Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Pledges More Money for Common Core

(Photo: Wikimedia, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Wikimedia, Creative Commons)

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has announced plans to increase their efforts to help teachers and educators adapt to Common Core standards.

Gates Foundation CEO Sue Desmond-Hellman said that the material associated with the Common Core can be difficult for many teachers to master.  She added that teachers are spending more time adjusting to the new curriculum, creating lessons, and looking for additional materials to use in their classrooms.

“Far too many districts report that identifying or developing Common Core-aligned materials is a challenge, meaning that teachers spend their time adapting or creating curriculum, developing lessons, and searching for supplemental materials,” Desmond-Hellmann writes in an open letter. “So, we’re doubling down on our efforts to make sure teachers have what they need to make the most of their unique capabilities.”

The Gates Foundation was instrumental in the initial creation of the Common Core.  The standards received funding and promotion of its implementation in schools across the United States through the donation of tens of millions of dollars from the foundation, writes Jason Russell for The Washington Examiner.

Common Core is a set of educational standards that offered schools a more concentrated version of math and reading skills for use with students between kindergarten and the 12th grade.  Sonja Brookins Santelises, vice president of K-12 policy and practice at research group Education Trust, said that the standards were important in order to prepare students to succeed in college.

Desmond-Hellmann went on to say that the foundation did not assume there would be issues faced by schools when using the Common Core standards.  She suggested the foundation should have offered additional, better resources and support to public school systems in order to ensure the proper implementation of the standards.

She added that positive results were being seen in schools in Kentucky, which was the first state to implement the standards five years ago.  The Hechinger Report found that, with the help of funding through the Obama administration, 54% of elementary students in the state are now proficient in the English language and 49% are proficient in math.

The state does still see problems in one area ,however: African-American students are continuing to receive lower scores than their white peers.

In all, 33% of black students in elementary schools were found to be proficient in reading and 31% were proficient in math.  Santelises suggested that this is occurring because typically, schools found in low-income areas have high populations of black students and low expectations for them.  As a result, the students were not properly prepared for the introduction of the Common Core standards.

Meanwhile, states like Tennessee, Indiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Michigan are all protesting the use of the standards, arguing that Common Core did not follow through on the promise made to increase the academic performance and success of students.

Common Core continues to face criticism nationwide. Thousands of students refused to take Common Core-aligned standardized tests in New York.  Opponents of the standards suggest that they are taking away too much classroom time as the tests continue to become longer and harder.