Yesterday, Sue Desmond-Hellmann, CEO of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, made an important admission in an open letter about the Common Core:
Deep and deliberate engagement is essential to success. Rigorous standards and high expectations are meaningless if teachers aren’t equipped to help students meet them.
Unfortunately, our foundation underestimated the level of resources and support required for our public education systems to be well-equipped to implement the standards. We missed an early opportunity to sufficiently engage educators – particularly teachers – but also parents and communities so that the benefits of the standards could take flight from the beginning.
This has been a challenging lesson for us to absorb, but we take it to heart. The mission of improving education in America is both vast and complicated, and the Gates Foundation doesn’t have all the answers.
Think about this. One of numerous objections to the Core has been that the Obama administration, at the behest of Core advocates including Gates, attempted to impose the standards on the entire country without the Core ever having been tested. Avoiding the sort of implementation obstacles that Desmond-Hellmann laments is exactly why testing – in a federalist system, typically done by a state or two voluntarily trying something – is so important. It is how you learn what works and what doesn’t, how to improve it, and it is how you keep the whole country from suffering when something fails. But no, Gates and other Core supporters could not wait for that – they had to impose the Core on everyone because, well, they just knew what America needed.
Or maybe they didn’t.
No one – not the Gates Foundation, not the Obama administration, no one – is omniscient, which is one reason it is so dangerous to impose one “solution” on everyone. There is a very good chance that the solution, even if it seems foolproof, will have lots of major, unanticipated problems.
The question now is, will Gates and other Core advocates learn from the ill effects of their hubris, and cease their efforts to impose a single solution on all people?
We can only hope.