Ed. Department, Gates Plans for Teachers Converge

By Stephen Sawchuk — November 06, 2013 2 min read

Concerns about the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s influence on education policy have multiplied in part because so many policy actors have amplified ideas it espouses, including on teacher-quality issues. Chief among those actors is the U.S. Department of Education.

The foundation’s charge into the teaching arena came just as President Barack Obama took office, and as the country tumbled into a severe recession that sparked Congress to appropriate an unprecedented $100 billion in one-time money for education. Mr. Obama’s secretary of education, Arne Duncan, used a small slice of that money to launch the Race to the Top competition, which focused heavily on teacher effectiveness.

The $4 billion program and federal waivers conditioned on similar principles are credited with influencing most of the states to revamp their teacher-evaluation policies, often in ways that mirror the Gates agenda.

The foundation got so involved in Race to the Top at one point that it gave grants to help states prepare their applications.

Common Goals

The connections extend to personnel. Several top officials who have served under Mr. Duncan came from the Seattle-based foundation. Jim Shelton, the No. 2 in charge at the department, is a Gates education division alumnus. One of Mr. Duncan’s early chiefs of staff, Margot Rogers, also hailed from there.

In addition, Mr. Duncan has lured many to work for him from other private-sector organizations that receive significant funding from Gates. Another former chief of staff, Joanne Weiss, was a top official at the New Schools Venture Fund, a recipient of several Gates grants worth about $80 million.

Gates Foundation officials credit the Education Department for giving its projects more oomph.

“There’s no doubt that aspects of the approach that the administration took were accelerant,” said Vicki L. Phillips, the Gates Foundation’s director of college-ready programs, which has overseen most of the teacher-quality funding.

Education Week Receives Gates Aid

The Gates Foundation has provided grant support to Editorial Projects in Education, the nonprofit corporation that publishes Education Week. The newspaper retains sole editorial control over coverage. See disclosure.

Brad Jupp, a senior program adviser on teacher initiatives at the Education Department, praised the foundation’s teacher-quality focus, saying its work built a logical argument for focusing on teacher effectiveness.

But he contends that it’s an overstatement to say the administration and the foundation were partners.

“They deserve credit for influencing us, but there were many other factors that influenced us,” Mr. Jupp said. “We share common goals and share some theories of action.”

The notion that the two groups huddled together to shape those goals, he added, is “more coincidence than conspiracy.”

Gates-Federal Connections


Since 2005, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded more than $7 million in grants to Editorial Projects in Education, the nonprofit corporation that publishes Education Week.

That total includes a current grant of $2 million over 25 months to support the development of new content and services related to the education industry and innovation in K-12 education.

Also, the Gates Foundation provided a $2.6 million grant over 40 months, starting in 2009, to underwrite a range of efforts to support EPE’s editorial and business-development capacity.

The first grant from Gates to EPE, $2.5 million over four years, underwrote the Education Week Diplomas Count report, as well as original research on high school graduation rates, and related activities.

Education Week retains sole editorial control over the content of its coverage under the Gates grants.

Besides the grant support, the Gates Foundation in 2005 provided a $100,000 contract to EPE. Under the arrangement, the EPE Research Center conducted a pilot project on the feasibility of providing research support to the foundation.

A version of this article appeared in the November 07, 2013 edition of Education Week as Ed. Department, Gates Plans for Teachers Converge

Let us know what you think!

We’re looking for feedback on our new site to make sure we continue to provide you the best experience.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Future of Work Webinar
Digital Literacy Strategies to Promote Equity
Our new world has only increased our students’ dependence on technology. This makes digital literacy no longer a “nice to have” but a “need to have.” How do we ensure that every student can navigate
Content provided by Learning.com
Mathematics Online Summit Teaching Math in a Pandemic
Attend this online summit to ask questions about how COVID-19 has affected achievement, instruction, assessment, and engagement in math.
School & District Management Webinar Examining the Evidence: Catching Kids Up at a Distance
As districts, schools, and families navigate a new normal following the abrupt end of in-person schooling this spring, students’ learning opportunities vary enormously across the nation. Access to devices and broadband internet and a secure

EdWeek Top School Jobs

7796 - Director of EAL (K-12) - August '21
Dubai, UAE
GEMS Education
Great Oaks AmeriCorps Fellow August 2021 - June 2022
New York City, New York (US)
Great Oaks Charter Schools
Great Oaks AmeriCorps Fellow August 2021 - June 2022
New York City, New York (US)
Great Oaks Charter Schools

Read Next

Federal Who Is Miguel Cardona? Education Secretary Pick Has Roots in Classroom, Principal's Office
Many who've worked with Joe Biden's pick for education secretary say he's ready for what would be a giant step up.
15 min read
Miguel Cardona, first-time teacher, in his fourth-grade classroom at Israel Putnam School in Meriden, Ct. in August of 1998.
Miguel Cardona, chosen to lead the U.S. Department of Education, photographed in his 4th-grade classroom at Israel Putnam School in Meriden, Conn., in 1998.
Courtesy of the Record-Journal
Federal Obama Education Staff Involved in Race to the Top, Civil Rights Join Biden's White House
Both Catherine Lhamon and Carmel Martin will serve on President-elect Joe Biden's Domestic Policy Council.
4 min read
Federal Opinion What Conservatives Should Be for When It Comes to Education
Education is ultimately about opportunity, community, and empowerment, and nothing should resonate more deeply with the conservative heart.
3 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Federal Opinion What the Assault on the Capitol Means for Educators
Last week's assault on the seat of the American government points to a larger civic challenge that we must address together.
4 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty