Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

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Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation logo.png
Basic facts
Location:Seattle, Washington
Top official:Susan Desmond-Hellmann
Founder(s):Bill and Melinda Gates
Year founded:1997
Website:Official website
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is an education reform organization based in Seattle, Washington and led by CEO Susan Desmond-Hellmann and co-chairs Bill Gates, Melinda Gates, William H. Gates Sr. and Warren Buffett. The foundation was started in 1997 to advocate for public health initiatives in the developing world. This organization has expanded with global health, development and education programs run through offices in the United States, China, India and Great Britain.[1]


The mission's organization statement is:

Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people’s health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people—especially those with the fewest resources—have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, Washington, the foundation is led by CEO Dr. Susan Desmond-Hellmann and Co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett.


—Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's website, (2014) [1]



Common Core

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is a supporter and proponent of Common Core. In early 2008, Gene Wilhoit, director of a national group of state school chiefs, and David Coleman, an emerging evangelist for the standards movement, approached Bill Gates and wife Melinda to persuade them to financially support the standards. Coleman and Wilhoit argued that, "a fragmented education system stifled innovation because textbook publishers and software developers were catering to a large number of small markets instead of exploring breakthrough products." The software mogul and his wife agreed and funneled over $200 million into the movement. The Gates Foundation donated money across the political spectrum to groups that were on board with the standards, including big teachers unions, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association. The foundation remains Common Core's largest and most notable donor.[3]

According to its website, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation says the following about Common Core:

The new Common Core Standards will bring consistency and clarity to American education. These college- and career- ready academic standards will provide a springboard for innovation in education. And, crucially, they will help educators improve student achievement levels, an outcome that will benefit students personally while also fueling our nation's future economic success.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other philanthropies actively support the Common Core Standards Initiative, led by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association. But over the past several years, we've been thinking independently about the power of such standards, too.

We see these rigorous, clear standards as critical to better student results. But policymakers need to build on that foundation and ensure that teachers have what they need to do their jobs: things like rich assessment systems that yield useful, timely data; tools that help teachers translate such assessments into more-effective instruction; and evaluations and compensation systems that reward teachers for improved student results. [2]

—Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's website, (2014) [4]

Criticism and comments from Diane Ravitch

As a result of the large role the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has played in the rollout of the Common Core Standards Initiative, the foundation has received significant criticism. Initially, and because the movement grew so rapidly, few were publicly outspoken against Common Core. However, in years since, debate about its implementation has escalated. A frequent thread linking these debates is that Gates, the inventor of Microsoft, stands to profit from the standards because of Common Core's embrace of technology and data. Other adversaries have argued that Gates' motivation is political, and that he is forcing his own agenda into an entity that should be nonpartisan. Gates has vehemently denied these claims, stating that he is simply funding the tools that could potentially change education for the better in the United States. According to Gates, he "[believes] in the Common Core because of its substance and what it will do to improve education" and that it's "the only reason [he believes] in the Common Core."[3]

Leading education historian and activist, Diane Ravitch has spoken out publicly against Bill Gates' role in the implementation of Common Core. In June 2014, she called for Congress to investigate his role, calling it a "national scandal" and arguing that an unelected entrepreneur like Gates should not have the right to dictate the direction of education in the United States.[5]

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