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July 25, 2011

Gates Says $5-Billion Education Investment Was a 'Learning' Experience

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has undergone “a decade of learning” about applying philanthropy to improving the nation's schools, Bill Gates tells The Wall Street Journal in an expansive interview on the foundation's education efforts.

The foundation, which has spent $5-billion on education grants and scholarships since 2000, is moving away from large-scale efforts such as its $100-million program to start new, small high schools in major cities, which Mr. Gates said “didn't move the needle much” on its main goal, increasing college attendance.

Instead the Gates foundation is increasingly focused on financing research to influence public policy on issues such as teacher quality and a national curriculum. The foundation will spend $335-million over five years on a project designed to develop systems to measure teacher effectiveness.

“I bring a bias to this. I believe in innovation and that the way you get innovation is you fund research and you learn the basic facts,” Mr. Gates said. “The 50 states don't think of [education] that way, and schools of education are not about research. So we come into this thinking that we should fund the research.”