With voters growing increasingly disgruntled towards a US government that cannot reach a consensus with regards to spending cuts, one critical area is often on the chopping block—public education. It’s no secret that public schools are in dire straits—particularly in the inner cities where minority groups are concentrated.
Allan C. Golston, president of the United States Program of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, oversees, among other things, the organization’s efforts to increase graduation rates. With over $6 billion in funding since 1994, this part of the foundation has made a $1 billion commitment over 20 years to the Gates Millennium Scholars Program, which enables 20,000 outstanding students of color, with significant financial need, to earn a college degree. Since the 1999 commitment, 13,050 students have received renewable awards for undergraduate and graduate study. BLACK ENTERPRISE spoke with Golston about the state of public schools and how the foundation plans to tackle education-related issues. Here’s what he had to say:
BLACKENTERPRISE.COM: The foundation’s goals to increase the number of public high school graduates are going to require education reform. What’s the plan to deal with some of the pushback?
Allan Golston: I think it’s important to point two things out in terms of that. One is that we actually did a survey of over 40,000 teachers. We asked teachers what they think about performance management, rewards, evaluation, etc. What was very interesting is that teachers actually do want feedback and are not opposed to performance types of pay as long as the measures are fair and reliable. There are quite a few teachers; it came up in this survey, that actually do support this. The great thing about this work and what we are learning in the research is that this cannot only be used for supporting teachers to be their best, giving them feedback, etc., but these measures can also be incorporated into the teacher personnel system, including merit pay, or meritocracy-based system.
At the end of the day, the teachers may have the support but there are administrators to deal with. Are they also as receptive?
The administrators are also receptive. You know, the good news here is that if you just use the Measures of Effective Teaching Research Project, there are over 3,000 teachers represented in this research study and school leadership, district leadership, administration. So, it’s something that is a long time coming and we are seeing the type of support. In fact, we’re right in the midst of the research work and there is incredible pressure from administrators to say, “Hey, tell us what you know now. Tell us what you know.” We’d like to begin to implement this now. Of course we want to do that at a pace and time where the research is coming and unfolding, and the evidence of what we are learning is clear. But there is a big demand for this work and we’re excited to see that.