Elsewhere online
January 06, 2015

Opinion: What a Gates Admission Says About School Reform

The Washington Post's Answer Sheet education blog considers Bill Gates's acknowledgment in a recent speech that his foundation's "Grand Challenges" project to mobilize scientists to develop innovative health-care solutions in the world's poorest regions has not yet had a significant impact despite a $1-billion investment.

Writer Valerie Strauss cites a Seattle Times report on an address the Microsoft co-founder gave last month marking the 10th anniversary of Grand Challenges, one of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's signature efforts. According to the Times, Mr. Gates used the word "naïve" four times in describing how the foundation has "failed to adequately consider what it would take to implement new technologies" in parts of the developing world.

Critics of the Gates approach contend it relies too heavily on technological approaches and does not sufficiently consider social and political factors in persistent poverty and diseases. Ms. Strauss argues that a similar overreliance on technology and data have marred the foundation's large-scale education programs in areas like school size and teacher assessment, which she says have influenced public policy but failed to produce results.