “man with the hammer” effect is still operating.

    The one thing Gates has plenty of – money – isn’t really the problem as unlikely as that assertion may seem. It’s pretty tough to “invest” in charters if there’s a statutory limitation on the number of charters and the cap has been reached.

    Since public education is a political institution the problems that assail it are, ultimately, political in nature. If Gates thinks charters are the solution to public education’s problems then he’s got to address the political issues.

    To do that he needs a political constituency which money will go a long way towards building although he needs to contact people who have a genuine interest in the charter school movement; mercenaries have their place in politics but if you want to build a political movement you need true believers. So Gates needs to contact and organize charter school supporters to build that cohesive constituency. It’ll happen eventually anyway but money can hurry the process of course.

    He could also set up organizations that support the charter movement – Gates College of Charter School Knowledge as an example, so that lessons-learned can be learned more efficiently then via the school of hard knocks or partner up with organizations that are already in that line of work.

    Then there’s testing.

    Far from there being too much testing there’s way too little testing and that being expensive, inefficient, inaccurate and not timely.

    If you think of testing as an instrument that measures how much learning has occurred, in most cases it’s a lousy instrument.

    If the speedometer in your car were inaccurate, could only be read every couple of weeks at most and cost you fifty dollars to determine what speed the car were going what would you do? I know what I’d do. I’d wing it. I’d do my best to estimate whether I were speeding or not. That might work for driving your car but it’s a terrible way to determine whether learning’s occurring among a hundred and fifty or so kids. But the solution’s the same: you wing it.

    Fortunately, there are folks who see that problem and have moved to assemble solutions. Here’s an article from the Mackinac Center for Public Policies Education Report – – which gives some insight into a testing system that’s being put to use to determine what kids are learning and do it at a cost that doesn’t make the idea prohibitive.

    Gates could spend some money extending and expanding the idea and provide a powerful tool to teachers which would lift much of the scut work of teaching off the shoulders of teachers. With a low-cost, responsive, accurate measuring tool teachers no longer have to waste time creating, administering, grading and collating tests. More time can be spent on the things computers can’t do whether that’s helping the smart kids really accelerate or the not-so-smart kids push their boundaries.

    One interesting possibility with an Internet-based testing utility is to align it with some well-known college’s entrance requirements.

    It would, I think, be pretty worthwhile to know that when you finish the math requirements for high school you have, unquestionably, met the math requirements for entrance to, say, Harvard. Or MIT.

    In any case, Gates is paying attention to the results of his grants and the fact that he’s pretty unhappy with the way the money’s been wasted indicates the man’s educable. His interest in charters indicates he’s lost faith in the district-based system which is a cause for cautious optimism. Now all that’s needed is for Gates not to spend a couple of years doing the wrong things with regards to charters.

    He’s a pretty bright guy so he might figure it out.

  4. I’m glad Gates is deciding to highlight this issue. He has a lot of influence, a lot of wealth, and what he spends his attention on will gather attention from others. It’s time the leftist illuminati came face to face with the results of their liberal education agendas’ massive failure. Bill Gates embodies the best possibilities of capitalism; he recognizes quality and likes to see it flourish.

  5. Physics Teacher says:

    he recognizes quality and likes to see it flourish

    Quality? Bill Gates got David Cutler to work on Windows for him. Cutler was the brains behind VMS: a system famous for stability and security (pain in the a** in some other ways), yet Windows is known for neither because of Bill’s grand vision for Windows everywhere. So much for letting quality flourish.

    Despite M$ great efforts Bill’s products remain dominant primarily in the desktop market which is where they can do the least damage.

    The only thing Gates has ever been good at is crushing competitors who’ve been better at recognizing and nurturing quality.

  6. The only thing Gates has ever been good at is crushing competitors who’ve been better at recognizing and nurturing quality.

    Har! Well then Gates won’t have much scope of play for his talents in the arena of public education then since “recognizing and nurturing quality” are hardly characteristics common to American public education.

    Who would Gates crush? Ed schools? State departments of education? U.S. Department of Education? You’re average school district?

    Oh yeah, there’s just a whole lot of nurturing and recognizing of quality going on there.