Gates Foundation Gives Millions to Improve Teacher Training


Bill and Melinda Gates never give up. Over the past 15 years, they have given several billion dollars to school reform initiatives — many of which did not pan out — but in keeping with their “never say die” commitment, they are ready to try again, reports Valerie Strauss of The Washington Post, this time with teacher education.

Early in the 2000s, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation put millions into creating small schools, believing that separating large high schools with growing dropout rates into several smaller schools would increase graduation rates. When that idea wasn’t effective, they changed to teacher quality and spent millions more to help districts develop assessment systems for teachers that included using student standardized test scores to measure teacher performance.

Even more money went into the construction, implementation, and distribution of the Common Core State Standards. Now, the foundation is focusing on training teachers.

The organization has awarded almost $35 million over three years to five new entities which are called Teacher Preparation Transformation Centers. The hope is to “bring together higher education institutions, teacher preparation providers and K-12 school systems to share data, knowledge and best practices” and “develop, pilot and scale effective teacher-preparation practices to help ensure that more teacher-candidates graduate ready to improve student outcomes in K-12 public schools.”

The Teacher Preparation Transformation Centers are: Elevate Preparation, Impact Children (EPIC), sponsored by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education; the National Center for Teacher Residencies (NCTR); Teacher2, led by the Relay Graduate School of Education; TeachingWorks at the University of Michigan; and University-School Partnerships for the Renewal of Educator Preparation (U.S.PREP) National Center, based at Texas Tech University.

Tens of millions more will be given to alternative teacher prep providers, including $12 million for general operating funds for the New Teacher Project and $261,500 to Teach for America.

The Massachusetts Department of Education and Secondary Education said in a statement that their $4 million grant for launching the “Elevate Preparation: Impact Children” program will increase first-year teachers’ performance to the level of third-grade teachers by 2022, according to the Boston Globe’s Lauren Fox.

“Given that improvement in teacher performance is steepest at the beginning of an educator’s career, advancing individual teacher readiness holds great promise for making a long-term impact on students,” said Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Mitchell D. Chester.

The foundation has also given $3.2 million in grant money to Florida-based Teacher Preparation Inspectorate that will provide inspections and give feedback to the centers and their member providers.

Dian Schaffhauser of THE Journal reports that each center will have a different focus, but will use a standard set of “indicators and outcomes.” The hope is that training programs for novice teachers will begin to share, challenge, inspire and support one another to reach higher levels of excellence.

And in Lubbock, Texas, Texas Tech University College of Education will use its $7 million grant to partner with other universities and school districts through U.S. Prep. Dean Scott Ridley, who authored the grant proposal, feels the university-school partnerships are crucial to finding the solution.