Insanity: After Repeated Failures, Bill Gates to Spend $1.7 Billion More on Education

October 23, 2017

by Karen R. Effrem, MD


One commonly used definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” Bill Gates, the billionaire education philanthropist, has spent hundreds of millions of dollars remaking education according to his philosophy but exempting his own children from his “reforms.” He apparently sees that definition applying only to mere mortals and not to himself. According to Valerie Strauss of The Washington Post, despite admitting multiple major failures of his efforts, he plans to spend another $1.7 billion over five years, with 85 percent going to traditional public school districts and 15 percent going to charter schools. About 60 percent of the funds will be used to:

…develop new curriculums and “networks of schools” that work together to identify local problems and solutions, using data to drive “continuous improvement.” He said that over the next several years, about 30 such networks would be supported, though he didn’t describe exactly what they are. The first grants will go to high-needs schools and districts in six to eight states, which went unnamed.

Probably the most concerning aspect of this latest scheme is Gates’ strong emphasis on the grants being “data-driven.” Strauss notes that emphasis and quotes him as saying the following:

Each [school] network will be backed by a team of education experts skilled in continuous improvement, coaching and data collection and analysis. [Emphasis added]

Privacy-destroying data collection, including socioemotional/psychological profiling, has long been a very key problem and major concern for parents, as well as teachers, with the Common Core effort. Many see this data being used to change the purpose of education from academic knowledge allowing children to pursue their own path and maintain our republic to narrow workforce skills preparation based on the needs and desires of corporations. This is being accomplished via competency-based education (CBE). Here is a quote from a Gates Foundation report on CBE that does nothing to dissuade those concerned about the Gates efforts:

Proficiency-Based Pathways. Education leaders have long talked about setting rigorous standards and allowing students more or less time as needed to demonstrate mastery of subjects and skills. This has been more a promise than a reality, but we believe it’s possible with the convergence of the Common Core State Standards, the work on new standards-based assessments, the development of new data systems, and the rapid growth of technology-enabled learning experiences… [Emphasis added]

There are many problems associated with CBE — and even Gates and his foundation have admitted the issues. In fact, here are just a few elements of Gates’ education vision which have resulted in failure:

Common Core

I will not attempt to list all of the well-documented problems and failures of the academically inferior, developmentally inappropriate, and psychologically manipulative Common Core standards here. The standards, tests, teacher evaluation schemes, and the like have resulted in falling NAEP math, reading and college readiness scores; complaints from college professors about student unpreparedness; and many other problems since Common Core was implemented, creating an enormous student, parent and teacher backlash. Despite Gates refusing to admit the reality of Common Core’s problems, his foundation did acknowledge the extent of that backlash, describing the problem as a “missed…early opportunity to engage educators — especially teachers — but also parents and communities so that the benefits of the standards could take flight from the beginning.”

After this admission, The LA Times editorial board summed up the problem with having un-elected crusaders like Gates pulling the strings on public education policy:

Today, the Gates Foundation is clearly rethinking its bust-the-walls-down strategy on education — as it should. And so should the politicians and policymakers, from the federal level to the local, who have given the educational wishes of Bill and Melinda Gates and other well-meaning philanthropists and foundations too much sway in recent years over how schools are run.

Standards Based Assessments

There have been many validity and administration issues with the federally mandated state assessments. Additionally, Gates admitted in 2013 that the use of students scores on state assessments as a major component of teacher evaluation was problematic:

…as states and districts rush to implement new teacher development and evaluation systems, there is a risk they’ll use hastily contrived, unproven measures. One glaring example is the rush to develop new assessments in grades and subjects not currently covered by state tests…This is one reason there is a backlash against standardized tests — in particular, using student test scores as the primary basis for making decisions about firing, promoting and compensating teachers.

Data Systems

Gates heavily funded the inBloom initiative that would have put much sensitive student data into the cloud, and the Data Quality Campaign (DQC) that worked with Jeb Bush’s foundation and other like-minded corporations and groups to extol the virtues of expanding womb-to-tomb data mining in law. Yet, parental backlash against data mining has been the biggest part of the resistance to the whole Common Core system at the state and the federal levels. inBloom completely failed, as did DQC’s and CASEL’s efforts to federalize social emotional research. This corporate establishment education cartel and their actions are what ordinary American citizens instinctively resist. These privacy victories were due to a large bipartisan grassroots effort by parents unwilling to give up their children’s privacy and futures to corporate raiders.

Technology-Enabled Learning Systems

Bill Gates also admitted in May of 2016 that despite spending millions of dollars on education technology, such as in personalized/competency-based learning, “we really haven’t changed [students’ academic] outcomes.”

Other Failures

The above are only a few of the significant Gates education failures. Here are some others of which it is important to be aware:

  • The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gave $100 million to Hillsborough County (Florida) to reform teacher evaluation and pay, with the county required to bring in additional $100 million. However, the county’s cost rose to $124 million, and the program is now being dismantled after largely failing, leaving the taxpayers out $124 million with nothing to show for that cost — funds that could have been spent on teaching real academics for poor children.
  • Los Angeles wasted $1.3 billion on iPads for every student that were to be loaded with Common Core software that was a Gates-Pearson joint effort. The iPads were utterly unusable and resulted in an FBI investigation for bid rigging.
  • Before moving into the Race to the Top and Common Core effort, the Gates Foundation admitted in 2009 that the Smaller Learning Community program, upon which the foundation spent at least $650 million in an effort to track children into specific types of jobs-based education as early as 8th grade, was also a failure.​

When our children make egregious mistakes that harm others and cost money, we try to explain to them why they are on the wrong path and then hope and pray that they see the error of their ways. Unfortunately, Gates and his ilk are insulated from reality by their vast fortunes. So while we fight to protect our children’s education and futures from the effects of Gates’ Common Core and data mining efforts, we must pray that he finds some other cause in which to meddle and that our officials at all levels learn that these grants come with all sorts of costly strings, cause many problems, and are a very dangerous addiction. We must stand strong, speak truth to power — and believe in miracles.


Dr. Karen Effrem is trained as a pediatrician and serves as president of Education Liberty Watch and the executive director of the Florida Stop Common Core Coalition.

Archive: Karen R. Effrem, MD

4 comments on “Insanity: After Repeated Failures, Bill Gates to Spend $1.7 Billion More on Education”

  • Christine Lyles says:

    I have been a middle-school / high school teacher for 30 years. NOTHING, and I mean, NOTHING has been more detrimental to education than the involvement of Bill Gates and his “COMMON CORE”. We are no longer teaching students; we are teaching to a “test”. Why does Bill Gates think he’s the education guru — because he has money? Wrong. If you want to “fix” education, why don’t you ask the people teaching? That would be the teachers in the trenches.

  • Susie B. says:

    Rarely, Denis Ian, am I one to comment on internet articles. However, after reading your incredible response to the perverse direction in which our educational system is going, I felt it necessary. You eloquently hit the nail on the head as far as giving a scathing review of what our nation’s families are going through with the ill-conceived Common Core standards. Unfortunately, your clever warnings regarding data collection and its ramifications will, sadly, be ignored by those who insist that “that would never happen” or, moreover, by the crowd who can’t even understand the Orwell and Huxley references since the literacy “standards” do not include the reading of whole books but, rather, excerpts of some of the classics and manuals. After all, what better way to prepare kids for the new world of mindless work arranged by those who need laborers rather than thinkers? I have shouted from the roooftops the same message you shared on this thread and the message falls on deaf ears for the most part. Trying to compete with Bill Gates and his ilk is proving very difficult. Money talks and they know it. Politicians are just as much to blame as they are more concerned with power and lining their pockets with donor money for their next campaign than they are with providing an education that works. Time will tell if their great experiment is successful in creating a world of automatons. I believe the possibility is very real and it will be too late by the time it is realized.

  • Williampenn says:

    Enough of elite globalist totalitarians shoving things down our throats. No wonder nationalism and freedom are winning.

  • Denis Ian says:

    At the moment, the rarest word in all of education is “kids”. And the most ignored phrase in this giant jungle of jargon is “common sense”.

    Long-revered pedagogical precepts have been blue-penciled by classroom-allergic theorists now leveraged by profiteers who see public schools as the next sustainable profit-producing mother lode.

    And the political class … put into office by all of us … has mocked our vote and deserted our children in a flash of cash.

    Never has American education been in such a moment of willful destruction. Never before have the wishes and concerns of those most vested in public schools been so summarily disregarded by bureaucratic double-speak and political bunk.

    Beyond the view of skirmishes now underway across an array of states, is an emerging reality that … in a very short while … this destroying reform will have razed an American institution to a mound of rubble.

    And in its place … for as far as the eye can see … will stand drive-thru learning centers offering kiosk-educations from a B. F. Skinner touch-screen that will supply the finger-pointer with all they need to succeed in a life of rich monotony.

    That’s what your now titling schools are going to look like. And that’s your child’s purgatory.

    Kindergarten is now the Boot Camp Moment. Classroom drill instructors seem unbothered shoving 70 month-olds into a rush-hour of academic traffic … because some basement gnome alleges it’s the ideal moment to vaccinate them with “grit” and “rigor”.

    These academic tykes are denied recess and songs and giggles … because those would be indicators of unseriousness. And education is, above all else, an extra-serious business. Even for cherubs still ill-at-ease knotting their own sneakers.

    The elementary time seems destined to be called the Tablet Years. The Mario Bros. Educational Principles will rule the day as students win points and pile up Magical No. 2 Pencils as they are prompted from one level to the next. Competency-based-education will erase all of those annoying human variables and every learner who reaches Level Extreme will see their names glitter in on-screen pixie dust. And an 8 X 10 screen-shot of that conquering moment will become the new moving-up document.

    Middle school will usher in The Skinner Stage … when on-screen accountability and specially-tapered curricula designs will suffocate all of those aggravating teenage twitches and quirks. School magistrates will homogenize this stage of maturity so that no nail stands up … and individuality is mocked as antithetical narcissism that is thoroughly unacceptable. Creativity will be dubbed a day-dreaming activity … time-consuming musing more symptomatic of a sloth than of genius.

    High school will be The Divergent Time… when, at long last, the future of every young adult will become crystal clear. Youngsters will be endlessly nudged in this or that career pathway … justified by the overwhelming mounds of data that can be Hansel and Greteled all the way back to the days when joy was first run out of their very brand-new lives.

    And at every level, parents will lose more and more control of their children. They will be less and less invited by school authorities to take part in the joy-remembering rites of passage we all associate with growing up. And that is all by design because the very last thing these new educational absolutists want is any mother or father acting as though they have any regency at all over their own child’s education.

    Orwell yourself beyond the moment and come to terms with what awaits us all on the horizon of touch-screen scholarship. Huxley yourself into the world of tomorrow when your children will have been programmed and plugged into lifetime situations based not on their passions but on some algorithmic prescription burped out by some electronic-ouija-motherboard.

    If you are doubting of this … and too, too many are … examine what the last half-decade has wrought. In the blink of an eye, schools have been systematically transformed, childhood recalibrated, and parents richly tattooed as adversaries. Government now dictates to the schools, and politicians have morphed into carnival barkers for every profiteer determined to get their slice of the Big Education pie.

    And all the while, half-a-generation has already endured this child-abusing gauntlet of educational malpractice as they are guinea-pigged into blazing trails in the brave new world of scholastic madness.

    And that is the great tilt. What is it you are going to do about it?

    And if you decide to do nothing … then stand ready to watch their lives topple into misery in a very grave new world that will last for as long as their earthly eternity.

    Denis Ian

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