Bill Gates directs funding to poor schools

Photo by the United States Department of Health and Human Services

Marking another phase in his education agenda, Bill Gates is now taking a more targeted approach to help struggling U.S. schools.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is now funding groups working directly with clusters of public schools in some of the most impoverished regions of the country. Many of those third-party groups already had relationships with the world’s largest philanthropy, and some of the grants went straight to a school district and charter schools organization.

The foundation on Tuesday announced the first round of nearly $100 million for 19 program initiatives for middle and high schools in poor communities across 13 states. Gates pledged $460 million over the next five years to fund networks of school programs that help low-income and minority students get to college.

The grants will address the whole scope of what it takes to get those students to college — from academic skills like math and english proficiency, to existential pitfalls like middle school suspensions and the college application process.

It’s also another indication that the Microsoft co-founder and billionaire philanthropist is trying to be less prescriptive with top-down ideas that have rankled some educators. Critics have said the foundation’s work over the past decade has included trial-and-error programs that haven’t accomplished as much as hoped to help vulnerable children succeed in school.

“We’re not inventing anything in this strategy. We’re taking what we learned from research and experience,” said Bob Hughes, who leads Gates’ K-12 education program.

Letting local and regional forces take the lead marks a departure from the national or system-wide education initiatives that Gates previously supported, including majorly consequential directives over academic standards, teacher evaluations and school sizes.

From the Associated Press.