FOUNDATIONS JOIN TO OFFER ONLINE COURSES FOR SCHOOLS
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the world’s largest philanthropy, and the foundation associated with Pearson, the giant textbook and school technology company, announced a partnership on Wednesday to create online reading and math courses aligned with the new academic standards that some 40 states have adopted in recent months. The 24 new courses will use video, interactive software, games, social media and other digital materials to present math lessons for kindergarten through 10th grade and English lessons for kindergarten through 12th grade, Pearson and Gates officials said. The article is in The New York Times.
Foundations Join to Offer Online Courses for Schools
By SAM DILLON
Published: April 27, 2011The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the world’s largest philanthropy, and the foundation associated with Pearson, the giant textbook and school technology company, announced a partnership on Wednesday to create online reading and math courses aligned with the new academic standards that some 40 states have adopted in recent months.
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The 24 new courses will use video, interactive software, games, social media and other digital materials to present math lessons for kindergarten through 10th grade and English lessons for kindergarten through 12th grade, Pearson and Gates officials said.
Widespread adoption of the new standards, known as the common core, has provoked a race among textbook publishers to revise their current classroom offerings so they align with the standards, and to produce new materials. The Gates-Pearson initiative appears to be the most ambitious such effort so far.
The Pearson Foundation is heading the course-writing effort. But Pearson Education, which owns textbook houses like Prentice Hall and sells an array of multimedia classroom tools, will market 20 of the new courses to schools and districts.
The Gates Foundation, which has promoted the common core standards movement in its philanthropy, is providing $3 million so that four of the 24 courses can be offered free to schools, partly to give educators a taste of how the digital courses can be used in classrooms.
“We’re hoping that by placing those four courses in a way that’s accessible, people will take a look at them and make connections,” said Mark Nieker, president of the Pearson Foundation.
In his educational work, Bill Gates has explored ways that new technologies can transform teaching. Vicki Phillips, a director at the Gates Foundation, said the partnership with Pearson was part of a “suite of investments” totaling more than $20 million that the foundation was undertaking, all of which involve new technology-based instructional approaches.
The new digital materials, Ms. Phillips said, “have the potential to fundamentally change the way students and teachers interact in the classroom.”
The partnership with the Gates Foundation could give Pearson a considerable advantage as textbook and learning technology companies position themselves in an education marketplace upended by the creation of the common standards.
“It’s a good deal for Pearson, and it’s good for Gates too, because it brings more attention to the standards,” said Jack Jennings, president of the Center on Education Policy, which has studied the evolution of state policies on the common core.
Susan Neuman, a former Education Department official in the George W. Bush administration who is now a professor at the University of Michigan, said the new course materials could provide an important link between the common core standards and the standardized tests that two consortia of states are writing, with $330 million in Department of Education financing.
“This is something that’s been missing in all the policy statements on the common core: a sequential curriculum,” Dr. Neuman said. But she worried that after a period of consolidation in the textbook publishing business, Pearson has few strong rivals.
“Pearson already dominates, and this could take it to the extreme,” she said. “This could be problematic for many of our kids. We could get a one size fits all.”
Judy Codding, a former president of a teacher training company, is leading the course development effort. Many of the courses should be completed by January 2013 and the rest by December 2013, she said. A challenge will be to find ways to excite students about learning, she added.
“We have a lot of kids in our country who haven’t met the lesser standards,” she said, “and now we’ve raised the bar. So we have a tall task to bring all kids along.”