The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has advanced four school districts’ and a charter coalition’s proposals for overhauling the evaluation and training of their teachers, putting them a step closer to a cut of the $500 million the foundation is devoting to measuring and promoting teacher effectiveness.
The finalists are Hillsborough County, Fla.; a coalition of charter-management organizations in Los Angeles; Memphis, Tenn; Omaha, Neb.; and Pittsburgh.
The Seattle-based foundation has spent about $2 billion on education reform over the past decade, but the “intensive partnerships for effective teaching,” as the foundation calls them, come as its first major foray into the issue of teaching quality.
“We’ve been sort of looking around for the silver bullet for education reform, and actually the answer has been right under our feet the whole time,” said John E. Deasy, the deputy director of the foundation’s education work.
The districts and coalition now must put together a “memorandum of understanding” involving such stakeholders as teachers’ unions and community officials, as a good-faith sign that they will commit to their plans if they receive the financial backing.
The program will contain a research component to determine the characteristics of effective teachers, and districts must agree to incorporate that research into their programs.
Chris Williams, a spokesman for the Gates Foundation, said officials there could choose to proceed with all five proposals. The foundation plans to make final decisions in November.
Five additional districts that were invited to submit proposals—Atlanta; Denver; Palm Beach County, Fla.; Prince George’s County, Md.; and Tulsa, Okla.—could still win smaller awards. Mr. Williams said officials were impressed with the overall caliber of the applications, and that the foundation will underwrite select portions of their proposals.
The foundation’s focus on teacher effectiveness predated the federal stimulus “assurance” on teacher quality and the Race to the Top proposed application guidelines, which have vaulted the topic to national prominence.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
A version of this article appeared in the August 26, 2009 edition of Education Week