Our work to date has taught us the imperative of deep and deliberate engagement with educators—particularly teachers—but also parents and communities, as full partners in achieving our shared goals of a dramatically improved education system.
This blog post is part of the series “Closing the Racial Gaps: Together We Can” which highlights efforts across the United States that show promise for closing racial opportunity gaps and creating a more equitable future.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation was founded in 2000 with the belief that all lives have equal value. In the United States, our primary goal is to ensure that our country’s education system serves as a bridge that can carry every student from Pre-K through high school and successfully prepare them for college and careers.
Against this goal, we are seeing signs of momentum as the result of the hard work of students, teachers, parents, school leaders, policy makers and our partners over the past 15 years. In 2014, the high school graduation rate reached an all-time high of 82%. Approximately four out of every five students graduated with a high school diploma within four years of entering the ninth grade. We also know that the most recent gains in the graduation rate were driven primarily by increases of greater than five percent in graduation rates for Hispanic students, African American students, and English Language Learners, compared to the three years prior (2010-11).
However, despite this progress– there are still too many students who are not prepared to be successful after high school graduation. Today, only 40% of students graduate college-ready and for Hispanic and African American students, this rate falls to 25% and 12%, respectively.
In response, the foundation’s investments in K-12 education have supported state adoption of the Common Core State Standards – a set of rigorous benchmarks for what students should know and be able to do, grade over grade, and ultimately graduate from high school prepared for college or post-secondary education. In addition, we are also investing in the development of tools and curriculum to help teachers implement these standards in their classrooms and provide them with the support they need.
Today, the Common Core has been adopted by 42 states, the District of Columbia, and, four U.S. territories. The benefits of high, consistent standards are becoming increasingly clear. Kentucky, the first state to implement the Common Core, has seen a 6% increase in college readiness since 2011; DC Public Schools is observing meaningful increases in their National Education Assessment Progress (NAEP) scores; and the states of New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and Washington also recently reported upticks in student achievement.
While these early results hold promise we know there is substantial work to be done. As we forge ahead, the foundation is committed to using lessons learned in our work to continuously improve. We’ve learned how important it is to ensure that we accurately gauge the resources and support necessary for new policies to work in our states, districts and schools. Similarly, our work to date has taught us the imperative of deep and deliberate engagement with educators—particularly teachers—but also parents and communities, as full partners in achieving our shared goals of a dramatically improved education system.
We will also build on what we’ve seen work well: the use of data to support instructional improvement and ultimately student achievement; a nonpartisan approach to driving change that welcomes partners, insights and contributions from throughout and across the education sector; and a core belief in the value and power of transparency in our work.
With these as our guiding principles, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will continue to support the work of our partners in education, and help set the table for another 25 years of progress and the promise of education to serve as a bridge to opportunity for all students.