Gates Highlights English Learners

During a speech last month at a meeting of the Council of Great City Schools in Cleveland, Ohio, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates outlined a change of direction in his foundation’s approach to education funding in the U.S., while highlighting the application of data analytics to discover priorities for English learners. He expects to invest close to $1.7 billion in U.S. public education over the next five years. Gates announced that: “Although we will no longer invest directly in new initiatives based on teacher evaluations and ratings, we will continue to gather data on the impact of these systems and encourage the use of these systems to improve instruction at the local level.”
He also said that they will focus on locally-driven solutions identified by networks of schools, and support their efforts to use data-driven continuous learning and evidence-based interventions to improve student achievement, increase commitment to develop curricula and professional development aligned to state standards, continue to support the development of high-quality charter schools focus more on working with charters on developing new tools and strategies for students with special needs, and expand investments in innovative research to accelerate progress for underserved students.
Gates anticipates that about 60% of this spending will eventually support the development of new curricula and networks of schools that work together to identify local problems and solutions, and use data to drive continuous improvement.
Gates highlighted examples of data being used to improve student outcomes, including that of Summit Public Schools, which operates 11 charter schools in California and Washington, where they analyzed data and determined that English Learners [ELs] entered school significantly behind and never caught up. Data was used to identify the teachers whose EL students were doing the best, so they could talk to them and curate their materials, and apply those best practices across all Summit schools. In less than a year, the performance gap between English Learners and others decreased by 25%.
Gates began his speech by recognizing the racial and economic inequity in the U.S. that preludes educational success across the board, “When disaggregated by race, we see two Americas. One where white students perform along the lines of the best in the world—with achievement comparable to countries like Finland and Korea. And another America, where Black and Latino students perform comparably to the students in the lowest performing OECD countries, such as Chile and Greece.”


  1. So what did Summit Schools discover? What are the best practices teachers doing to gain footing on this nationwide issue?

  2. Christopher Roe – I am interested, too, in what new best practices are being used. Are these only going to be shared with schools involved in the Gates Foundation? If he has information that the rest of us could use to close the academic gap of our ELL students then it should be publically shared so that all can benefit.
    How does Mr. Gates plan on addressing his perceived racial and economic inequity in the U.S.? If this is true, what can his foundation do to narrow the margins?
    An interesting read, but it leaves the reader NOT a part of his foundation with nothing to use.

  3. I teach in an urban school district with high percentage of English Language Learners, identified as low socioeconomic and academically at risk. In my experience, the problem starts in the early years of elementary school due to lack of effective reading interventions and parental involvement. In my opinion, these students will be part of our society, they are U.S. Citizens left behind because the school system is not going above and beyond in educating ELLs to become successful members of our society. The achievement gap begins in kinder, 1st, and 2nd grades if by the time the students start 3rd grade they are not reading on level they are already behind. Reading is the base for every content area, reading on level is crucial for students to be able to cognitive process concepts, comprehend and be able to perform in all other subjects. After 2nd grade students should be able to read to learn, otherwise their achievement gap start growing and with it theirs levels of frustration. Unfortunately, administrators and district leaders and executives don’t go down to this grade levels, it is necessary to understand that the educational level start at PK and K not at middle and high school levels where remediation is offered instead of offering right reading interventions and parenting during the lower grade levels. ELLs students when taught using the right approaches and interventions based on individual data analysis are capable learning and perform at high academic levels, many times outperforming the mainstream. In my experience as 5th grade bilingual teacher, I have been able to implement reading interventions and parental involvement strategies that year after year have demonstrated that ELLs are capable of high performance, a great percentage of my students apply to Magnet Schools and Academies, Private Schools and Advance Programs where they are academically successful. It is a matter of changing the approach, ELLs students are smart and willing to learn and work hard, when using both languages students learn faster and better their self-esteem and performance. School administrators and districts leaders need to change their approaches toward ELLs, the education of our students should be differentiated and targeted to tailor their academic needs, parents need to be included regarding of their educational and/or racial background, interventions need to be applied at lower grade levels, teachers need to be seen and respected as the experts in the classroom, and school leaders and administrators need to have the academic knowledge, human skills, and capacity to lead.

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