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Billionaires' Investments Showing Mixed Results

Newsweek and the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization, teamed up recently to produce a report on how school districts have responded to investments by billionaire entrepreneurs like Eli Broad, Bill Gates and Michael Dell.

Foundations run by these corporate leaders have given billions of dollars to various educational reform efforts. Reporters from the two organizations crunched performance data from 10 urban districts and found out that overall, the investments have shown results that are, at best, mixed:

For all the millions spent on reforms, nine of the 10 school districts studied trailed their state's proficiency and graduation rates -- often by 10 points or more, the analysis found. And while the urban districts made some gains, they managed only 60 percent of the time to improve at a rate faster than their states. Those spikes weren't enough to materially reduce persistent gulfs between poor, inner-city schools, where the big givers focused, and their suburban and rural counterparts.

The article goes on to examine specific initiatives in Oakland, Calif. and New York, and explains that reforms such as merit pay and charter pay have also had mixed results.

Undaunted, the foundations are now moving into the political arena and plotting out new avenues of influence, the article says. Michael Casserly, the executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools, was quoted as saying the investment is a work in progress. From the article:

"It would be inaccurate to characterize it as money that hasn't paid off," Casserly says. "It's a messy, complicated system. It isn't always done in the way people want, but having these big foundations weigh in on some of the most complicated issues facing the country and ones that have such huge ramifications for our future is to be commended."
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