- In their 2018 annual letter, Bill and Melinda Gates suggest that their efforts to alleviate poverty in the U.S. may require them to broaden their foundation's domestic philanthropic scope beyond education, Chalkbeat reports.
- The letter specifically notes that a 2017 trip to Atlanta "reinforced" how much education impacts poverty, in addition to drawing attention to the roles of factors like race, employment, housing, mental health and incarceration.
- Additionally, the letter details that the duo is aware that their philanthropic influence has led schools and districts to "divert money and talent toward ideas they think we will fund," and that new projects need pilots to prove their value, sustainability beyond that initial test-run, and scalability — which they note factored into their pivot from prior teacher evaluation efforts.
In its efforts to lift people out of poverty in the U.S., the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has largely focused on education — and not without some criticism. The amount of money and resources their philanthropic efforts have devoted to education have occasionally raised concerns of potential influence on what is taught and how, with funding placed behind Common Core's development and rollout a notable example of how the best of intentions weren't necessarily interpreted as such.
The teacher evaluation efforts, meanwhile, raised concerns among critics that tying educators' performance reviews to high-stakes standardized assessments would create scenarios where people were pressured to spend even more time and resources on teaching to the test — or, if that didn't work, trying to game the system — for fear of losing their jobs.
But looking to external factors influencing poverty beyond education may yet prove beneficial to the Gates Foundation's educational efforts. As has been noted by numerous education thought leaders, students who struggle with issues like food insecurity, homelessness, high mobility and incarcerated parents aren't likely to show up to school ready to learn. While a "no excuses" approach has worked in some schools by encouraging students to ignore those very real factors impacting their lives in favor of education, the reality is that such an approach probably isn't feasible for every student — and solving those root issues related to poverty are likely to do more toward producing a better-educated, better-adjusted populace in the long run.