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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Gates Foundation Now Says Small Schools "Disappointing"

Over at Gotham Schools, Elizabeth tells us how all the bigwigs in education policy went out to Seattle to hear the latest thoughts of Bill Gates on education. The news is that the Gates Foundation has soured on small schools. And in a remarkable blast of friendly fire at his old allies, Joel Klein and Mike Bloomberg, he says small schools here don't do any better in preparing kids for college.

Gates spent years of telling school systems to reorganize high schools into small schools. As a result, billions in NYC capital spending that would be better used to build schools and reduce class sizes were sucked up into reconfiguring space for his policy. Now he tells us, in essence, 'oops, that small school stuff doesn't work so well'. He's on to the new new thing -- national standards and, of course, more testing.

I have had enough of the Gates Foundation telling me how my kids should be educated. I wish the people behind the Broad Foundation, Dell Foundation, Gates Foundation and all the rest of the special interests would find more productive ways to fritter away their billions. Of course none of these billionaires would send their own kids to the public schools.


Ann Kjellberg said...

Oddly, in the Op Ed in which he thrilled us by proposing Diane Ravitch for a cabinet-level position, David Brooks praised the Gates Foundation for its research-based approach to education. How do these foundations get this reputation for scientific soundness? I guess the assumption is, pace Bloomberg, if you've managed to make a lot of money yourself you must know how to make sensible decisions for other people... No one seems to notice that these decisions benefit others who make a lot of money more than anyone else.

Paola de Kock said...

Conservatives have been known to cherry-pick what Diane says (she's even been published in the Hoover Institution's Education Next). But what conservatives really love is money and people with lots of money, whom they view as ipso facto wise and therefore entitled to have their passing fancies enshrined as public policy. Plutocrats do not get a tangible benefit from this, however--mostly, it seems to just satisfy their vanity.

Anonymous said...

Gates doesn't claim that small schools don't work, he claims that the only changes that have proven to work are empowering the principal to hire/fire teachers, set the curriculum and set the length of the school day independently of the district.

He has reported the positive results, as well as his negative results. That is called science. They do still teach that in public schools, right?

Patrick J. Sullivan said...


We do teach science in the public schools although you don't seem to have benefited from much of science education yourself.

You tell us what Gates claims but you don't cite any sources. I checked around but didn't see any studies or even assertions by the Gates Foundation on the items you mention. In fact the large number of lousy charter school espousing those practices disproves your point that they "work".

Here's what the Gates Foundation website does say:

New high schools we sponsored had higher attendance rates but lower test scores than similar schools within the same school districts according to an August 2006 evaluation prepared by the National Evaluation of High School Transformation, American Institutes for Research, and SRI International.

You can find the published study there.