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.