How Bill Gates sold the Common Core


Bill Gates put $200 million into Common Core standards.

Common Core State Standards were the brainchild of Gene Wilhoit, director of a national group of state school chiefs, and David Coleman, reports Lyndsey Layton in the Washington Post. The godfather was Bill Gates, who put more than $200 million into developing the Core and building support for it.

The Gates Foundation spread money across the political spectrum, to entities including the big teachers unions, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, and business organizations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — groups that have clashed in the past but became vocal backers of the standards.

Money flowed to policy groups on the right and left, funding research by scholars of varying political persuasions who promoted the idea of common standards. Liberals at the Center for American Progress and conservatives affiliated with the American Legislative Exchange Council who routinely disagree on nearly every issue accepted Gates money and found common ground on the Common Core.

President Obama’s Education Department, “populated by former Gates Foundation staffers and associates”  used $4.3 billion in “stimulus funds to reward states that accepted the standards.” Forty-six states and the District of Columbia signed on, though some have jumped ship.

Even Catholic schools have adopted the standards, if only because it’s hard to find classroom materials or training that’s not aligned to the Common Core.

The speed of adoption by the states was staggering by normal standards. A process that typically can take five years was collapsed into a matter of months.

“You had dozens of states adopting before the standards even existed, with little or no discussion, coverage or controversy,” said Frederick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute, which has received $4 million from the Gates Foundation since 2007 to study education policy, including the Common Core. “States saw a chance to have a crack at a couple of million bucks if they made some promises.”

The Gates Foundation has put $3.4 billion into trying to improve K-12 education, reports the Post. (My other blog, Community College Spotlight is funded by the Hechinger Institute, which receives Gates Foundation grants.) It has enormous influence.

“Really rich guys can come up with ideas that they think are great, but there is a danger that everyone will tell them they’re great, even if they’re not,” said Jay Greene, who heads the University of Arkansas’ Department of Education Reform.

Gates “sees himself as a technocrat” funding research in “new tools” to improve education. “Medicine — they spend a lot of money finding new tools. Software is a very R and D-oriented industry. The funding, in general, of what works in education . . . is tiny. It’s the lowest in this field than any field of human endeavor. Yet you could argue it should be the highest.”

Diane Ravitch wants Congress to investigate Gates’ role in the creation and marketing of Common Core standards.

The idea of “common national standards and tests goes back a long long way before Gates,” points out Alexander Russo. If the idea hadn’t already had broad appeal, Gates’ millions wouldn’t have been effective.

Most education philanthropy supports the status quo, adds Eduwonk. “In education there is very little change absent an infusion of marginal dollars and outside pressure.”

Personally, I think it’s crazy to suggest that Bill Gates has given $3.4 billion to education causes — and billions more to public health — because he wants to make more money. His policy ideas may be wrong. His motives are good.

Graduation is just the beginning

San Jose’s Downtown College Prep — the charter school in my book — is celebrating the 10th anniversary of its first graduating class at commencement ceremonies for the class of 2014.  Sal Khan, founder of Khan Academy, will be the  keynote speaker.

DCP now has three middle and high schools — the fourth will open in the fall — and more than 500 alumni. Nearly all are Latinos from low-income families. Eighty percent of incoming students are 2+ years below grade level in English and/or math. Ninety-six percent will be the first in their family to go to college.

All DCP seniors apply to four-year universities and 96 percent go directly to college

DCP students are 4 times more likely than all California Latino high school graduates to enroll in a state university

DCP students are four times more likely to complete college in six-years than their low-income peers nationwide

DCP was ranked #36 out of 2,000 schools in California by U.S. News in 2013 and 2014.

Donations made today here will be matched by the Sobrato Foundation.

Malala: ‘I want every girl to be educated’

“I want every girl, every child, to be educated,” said Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman in Pakistan for her advocacy of girls’ education. Recovering from surgery in Britain, the 15-year-old girl has started a charity to support schooling for girls.

Helping the poor — without conditions

“The vast majority of America’s charitable dollars are donated to local religious and educational institutions” or to worthy causes, writes Dana Goldstein. But the most effective way to help the poor is to give them money to do with as they see fit, she writes in The Atlantic. In other words, don’t buy a Christmas goose for the Cratchits. Give them cash. (Was Bob Cratchit a spendthrift?)

In the Third World, at least half of government aid for the poor is lost to corruption and private philanthropy is “heavily skimmed” as well.  Micro-credit efforts don’t the very poor and “many recipients default on their loans, leaving them further in debt,” Goldstein writes.

Mexico and Brazil give “conditional cash transfers” to poor families who enroll their children in school or take them to the doctor, but that’s hard to do in very poor countries where there aren’t enough schools or doctors.

(Four economists gave) poor families in rural Kenya $1,000 over the course of 10 months, and let them do whatever they wanted with the money. They hoped the recipients would spend it on nutrition, health care, and education. But, theoretically, they could use it to purchase alcohol or drugs. The families would decide on their own.

Three years later, the four economists expanded their private effort into GiveDirectly, a charity that accepts online donations from the public, as well. Ninety-two cents of every dollar donated to GiveDirectly is transferred to poor households through M-PESA, a cell phone banking service with 11,000 agents working in Kenya.

. . . GiveDirectly recipients are spending their payments mostly on food and home improvements that can vastly improve quality of life, such as installing a weatherproof tin roof. Some families have invested in profit-bearing businesses, such as chicken-rearing, agriculture, or the vending of clothes, shoes, or charcoal.

Unconditional cash transfers aren’t popular with non-governmental organization staffers, says Paul Niehaus, one of GiveDirectly’s founders.  “If this works, what are we all here for? Why do we have jobs? There’s an industry that exists that tries to make decisions for poor people and determine what’s best for them.”

The very poor in rural Kenya are poor “because they were born in Africa,” says Niehaus. Abject poverty in the U.S. is  correlated with irresponsibility, addiction and illness. Most giving assumes there are deserving poor and undeserving poor, Goldstein writes on her blog.

Deserving poor people work, even if the wages they earn are less than the costs of child or health care. They endure cumbersome bureaucratic processes to seek child support from the absent fathers of their children, even if those fathers are in jail, drug addicted, or otherwise unable to provide for their kids. They open college savings accounts, even if they need 100 percent of their monthly income just to cover the costs of housing and food. They attend classes on why it’s important to get married.

Social welfare systems favor mothers of young children. There’s little help for childless adults without disabilities. Taxpayers aren’t willing to give no-strings cash to the poor.

 . . .  most of us assume poor people need to learn how to best help themselves. The radical premise of GiveDirectly is that poor people already know, much better than their governments or a charity director, what they need.

Even poor Americans think aid should go only to those who do their best to support themselves, reports Reuters in a look at poverty in Indiana.

Marathoners run supplies to storm victims

The New York City Marathon was cancelled, but runners were on the move to help storm victims, reports AP.

Hundreds of runners wearing marathon shirts and backpacks full of supplies took the ferry to hard-hit Staten Island and ran to stricken neighborhoods to help.

. . . Instead of running his first marathon, Akil Defour of Brooklyn climbed 20 flights of stairs in a building without power or heat in Far Rockaway, Queens, to deliver water, blankets and peanut butter sandwiches.

“I knew I wanted to volunteer after they canceled the marathon,” said Defour, 30, who put in five hours of work with his running team. “We decided it would be easier for us athletes to go up and down the buildings.”

On Staten Island, the runners headed for distribution sites, but some handed out supplies along the way.

Near the water, there were no traffic lights and far more sirens. Houses looked like they had been sacked. Furniture was in front yards, washing machines, TVs.

But one man came out of his home and asked if the runners had flashlights, and they did. At another house, a family wearing face masks asked for batteries and sweatshirts. They said, “God bless you.” The man said, “Let me take your picture.”

Very classy.

 

A World with No Math

A World with No Math is a promo for Save the Children’s CrowdRise fundraising campaign to fund math education in Africa and Asia. Quite a few Americans also are living in a world without math.

Joplin schools open on schedule

It’s the first day of school in Joplin, Missouri, which was devastated by a killer tornado in May. Despite the destruction — six schools destroyed, three badly damaged — the district is ready, reports the Tulsa World.

The high school is a heap of rubble: Freshmen and sophomore will have classes at a middle school, while juniors and seniors go to Shopko, an empty department store that got a $5.5 million makeover in 12 weeks.

Donors have helped teachers replaced lost school supplies.

 

Rebuild Joplin schools

Over 260 classrooms in Joplin, Missouri were destroyed by the May 22 tornado that devastated the city. Teachers are working to restock classrooms and create a warm, familiar atmosphere.  Through Donors Choose, you can help fund Joplin teachers’ classroom projects.

What did your education cost?

Calculate the cost of your schooling at Building Tomorrow. According to the calculator, Illinois public schools in the ’50s and ’60s spent $21,029 to educate me from first through seventh grade.  (I assume that’s adjusted for inflation.) A generation later, my daughter’s California schooling cost more than $50,000 through seventh grade.

Building Tomorrow is raising money for primary schools in Uganda, where it costs $350 to get a student through seventh grade.

Donor funds California teachers

Donors Choose lets public school teachers put their wish lists on the web for donors to find. This year, a caller asked Charles Best, the founder, how much it would cost to fund every California teacher’s project, reports the SF Chronicle. Best said, “Something over $1 million.”

Twelve hours later, the woman, Hilda Yao, executive director of the Claire Giannini Fund, sent Best an e-mail.

It said, in short, OK.

A day later, Yao mailed a check of more than $1.3 million to cover the entire California wish list, 2,233 projects in all, with an extra $100,000 tossed in to help pay for other teacher needs across the country.

The projects funded by the donation range from $100 for pencil sharpeners or paper to thousands of dollars for technology, Best said.