Education

Gates Foundation Admits Bungling Common Core, But Vows To ‘Double Down’

The head of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has admitted in the organization’s annual letter that the roll-out of Common Core, which it heavily promoted, has been bungled in a way that created major difficulties.

Sue Desmond-Hellman is the CEO of the Gates Foundation and wrote the organization’s annual letter, published Monday. The letter touches upon a wide array of the massive foundation’s activities, from anti-smoking efforts to a campaign against sleeping sickness in Africa, but one area that receives significant attention is Common Core. The Gates Foundation played a major role in the creation of Common Core several years ago, donating tens of millions of dollars both to finance the creation of the standards and to promote their adoption across the United States.

Now, over half a decade later, Common Core remains in place across most of the country, but in a beleaguered position. Repeal efforts continue around the country, and states like New York are still seeing major boycotts of Common Core-aligned standardized tests.

In her Monday letter, Desmond-Hellman issues a mea culpa for Common Core’s difficulties, saying the Gates Foundation badly underestimated how difficult implementing Common Core would be, leading to substantial difficulties for teachers. She also admits the Gates Foundation failed to properly win over parents early on, implying this failure contributed to an ongoing grassroots backlash against the Core.

“Unfortunately, our foundation underestimated the level of resources and support required for our public education systems to be well-equipped to implement [Common Core,]” Desmond-Hellman says in the letter. “We missed an early opportunity to sufficiently engage educators – particularly teachers – but also parents and communities so that the benefits of the standards could take flight from the beginning.”

But Desmond-Hellman says this “tough lesson” only makes the Foundation more determined to stay behind Common Core and try to ensure ultimate success. She argues in Kentucky, one of the first states to adopt Common Core, there is evidence the standards are increasing college readiness among high schoolers. To reap these benefits, she says, schools and teachers just have to make it through the challenging years of implementation.

“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,” she says. “So, we’re doubling down on our efforts to make sure teachers have what they need to make the most of their unique capabilities.”

To that end, Desmond-Hellman says the Gates Foundation was dedicating a portion of its vast resources to facilitating the development of Common Core-aligned curricula and instructional materials, in the hopes teachers will have an easier time teaching Common Core.

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