In its efforts to ensure that students graduate from high school ready for college and success in the future workplace, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has announced more than $22 million in new grants to support the development of data systems and research initiatives in K-12 education.
The grants, which were announced Jan. 22, are intended to help schools, districts, and state education departments gather and use data effectively to improve teaching and learning.
"As a country, we need to build an evidence base that will inform decision making at all levels in the system and lead to dramatic improvement in student achievement," said Vicki L. Phillips, director of education for the Gates Foundation, during a news conference at W.T. White High School in Dallas.
"Useful data and solid research about what works will help empower teachers, schools, and districts to more effectively keep students on the path to success in college and beyond. Our education system must be grounded in reliable [information] that assesses what works best in the classroom and serves the interests of all students."
The Dallas Independent School District will receive $3.8 million to improve on a data system that gives educators instant access to student information from preschool to graduation. Information from this data system is available to the city’s teachers and principals in an online dashboard that allows them to see patterns and alerts them when individual students or groups of students are falling behind. The data system was launched last year with the help of a $5 million grant from the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation.
"Educators in [Dallas] are committed to using data and research to inform and improve their work with students, but without a reliable way to track their progress, even the best intentions can miss the mark," said Michael Hinojosa, superintendent of the Dallas Independent School District.
Altogether, more than $8 million in Gates funding will go to organizations in Texas, the foundation said, including the Communities Foundation of Texas, the College for All Texans Foundation, and the E3 Alliance. Texas has been a national leader in developing effective educational data systems, officials said, with the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation playing a critical role in funding the development of performance-management tools across 10 Texas districts in all–including Houston and Austin as well as Dallas.
Grants to support the use of longitudinal data systems to raise student achievement also will go to the National Student Clearinghouse, the National School Boards Foundation, and the National Center for Educational Achievement’s Data Quality Campaign.
The National Student Clearinghouse will get $2.9 million over two years to develop a national secondary education research and reporting system that will give participating high schools across all 50 states reliable information about their graduates’ college access and success rates.
The National School Boards Foundation will get $755,603 over two years to promote the effective use of data-driven decision making by local school board members through the development of training modules, online materials, and easy-to-use data tools that will be piloted in six districts over a 15-month period and then rolled out across the National School Boards Association’s network.
And the Data Quality Campaign will get $600,000 over three years to expand its focus to include postsecondary education. Working with national postsecondary organizations, the group will facilitate states’ efforts to share data between K-12 and postsecondary education systems.
The Gates Foundation also announced grants to ACT Inc. and Teach For America to support research into the impact of teacher characteristics on student achievement, as well as to the Educational Testing Service (ETS) to develop robust teaching evaluation systems by 2012. ETS will team up with the RAND Corp. and the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research on this effort.
The foundation’s emphasis on data and research is reflected in its recent appointment of Thomas J. Kane, Ph.D., as deputy director of education for data and research. Kane is a nationally recognized education policy expert and professor of education and economics at Harvard University, where he and his colleagues have been working with school districts around the country in using data to evaluate hiring and certification policies for teachers, public school choice systems, and the effect of charter and pilot schools on student outcomes.
Since 2000, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has invested more than $2 billion to ensure that all students graduate from high school prepared for college and the workplace, supporting more than 2,600 schools in 45 states and the District of Columbia.
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