Continuous improvement is at the center of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s domestic K-12 public education strategy: the notion that consistent, incremental, measurable progress can hasten broader systemic change in our nation’s schools. Executing this simple idea is surprisingly hard, particularly in a public schooling context; it requires building new muscles, some of which haven’t been flexed in the schools sector.
Compounding the challenge of implementation is the fact that American public schools exist within a complicated, multi-century history of race and poverty colliding with public policy. Because of those interactions, if equity is not embedded in this kind of work, leveraging the proven lessons of improvement methods will either perpetuate or even exacerbate current inequities in our K-12 education system.
To accelerate the broader sector’s adoption of not just continuous improvement, but also the tools and equity mindsets underlying the practice, the Foundation has made a series of significant investments. One of those investments includes a group of “Model Design and Initiation” (MDI) grants, which have been deployed in three separate cohorts.