Does not seem there is anything new in today’s Times story about the Gates Foundation* and Race to the Top outside the ridiculous claim that you can’t do charter schooling in rural areas. That’s a failure of imagination. It’s different there, sure, than in big urbans but in many ways rural areas with single big comprehensive high schools are more in need of options for students than urban and suburban communities. Also, see IDEA Public Schools, some of the best charters and serving rural students.
But on the now infamous “Gates 15,” I never got the concern that those states Gates favored meant the fix was in on Race to the Top. On the contrary, if some of those states were selected – absent substantial policy changes – it would be in indictment of the Race to the Top. They’re just Gates priority states, and so what? This whole thing is a little circumstantial — Former Gatesies work at the Department of Ed now > Gates gives grants for policy issues and reform = Must be something fishy happening. There have now been several stories in the press in this vein but is that really so airtight? In any event, the Gates 15 issue is a moot point now and to the extent that a part of the RTT theory of action is, as with prize theory more generally, to incent changes and learning even among those who don’t win all is well that ends well here and all would have been well absent this change, too. And besides, if I have a critique here it’s that foundations don’t get close enough to policy and advocacy, not that they’re too close.
More generally, Gates had better get used to this sort of thing and have some strategies for dealing with it and holding their ground when necessary. A friend of mine, a Marine officer, is a huge guy. Big from birth and then a lot of time in the gym. Also, the nicest, gentlest, most fun loving guy you’d want to meet and the kind who wouldn’t start trouble with anyone. Yet everywhere he went, after they’d had a few drinks, people wanted to fight with him. He couldn’ t go to a crowded bar without trouble starting because there was always some guy who wanted to see if he was really as tough as he looked (he was).Why? Because he was the biggest guy in the room and that made him a target for the kind of people who did want to start trouble. He became really good at knowing how to defuse situations and also when they could not be diffused. There is a lesson in there for Gates because many days education is like a crowded bar — and other days like the bar scene in Star Wars…