Bill Gates will invest more than $1 billion in public schools — but he’ll have to learn from Mark Zuckerberg’s mistake

  • Bill Gates announced that he would invest more than $US1.7 billion in public education.
  • Mark Zuckerberg invested $US100 million into Newark Public Schools in 2010 and it was largely seen as a failure.
  • Gates wants schools and educators to drive the process.

Bill Gates will fund a massive investment in education, pledging more than $US1.7 billion into public schools, The Washington Post reported.

Gates has long been a thought leader on improving school outcomes through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, where he’s invested more than $US3.4 billion in public education in the US, according to The Post.

But the eye-popping sum of his newest investment harks back to another tech titan’s massive investment in public schools — one that was largely deemed a failure.

In 2010, Mark Zuckerberg donated $US100 million to Newark, New Jersey’s failing public-school system with the intention of turning around the schools in five years.

The goals Zuckerberg set out to achieve — to enact a number of reforms that would make Newark a model city for education reform — were largely panned, and multiple sources tore into Newark Public Schools for squandering his money and not delivering on any of the goals it set out to achieve.

Critics also argued Zuckerberg’s strategy was top heavy, done quickly and without input from parents or local administrators, who could have provided guidance on how the changes would play out among the community.

After his so-called blunder in Newark, Zuckerberg appeared to employ a different strategy for affecting positive change in schools. In 2014, he committed $US120 million to school districts around the San Francisco Bay Area, focusing on reform at the community level, rather than a heavy-handed, top-down approach, as the Newark reform plan has been described.

Gates will invest more than 10 times as much as Zuckerberg did in Newark. He appears cognisant of the need to engage school communities in the process, noting he wants schools and educators to drive the process, according to The Post.

“The actual tactics about great teaching, about how to reform the schedule, how to get students who are off track on track — those will be driven by the schools themselves,” Gates said before an audience in Cleveland, Ohio, according to The Post. ” We will let people come to us with the set of approaches they think will work for them in their local context.”

Gates, the richest man in the world, has been at the forefront of some of the biggest ideas in education, if sometimes equally unpopular. He invested heavily in the
Common Core State Standards, the controversial set of nationwide education standards that almost all 50 states signed into law.

Following near-universal praise and adoption of the standards in 2010, there has since been equally swift backlash against the standards on both sides of the aisle.