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Gates Foundation Awards $550,000 to NEA to Aid 'Collaboration'

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded the National Education Association Foundation $550,000 to increase its efforts to improve labor-management collaboration, according to a release from the NEA Foundation.

The funding will help to build on two of the foundation's major projects: One to help close achievement gaps, and another begun in 2009, the Institute for Innovation in Teaching and Learning. Ten school districts and unions funded through those projects are jointly creating new evaluation systems and working to improve professional development.

The foundation will use the grant to develop case studies on successful collaborative practices, and to create a curriculum to help union and district leaders work together.

The NEA Foundation is technically separate from its parent union, but still works closely with it. It's an independent public charity financed by member dues as well as outside donations and it isn't subject to the union's policies. At the same time, NEA's president and executive director sit on its board, and it maintains a fund to fight back against measures to curb collective bargaining.

NEA has generally been among the skeptics of some of the Gates Foundation's priorities, such as tying teacher evaluation to student achievement. It's interesting, then, that it has been able to find commonality with the foundation on other issues. (The NEA Foundation also received more than $350,000 from Gates a few years back.)

It will be interesting to see how critics of "corporate education reform," the term of art for those who assail foundation and corporate investment in education policy, react to this announcement.

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