- The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced this week a grant program that will award $10 million to professional development providers around training for "high-quality" curricula, part of an estimated $1.7 billion it plans to invest in K-12 by 2022, Education Week reports.
- The grants won't be focused toward developing new curricula from the ground up, but rather on helping teachers more effectively use existing resources and materials and adjusting them to their own needs.
- Similar to its Common Core State Standards investment, the grants also favor a certain level of commonality in PD models, with grantees being required to align teacher training on curriculum that has been highly rated by EdReports.org or similar tools and platforms.
The announcement details the foundation's latest effort following its educational strategy pivot away from teacher performance in October 2017. Its work on teacher evaluations was one of its most-criticized areas of educational philanthropy, with many questioning the value of tying metrics like student test scores to teacher or school evaluations.
That pivot saw the foundation shift its focus toward "locally driven solutions" for student achievement and center on supporting promising results from existing traditional public schools, new curriculum development, charters serving special needs students, and "research and development" to scale successful models.
It makes sense that curriculum and teacher training is coming into the picture, as K-12 schools and districts have worked in recent years to adjust learning models for a new working world, where many traditional blue-collar jobs that required compliant labor are being automated and replaced with positions demanding newer technical skills, as well as the ability to think critically and creatively in collaboration with others. But the effort must also be wary of potential pitfalls.
Aside from criticism for its previous approach to teacher performance, the Common Core State Standards supported by the foundation faced much higher public scrutiny when they were associated with perceived federal overreach from the Obama-era U.S. Department of Education. Keeping missteps with that effort in mind will be crucial on any attempt to promote a standardized approach.
But the fact of the matter remains that quality PD opportunities have proven to be important factors in retaining good teachers, and new teaching methods and models will require quality PD to ensure they're implemented effectively for the benefit of students and educators alike.