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UPDATED: Gates Spreading 'Race to the Top' Help to All States

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The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which handpicked 15 states for $250,000 each in funding to help them prepare their Race to the Top Fund applications, is going to offer assistance to the remaining 35 states—if they meet eight education reform criteria.

That's according to a memo Vicki Phillips, the foundation's director of education, college ready, sent yesterday to the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.

But before states can get an unspecified amount of money, they must meet eight criteria (outlined in Phillips' memo) that mirror the criteria by which the U.S. Department of Education has proposed judging applications for $4 billion in aid under the education-reform competition.

The Gates Foundation criteria includes whether states have signed onto the NGA-CCSSO common standards effort, whether they have alternative routes to teacher certification, and whether they have no firewall barring the use of student achievement data in teacher evaluations.

Chris Williams, a spokesman for the foundation, said he couldn't say how much money states might receive, either individually or collectively. He also wouldn't elaborate on why the Gates Foundation decided to open up its resources to the rest of the country.

However, Phillips' email gives a clue, indicating that whatever the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers said to foundation officials in response to the Chosen 15 was effective. In her email, Phillips indicates the change was the result of "much discussion and careful consideration of your feedback."

UPDATE: Dane Linn, the education division director of the NGA's Center for Best Practices, said that there was concern—especially in this economic downturn—that some states would have an advantage over others. "We are really pleased that Gates will make investments that will put everyone on equal footing," he said this morning. "We've got to create national momentum. We can't have reform in just [a few] states."

The foundation's initial Chosen 15 were: Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Texas.

After these states were chosen, there was a lot of discussion in the ed policy world that these 15 had an early edge in Race to the Top.

It's clear these states are still foundation favorites. Phillips' email says: "These states...are poised to successfully scale reform efforts that can dramatically improve student achievement. Accordingly, these states will be targets for further foundation investment provided they continue to follow through on these commitments."

UPDATE: I should point out that Gates is going to use the Arabella Legacy Fund to serve as the middleman for this grant. This is a grant management group that Gates has used before for some of its global health initiatives. Arabella staff will be the ones to run what seems to be the official warm-up to the Race to the Top—they will, on behalf of Gates, review the grant proposals from the states, answer questions, make the awards, and execute contracts.

4 Comments

Curious. Money from a private foundation to elected state officials to ensure passage of a specific public policy by a date certain. Especially curious in that those public officials do not even have the legal authority in their states to enact this new policy. I wonder if the public understands that by offering bribes to public officials, public input into these new policies becomes irrelevant - notwithstanding the fact that new "common core" standards will affect their children and the expenditure of public dollars on education in their states.

This is pretty funny stuff. The data the NYS Ed. Dept. uses - collects from districts without any audit or verification whatsoever - is widely known to be complete garbage (as in GIGO - garbage in: garbage out). US DOE's Inspector General knows it; US DOE's program offices know it; US DOE's finance folks know it is.

I'm told, over and over, that nobody at US DOE will do one serious thing about it "because New York is so big." Next we'll hear "Utah is so small." And then there's always the lame but oft-repeated "if you hold up this money or get misused funds back, you'll hurt the children" excuse.

Giving the NYS Ed. Dept. RttT money is a signal to the world that data accuracy and data validity don't mean a thing. Period. We'll wind up in a few short years with a data-repeat of the new, new, new, small, small, small high schools debacle ... when the real data starts to come out and the numbers, when compared with Census data, for example, just don't jibe.

If Microsoft handled its own finances and marketing this way, it would have gone bankrupt in a N'Yawk minute ... long ago. How unfortunate that a double standard appears to exist.

Perhaps the Sarbanes-Oxley law (passed as a Congressional response to Enron's fiscal shenanigans) should be extended to the public education industry. For starters.

It looks to me like the problem was Texas, which was one of the 15 states to get Gates money for preparing their RttT application but has famously declined to sign on to the Common Core initiative. 34 other states (sans Alaska) were probably asking how Texas was included and they weren't - and how exactly Texas is going to commit to the RttT requirement about adopting the Common Core when they're not even a part of the project right now.

Is anyone concerned about the statement that no firewall must exist in barring student achievement information from being used in teacher evaluations????????!!!!!
Would Mr. Gates like his computer programs and products to be judged on the basis of users who cannot figure out how to turn on the computer? or who plug the cord for the printer to communicate with the computer back into the printer? Is it his fault that these folks are not computer savvy? He didn't have them in his class to learn the basics but he must be responsible because they are there now!!

Frightening criteria for this. Watch out

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