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Lessons from Networks for School Improvement: School Year 2020-2021

April 19, 2022

Individual schools have a unique set of assets and talent that can be mobilized to improve student outcomes. In our experience, no two schools are the same — they have different needs, histories and commitments. At the same time, schools share common problems, such as getting (and keeping) students on track in high school, enrolled in a viable postsecondary program and on the road to success as adults. That's why since August 2018, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has made grants to 24 organizations that are supporting 38 networks of middle and high schools in 23 states to improve outcomes for students who are Black, Latino, or experiencing poverty by using data-driven approaches to continually improve their practice based on issues they've identified. We're interested in learning from these Networks for School Improvement (NSI) how schools can use a methodical approach to improvement, widely used in fields such as healthcare, to advance high school graduation and postsecondary success rates for students who are Black, Latino, and experiencing poverty. 

DEI Progress Report

April 18, 2022

We believe that we simply cannot achieve our desired impact without focusing on DEI internally and with our partners. This begins with taking an earnest look at our shortcomings as well as our accomplishments. This inaugural report—which incorporates insights from an October 2021 employee survey, a fall 2021 survey of our partners, demographic data on our workforce, and qualitative interviews with employees across our global offices—is meant as the first step toward holding ourselves accountable for achieving the measurable results we have committed to.

Equitable Value: Promoting Economic Mobility and Social Justice through Postsecondary Education

May 1, 2021

While structural racism has been part of the United States since before its founding, continued racial and gender violence alongside the coronavirus pandemic have exacerbated racial inequities across the country. The disproportionate impact of these events on people of color has catalyzed nationwide activism leading to renewed conversations about who has true access to opportunity in this country. Against this backdrop, the Postsecondary Value Commission leveraged diverse voices and experiences to interrogate the role that postsecondary education can—and should—play in promoting opportunity, paving an equitable path to economic mobility, and dismantling centuries of racist, classist, and sexist attitudes and policies. To be clear: overall, postsecondary education offers individuals the opportunity to earn a better living and build a better life for themselves and their families, while also fostering a healthier, more democratic society. Yet, troubling disparities in access to these opportunities exist by race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and gender.

Evidence Review of the Global Childcare Crisis and the Road for Post-COVID-19 Recovery and Resilience

March 1, 2021

A year into the pandemic, we are no longer just worrying about progress on women's equality coming to a standstill. We're now seeing the possibility of such progress being reversed. The devastating impact that COVID-19 has had on women's livelihoods cannot be overstated. Globally, women tend to work in low-paying jobs and in the informal sector—precarious employment that has been upended by lockdowns and COVID-19 restrictions. Adding another layer to this burden, women's unpaid care work is soaring.The childcare crisis is at a tipping point. Childcare must be addressed within our COVID-19 recovery plans both to advance gender equality and because it makes fiscal sense. In addition to reducing the undue burden of care, affordable and quality childcare frees mothers up to participate in the labour force and creates decent jobs for women in the childcare sector. Fiscal space is shrinking due to COVID-19 but limiting spending on care work would be shortsighted. When more women work, economies grow. Currently, gender gaps in labour force participation in OECD countries cost the economy about 15 percent of GDP. 

Bending The Arc: How The Full Spectrum of Capital Can Enable Inclusive Growth in Agriculture

January 30, 2020

While the world has made huge economic gains over the past 50 years, this progress has been highly uneven. This is particularly acute in the agriculture sector, with many of the 500 million smallholder farmers around the world living on meager incomes and facing high levels of economic insecurity.Despite some recent innovations and advances in including smallholders as market players, there have been few cases where truly widespread, market-level, transformative change towards inclusion has been achieved.In this report, we explore the role of different kinds of capital in bending the arc of agricultural market development towards inclusive growth. We pay particular attention to how impact-focused players deploying capital that is flexible in terms of risk-return expectations can best deploy it in order to catalyze large-scale transformations towards inclusion.

Integrating Technology and Advising: Studying Enhancements to Colleges’ iPASS Practices

July 29, 2019

Integrated Planning and Advising for Student Success (iPASS) is an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to support colleges that seek to incorporate technology into their advising and student services. In iPASS, such technology is intended to increase advising's emphasis on a student's entire college experience, enabling advisers to more easily (1) intervene when students show early warning signs of academic and nonacademic challenges, (2) regularly follow up as students progress through college, (3) refer students to tutoring and other support services when needed, and (4) provide personalized guidance that reflects students' unique needs.To study how technology can support advising redesign, MDRC and the Community College Research Center partnered with three institutions already implementing iPASS: California State University, Fresno; Montgomery County Community College; and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. The three institutions increased the emphasis on providing timely support, boosted their use of advising technologies, and used administrative and communication strategies to increase student contact with advisers. The enhancements at all three institutions are being evaluated using a randomized controlled trial research design.This report shows that the enhancements generally produced only a modestly different experience for students in the program group compared with students in the control group, although at one college, the enhancements did substantially increase the number of students who had contact with an adviser. Consequently, it is not surprising that the enhancements have so far had no discernible positive effects on students' academic performance. The findings also highlight the potential for unintended consequences. Before the study, each of the institutions had required that certain groups of students see an adviser before registering for classes in the next semester. Each institution expanded this preregistration requirement to include all students in the study's program groups, but at one institution, the requirement appears to have contributed to a small reduction in earned credits.

Teachers Know Best: Making Data Work For Teachers and Students

May 29, 2015

The Teachers Know Best research project seeks to encourage innovation in K - 12 education by helping product developers and those who procure resources for teachers better understand teachers' views. The intent of Making Data Work is to drill down to help educators, school leaders, and product developers better understand the challenges teachers face when working with this critical segment of digital instructional tools. More than 4,600 teachers from a nationally representative sample were surveyed about their use of data to drive instruction and the use of these tools.This study focuses on the potential of a specific subset of digital instructional tools: those that help teachers collect and make use of student data to tailor and improve instruction for individual students. The use of data is a crucial component in personalized learning, which ensures that student learning experiences -- what they learn and how, when, and where they learn it -- are tailored to their individual needs, skills, and interests and enable them to take ownership of their learning. Personalized learning is critical to meeting all students where they are, so they are neither bored with assignments that are too easy nor overwhelmed by work that is too hard.

Measuring Instruction in Higher Education: Summary of a Convening

April 15, 2015

What will it take to improve the quality of instruction in higher education? An important first step is the ability to measure quality. A variety of measurement systems exist, but how informative are they, and how can we bring greater coherence to instructional measurement in higher education?On November 17 -- 18, 2014, the William T. Grant Foundation, the Spencer Foundation, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation sponsored a convening of experts on education and the learning sciences to address these questions and to guide possible future initiatives by the foundations.The report examines incentive structures in colleges and universities, looks at the goals toward which instructional measurement can be directed, describes past and current research on instructional measurement, and summarizes potential future initiatives.

Fighting Poverty, Profitably: Transforming the Economics of Payments to Build Sustainable, Inclusive Financial Systems

September 6, 2013

The Gates Foundation's Financial Services for the Poor program (FSP) believes that effective financial services are paramount in the fight against poverty. Nonetheless, today more than 2 billion people live outside the formal financial sector. Increasing their access to high quality, affordable financial services will accelerate the well-being of households, communities, and economies in the developing world. One of the most promising ways to deliver these financial services to the poor -- profitably and at scale -- is by using digital payment platforms.These are the conclusions we have reached as the result of extensive research in pursuit of one of the Foundation's primary missions: to give the world's poorest people the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty.FSP conducted this research because we believe that there is a gap in the fact base and understanding of how payment systems can extend digital services to low income consumers in developing markets. This is a complex topic, with fragmented information and a high degree of country-by-country variability. A complete view across the entire payment system has been missing, limiting how system providers, policy makers, and regulators (groups we refer to collectively as financial inclusion stakeholders) evaluate decisions and take actions. With a holistic view of the payment system, we believe that interventions can have higher impact, and stakeholders can better understand and address the ripple effects that changes to one part of the system can have. In this report, we focus on the economics of payment systems to understand how they can be transformed to serve poor people in a way that is profitable and sustainable in aggregate.

2013 Annual Letter from Bill Gates

January 24, 2013

In previous annual letters, Gates focused on the power of innovation to reduce hunger, poverty, and disease. But any innovation -- whether it's a new vaccine or an improved seed -- can't have an impact unless it reaches the people who will benefit from it. That's why in this year's letter, Gates discusses how innovations in measurement are critical to finding new, effective ways to deliver these tools and services to the clinics, family farms, and classrooms that need them.The Foundation is supporting these efforts, but more needs to be done. Given how tight budgets are around the world, governments are rightfully demanding effectiveness in the programs they pay for. To address these demands, we need better measurement tools to determine which approaches work and which do not. In this letter, Gates highlights strong examples from the past year of how measurement is making a difference. In Colorado, Melinda and Bill learned how a school district is pioneering a new system to measure and promote teacher effectiveness. In Ethiopia, Gates witnessed how a poor country, pursuing goals set by the United Nations, delivered better health services to its people. In Nigeria, the digital revolution has allowed the foundation to improve the use of measurement in the campaign to eradicate polio. Thanks to cell phones, satellites, and cheap sensors, data can be gathered and organized with increasing speed and accuracy.

Feedback for Better Teaching: Nine Principles for Using Measures of Effective Teaching

January 4, 2013

It is very hard to support effective teaching without good information about actual teaching practice. The MET project has sought to build and test measures of effective teaching so that school systems can clearly understand and then close the gap between their expectations for effective teaching and the actual teaching occurring in classrooms.But good information is hard to produce. It requires the right measures, the right measurement processes, strong communications, and an awareness of how information can be distorted. When given the right type of attention, measures can help set expectations and align effort. It will require care and attention for teacher evaluation measures to serve both professional development and accountability purposes. To help states and districts navigate the work of implementing feedback and evaluation systems that support teachers, we offer nine guiding principles based on three years' of study, observation, and collaboration with districts. Our prior reports tested, and ultimately supported, the claim that measures of teaching effectiveness could be valid and reliable. These principles, explained on the following pages, fall into three overarching imperatives, as shown in Figure 1: Measure Effective Teaching; Ensure High-Quality Data; and Invest in Improvement. Note the cyclical presentation. Well-designed evaluation systems will continually improve over time.

Ensuring Fair and Reliable Measures of Effective Teaching: Culminating Findings from the MET Project's Three-Year Study

January 3, 2013

States and districts have launched unprecedented efforts in recent years to build new feedback and evaluation systems that support teacher growth and development. The goal is to improve practice so that teachers can better help their students graduate from high school ready to succeed in college and beyond. These systems depend on trustworthy information about teaching effectiveness -- information that recognizes th complexity of teaching and is trusted by both teachers and administrators. To that end, the Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) project set out three years ago to investigate how a set of measures could identify effective teaching fairly and reliably. With the help of 3,000 teacher volunteers who opened up their classrooms to us -- along with scores of academic and organizational partners -- we have studied, among other measures:Classroom observation instruments, including both subject-specific and cross-subject tools, that define discrete teaching competencies and describe different levels of performance for each;Student perception surveys that assess key characteristics of the classroom environment, including supportiveness, challenge, and order; andStudent achievement gains on state tests and on more cognitively challenging assessments. We have reported findings as we learned them in order to provide states and districts with evidence-based guidance to inform their ongoing work. In our initial report in 2010 (Learning about Teaching), we found that a well-designed student perception survey can provide reliable feedback on aspects of teaching practice that are predictive of student learning.In 2012 (Gathering Feedback for Teaching), we presented similar results for classroom observations. We also found that an accurate observation rating requires two or more lessons, each scored by a different certified observer. With each analysis we have better understood the particular contribution that each measure makes to a complete picture of effective teaching and how those measures should be implemented to provide teachers with accurate and meaningful feedback.This final brief from the MET project's three-year study highlights new analyses that extend and deepen the insights from our previous work. These studies address three fundamental questions that face practitioners and policymakers engaged in creating teacher support and evaluation systems.