education vs. philanthropists, part XXVI

A common theme in the history of education is that outside reformers run into a brick wall when they try to work in the K-12 arena. There is something incredibly sticky about K-12 that makes it impervious to outsiders. Mark Zuckerberg learned this when he gave $100m to Newark schools and got nothing in return. The LA Times recently described how Bill and Melinda Gates learned the same lesson and have dialed back their donations to K-12:

In 2009, it pledged a gift of up to $100 million to the Hillsborough County, Fla., schools to fund bonuses for high-performing teachers, to revamp teacher evaluations and to fire the lowest-performing 5%. In return, the school district promised to match the funds. But, according to reports in the Tampa Bay Times, the Gates Foundation changed its mind about the value of bonuses and stopped short of giving the last $20 million; costs ballooned beyond expectations, the schools were left with too big a tab and the least-experienced teachers still ended up at low-income schools. The program, evaluation system and all, was dumped.

It’s not just one grant, but many that failed. There are multiple reasons – stakeholders can’t be bought, a resistance to reform of any type, and decentralization of the system. Also, education is an area where there is an aversion to simple ideas that work and an emphasis on consultants and technology. Add your own theories of philanthropic failure in the comments.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street

Written by fabiorojas

June 10, 2016 at 2:21 pm

2 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. A good place to sample reports from the field and informed commentary is Diane Ravitch’s blog:


    Jon Awbrey

    June 10, 2016 at 2:34 pm

  2. It is striking that the LAT piece and Fabio interpret the same phenomena from totally different angles. Whereas the LAT piece lays the blame on the Gates foundation for throwing money at solutions that don’t work and then walking away leaving schools to pick up the pieces, Fabio’s post implies schools are to blame–they are “impervious to outsiders” and are averse to “simple ideas that work”.

    Personally I found the op-ed offered a convincing indictment of the Gates Foundation. It sure doesn’t look like schools were impervious to BAMGF, since the latter got their teacher bonus system and their small schools and got Common Core introduced in schools.

    Liked by 2 people

    Josh Klugman

    June 10, 2016 at 2:54 pm

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: