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Bill Gates’ Common Core Spending– An Update

June 22, 2015

Between August 27, 2013, and October 05, 2013, I wrote a six-part series on Bill Gates’ funding of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

I noted in my October 05, 2013, post, that the total CCSS funding as reported on the Gates Foundation’s “awarded grants” search engine was $173.5 million. (I now know I missed a few between the time I started my investigation at the end of August and concluded the series at the beginning of October.)

The search term I used in my search was “common core,” with the exception of one grant to the Fordham Institute, which was under the search term, “common standards.”

On June 21, 2015, I returned to the Gates “awarded grants” search engine, and I looked up two terms: “common standards” and “common core standards.” Since the time of my 2013 posts (August-October 2013), these two terms yielded only one discrepancy that was not related to CCSS.

Therefore, based upon the search term, “common core standards,” I calculated on June 21, 2015, that the additional amount of Gates funding for CCSS since my 2013 series is $49.5 million.

(I had to determine at what point in Gates’ CCSS funding chronology my 2013 search left off, and it was with this August 2013 grant to MIT. So, I apparently missed some grants that were posted during the end-of-August, beginning-of-October span in writing my 2013 series, but these are now accounted for.)

Thus, based upon the $173.5 million I documented in 2013 and the $49.5 million documented today, it seems that Gates has spent at least $223 million on CCSS to date.

I use the term “at least” because it is possible that grant money intended for CCSS does not directly use the term “common core” or even the more general “common standards” in the grant description.

Also regarding the possibility that Gates has spent more than I have documented, four months before CCSS was officially completed in June 2010, the Gates Foundation published a piece in the February 2010 Phi Delta Kappan entitled, “Tying Together the Common Core of Standards, Instruction, and Assessments,” in which Gates Foundation representatives Vicky Phillips and Carina Wong estimated that the Gates Foundation would spend $354 million on CCSS between 2010 and 2014:

The College-Ready Work Investments

The Gates Foundation will spend an estimated $354 million between 2010 and 2014 to:

• Help states build a framework that could be the foundation for a common proficiency conversation;

• Develop prototypes of both formative and summative
assessments in math and literacy that, by design, are
aligned to the core standards, provide challenging work for students, and help teachers provide meaningful feedback to students; 

• Develop syllabi that lay out a course that connects the
standards, assessments, and instruction but depends on
teachers using their own creativity in the classroom.

• Seed new intermediaries for validation and item bank
development, and designing new models of professional

• Develop specifications for new technology-based
instructional platforms that would help states deliver high quality assessments aligned to the core standards and help districts acquire time-relevant data to improve instruction;

• Develop new ways of thinking about psychometric rules that guide tests in order to get higher quality and more valid items that can be used for large-scale assessment and accountability systems; 

• Develop new scoring technology and new forms of
diagnostic assessments; and 

• Explore how to support student academic success, build their academic tenacity, and surround them with responsive education environments.

Months before CCSS was finished, Gates was already offering tentative details of his plan for financing a CCSS that was just sure to be what America needs and wants.

This really rattles my cage: In Gates’ mind, CCSS was a done deal, and it was a success. Period.

Keep in mind that Gates published this several months before CCSS was finished:

The Common Core of Standards takes the guesswork out of determining what students should know and be able to do. The Common Core, however, doesn’t tell states what the standards look like in practice. Moreover, the Common Core will become useful to teachers and policy makers only when it’s part of a larger system of next-generation assessments that track how much students know and how well they know it.

We know how difficult it is to revise state assessment systems — the everpresent balancing act between quality and cost, the need to maintain trust among educators while seeking improvements, and the long lead time necessary for changes. The opportunity before states, however, is not simply to change their assessment systems. The Common Core represents an opportunity to totally redesign assessment systems, using the standards and the college-ready goal as the guides.

Teachers would welcome state assessment systems that measure what they consider challenging classroom work and are technically valid. That’s why the Gates Foundation’s overall strategy considers high-quality assessments a critical resource for teacher effectiveness and teachers’ capacities to prepare students for college-level work. …

The Gates Foundation has sorted out the tasks ahead and placed its college-ready investments behind helping teachers improve their practice through intentionally designed tools, strategic partnerships, and incentives for the tools to go to scale. …

Through 2010, the college-ready work will continue to focus on developing and validating instructional tools, including a new generation of assessments. While this is going on, we’re also investing in the development of technologies, including web based ones, that will provide immediate analysis of student performance and help with the adoption of the instructional tools. Throughout this process, Gates has been in conversations and analyses with teacher groups, major education policy groups, think tanks, and researchers.

Then, we’ll look for additional partners. Within four years, we hope to be implementing the instructional and student support tools in 10 states and 30 school districts, collaborating with several national
policy networks to bring the tools to scale, and facilitating the use of the college-ready standards in admission policies of university systems in selected states.

Going to scale in this country also means influencing the vendors of textbooks and assessments. The tools we’re developing are prototypes or images of what’s possible in classrooms using the Common Core of Standards. They’re not models to be followed literally. If policy makers use the tools for their own conversations and decisions about standards and assessment, then vendors will have the same conversations. Moreover, the tools will be “open access.” 

The Gates Foundation acknowledges risks in setting on the table a coherent system of college-ready standards, aligned assessments, and teaching tools. This is an ambitious agenda. With the current political and financial support for state actions on core standards and new assessment systems, taking risks and being ambitious is the right approach.

Gates planned to spend approximately $354 million from 2010 to 2014 in order to “scale” CCSS and its “new generation” assessments. Is the Gates Foundation behind on its CCSS spending? Perhaps. But what is certain is that Gates is still spending, regardless of any public pushback to or concerns about both CCSS and its “new generation” assessments.

Pushback only means that Implementation Is the Problem… right?

There is no room in the Gates plan for teachers, students, parents, and the public genuinely not wanting CCSS and its assessments. Before there was a CCSS to object to, Gates decided to spend his money to scale it. End of discussion.

So, where are the major Gates bucks currently flowing for his CCSS investment? Well, millions of 2015 Gates CCSS dollars are flowing into California. The Gates grants search engine term, “common core implement” yields three grants totaling $3.5 million to “convene” California teachers for “a single day” of CCSS exposure:

Purpose: To convene large numbers of teachers on a single day in regions across the state of California to generate momentum around the singular impact of teachers on college and career readiness and directly impact teacher exposure to materials, resources and strategies for Common Core implementation. [Emphasis added.]

For this CCSS Teacher Day, in May 2015, Cal State Fullerton accepted $1.26 million; the New Teacher Center (Santa Cruz) accepted $1.1 million, and Loyola Marymount University (Los Angeles) accepted $1.2 million.

In April 2015, San Francisco-based WestEd accepted $3.5 million so that WestEd might offer “teacher networks” the opportunity to show how they might “scale” CCSS implementation:

Purpose: RFP (requests for proposals) for teacher networks, designed to deepen the implementation of the Common Core by leveraging effective tools and strategies; teacher leaders capable of scaling them to teachers in national and local networks; and network/system partnerships. [Emphasis added.]

CCSS works. We just know it does. And teachers want it. We just know they do. So let’s locate, train and send forth “teacher leaders capable of scaling” those “effective” CCSS “tools and strategies.”

Note that the CCSS grant to WestEd does not specify that the money needs to be spent on California. However, recent Gates money specifically for CCSS in California continues.

In November 2014, UC Berkeley accepted $1 million from Gates “to create a Networked Improvement Community (NIC) to support successful implementation of the Common Core State Standards in Math.”

In October 2014, the Silicon Valley Education Association accepted $750,000 “to support Common Core State Standards implementation.”

And here are some of the larger CCSS Gates grants issued following my 2013 Gates funding series to organizations other than those in California:

To help bolster CCSS scaling, the US Chamber of Commerce (Washington, DC) could also use two notable slices of Gates Funding Pie:

US Chamber of Commerce Foundation

Date: March 2015
Purpose: to support Common Core implementation
Amount: $3,701,180

Date: November 2013
Purpose: to support Common Core State Standards implementation
Amount: $1,910,978

Also in DC:  Council of the Great City Schools received $2 million in November 2013 “to help member school districts to align implementation of the Common Core State Standards with their reform efforts in teacher effectiveness and prepare for new PARCC and SBAC online assessments”; New Venture Fund accepted a cool $12.3 million in May 2014 “to support Common Core State Standards implementation,” and the Aspen Institute received $1.5 million in October 2013 “to support a group of school district leaders in their efforts to implement the Common Core standards.”

And beyond California and DC:

New York-based Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors received $1 million “to support a field of interest fund to help states in their efforts to implement high quality, college and career-ready assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards.”

Maryland-based Editorial Projects in Education accepted $750,000 “to support coverage on implementation of Common Core State Standards.”

Finally, there is CCSS co-owner, the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), with $2 million in November 2013 “to support a 20-month project of the Council of Chief State School Officers to help 7-10 member states and a subset of their school districts to integrate implementation of the Common Core State Standards with their reform efforts in teacher effectiveness in ways that produce measurable impact at the school and district level.” [Emphasis added.]

The moral of the story, boys and girls:

Driving education policy from the top-down is okay so long as there is an interested billionaire willing to Make It Happen via a steady stream of fiscal props and enticements.

The day that Bill Gates gets tired of CCSS and decides that it is no longer a “funding priority” for his foundation will be an interesting day. But for now, CCSS appears to be Bill’s favorite educational toy.

toy airplane


Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.

She also has a second book, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?, newly published on June 12, 2015.

both books



  1. Laura H. Chapman permalink

    I found a recent list of Gates funding that may be of interest to you. Here is the source. I downloaded it into a spreadsheet so I could look at multple recipients, largest versus smaller, early versus late and so on. “College and career” a key phrase also gives you more results than any combination of common core standards. I think that “college and career” together as a phrase is an important variant on how the CCSS grants are represented in the Gates database.
    I am beginning to look at other databases as well. These point to a lot of joint ventures in promoting the CCSS (and federal/state education policies) some via the Rockfeller Philanthropy Advisors and not mentioning Gates.
    This is to say that the foundation tsunami flow of influenceis much larger and well organized with, for example, various players–Hemlsley will do x, Lumina will do Y, Carneigie Corporation of New York will do Z and others in many combinations, with or without Gates. Moreover the same foundations often have large and simultaeous funding programs and grants for charters. There is a great aricle in Education Research that shows the drop in support for public school by foundation and rise for “juristicional challengers” (charters, online, etc) from about 2000 to 2010.

    California is a great target because Michael Kirst is a retired Stanford education illuminary and state Board of Ed chief. He was recently a co-author with an education Dean from California at Davis of a commentary in EdWeek pitching the use of the CCSS tests for college placement (freedom from remedial classes) and college admission, also used the Commentary to promote a new “collaborative” organized and marketed via a website– groups serving as shills for Gates and the CCSS , with Acieve still in the mix. You can find some of the recent promoters at Collaborative for Student Success. Also, Ed Researcher has a report that shows some of the interlocking relationships among major foundations that are funding education with software that creates a visual map–think sociograph. Also found some leads on this money madness in newletters of the organizations tracking charitable giving.
    Sound like you have another book in the works. Still reading chapters in your latest and taking notes to cross-check your information on the CCSS and mine.
    Pace yourself. You have earned some R&R.

  2. Laura, thank you.

    “College and career” is so broad that what is really needed is a reading of each entry combined with knowledge of the recipients and their interrelatedness to determine CC related or no.

  3. Excellent research that needs to be made available to the public, somehow…

  4. Wow. This made me think that we need a map by state/amount of Gates $$. It would be great to know how much influence he has in which state, and also which states are most “appealing” to him.

    Another interesting area in which he invests is in libraries. It’s good to own the information.

  5. Andrea Lancer permalink

    It’s frightening that Gates never seems to have reservations about buying policy implementation that he fancies is desirable (without evidence), in a democracy.

  6. Christine Langhoff permalink

    Wow, Mercedes, and Laura, just wow!

  7. Thanks for the work you are doing to illuminate the reality of this twisted CCSS development and implementation. I have written a positive review of your new book. I call it “Common Core Dilemma is the Bomb” I hope you like it.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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  5. Bill Gates Is Still Dabbling in Common Core | deutsch29: Mercedes Schneider's Blog

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