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AERDF: Waltons Join Bill Gates and CZI for Latest-Greatest K12 Ed Fix

July 21, 2021

Nothing like a few billionaires combining forces to toss cash at a few pitre-dished school districts for a *latest, greatest idea* for K12 education. This latest-greatest was first announced in 2018 as a Gates-CZI (Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative) idea. In this June 2020 archive, Gates reported that “ask[ing] nearly 1,000 educators what they need to be successful” resulted in the EF+Math Program. From the EF+Math home page:

All Students Are Poweful Learners

Our mission is to challenge the way people think about how students learn. Students from all backgrounds are equally capable of success in math. The EF+Math Program is a new initiative to fund bold approaches through inclusive discovery and development to dramatically increase math outcomes for students in grades 3-8. We focus on students who have been traditionally underserved. They deserve access to the best resources and tools to help them reach their full potential. We focus on foundational skills necessary for learning: executive functions. Executive functions allow students to have agency over their attention, emotions and behavior to achieve their goals. Executive functions are an essential asset that every student has. We want students to know how to use them to learn anything.

Now, in 2021, it seems that in keeping with its 2025 K12 education strategy of “accelerat[ing] breakthrough innovation,” the Waltons have joined in.

Thus, as Matt Barnum reports on July 21, 2021, in Chalkbeat, Gates, CZI, and (now) the Waltons are in it together to the tune of $200M in the name of a new nonprofit, Advanced Education Research & Development Fund (AERDF):

AERDF (pronounced AIR-dif) says its focus will be on what it calls “inclusive R&D,” or bringing together people with different expertise, including educators, to design and test practical ideas like improving assessments and making math classes more effective.

Still, the ideas will have “moonshot ambitions,” said the group’s CEO Stacey Childress.

“One of our mottos for our program teams and the projects they fund is ‘heads in clouds and boots on the ground,’” she said

AERDF received its IRS nonprofit exemption effective October 13, 2020 (see IRS determination letter here) and shares an address and CEO with NewSchools Venture Fund (NSVF) (1616 Franklin Street, Second Floor, Oakland, CA 94612). AERDF-NSVF CEO Stacey Childress was formerly with the Gates Foundation, so already this AERDF idea is Gates Warmed Over.

As Barnum reports, the three pitre-dish districts for what appears to be the EF+Math Program under the new umbrella of nonprofit AERDF under the umbrella of not-new NSVF are Newark, NJ; Vista Unified, CA, and Middletown, OH.

There are a lot of folks on the EF+Math payroll.

The question is, will there be an EF+Math Program or an AERDF in five years? Ten years?

Cut to a nonchalant Bill Gates in the September 27, 2013, Washington Post:

It would be great if our education stuff worked, but that we won’t know for probably a decade.

When the billionaires get tired, they can cancel funding at will and potentially leave school districts in a lurch, which is what Gates did with his push for small schools and teacher evaluation.

Gates, CZI, and Walton all operate mega-nonprofits, and now, they’re using yet another nonprofit (NSVF) to incubate yet another nonprofit (AERDF).

One thing ed reform loves to do is pack the K12 educational space with lots of ed-reform nonprofits.

Odds are that EF+Math and AERDF will both have lost their billionaire-induced shine long before 2031.

Bill Gates


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