Gates Foundation to show excellent teaching

Billionaire philanthropist and Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill
Gates says his foundation hopes to post online videos of exemplary
teachers plying their craft as a way to inspire other educators and
help students learn. He also says the Bill & Melinda Gates
Foundation will increase its giving in 2009, despite the sinking
economy. The news comes in an open letter published by Gates on Jan. 26,
which summarizes the foundation’s progress in health and education and
outlines its plans in the months ahead.

Gates left Microsoft’s executive ranks last July to focus
full-time on the foundation he created with his wife, Melinda. The
letter is the first of what Gates says will be an annual series of
missives to foundation stakeholders. In the letter, Gates highlights a new area of focus for his
foundation’s education work: helping to identify what makes teachers
successful and sharing these best practices more broadly.

"It is amazing how big a difference a great teacher makes versus an
ineffective one. Research shows there is only half as much variation in
student achievement between schools as there is among classrooms in the
same school. If you want your child to get the best education possible,
it is actually more important to get him assigned to a great teacher
than to a great school," he wrote.

"Whenever I talk to teachers, it is clear that they want to be
great, but they need better tools so they can measure their progress
and keep improving. So our new strategy focuses on learning why some
teachers are so much more effective than others and how best practices
can be spread throughout the education system so the average quality
goes up."

Already, the Gates Foundation has made grants to support this new
area of focus. Last week, it announced nearly $10 million in new grants
to fund research on teacher effectiveness and its impact on student
achievement–including $7.3 million to Educational testing Service,
$1.9 million to teach for America, and $579,000 to ACT Inc. (See "Gates Foundation to give $22M for education.")

"We will work with some of the best teachers to put their lectures
online as a model for other teachers and as a resource for students,"
Gates also wrote in his Jan. 26 letter. Based on what the foundation has learned so far from its giving, "we have refined our strategy," Gates said. He explained: "We will continue to invest in replicating the
school models that worked the best. Almost all of these schools are
charter schools. Many states have limits on charter schools, including
giving them less funding than other schools. Educational innovation and
overall improvement will go a lot faster if the charter school limits
and funding rules are changed."

Gates also affirmed his foundation’s new focus on helping more
students graduate from college, particularly through grants to
community colleges and the organizations serving them. (See "Gates Foundation targets college graduation."

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