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Federal News in Brief

Bill Gates Praises Charter Models

By Stephen Sawchuk — February 03, 2009 1 min read

In his first “annual letter” discussing his foundation’s work, Bill Gates last week elaborated on some of its priorities for education grantmaking.

The Jan. 26 letter from the former chairman of the Microsoft Corp. says the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s nearly $2 billion investment over nine years in creating smaller high schools “fell short” of reaching its goal of raising college-ready graduation rates.

“Many of the small schools that we invested in did not improve students’ achievement in any significant way,” Mr. Gates, the co-chairman of the Seattle-based philanthropy, writes. “These tended to be the schools that did not take radical steps to change the culture, such as allowing the principal to pick the team of teachers or change the curriculum. We had less success trying to change an existing school than helping to create a new school.”

Mr. Gates pledged to continue to support school models that seem to be effective, praising the Knowledge Is Power Program, or KIPP, network of schools and High Tech High in San Diego. States should revise policies capping the number of charter schools, he says.

From these charters, Mr. Gates writes, the foundation will focus on ways to identify high-quality teaching and help improve teachers who are struggling.

The 20-page letter also discusses the foundation’s priorities in other policy areas. Among its other giving, Gates provides support for Education Week’s annual Diplomas Count report.

A version of this article appeared in the February 04, 2009 edition of Education Week

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