K-12 Momentum: August 2021

Dear friends,

This month, the Gates Foundation announced the selection of 11 grantees for the second phase of our first U.S. education Grand Challenge, Balance the Equation. These winners were chosen out of more than 400 applications focusing on finding new approaches to making Algebra 1 more culturally relevant and accessible to students in ways that help them build an affirming math identity.

We hope that the pilot programs will help close some of the learning gaps that have traditionally existed and have been exacerbated by the pandemic. One study showed that a year of disruptions due to COVID led to significant learning loss in math but not in reading.

Yet, even before the pandemic, the status quo in math instruction wasn’t working for too many students. According to 2019 NAEP data, only 44 percent of white 8th-grade students, 14 percent of Black 8th-grade students, and 20 percent of Latino 8th-grade students performed at or above proficiency in mathematics.

To tap students’ full potential, we need to know more about the impact of high quality tools and curricula, and develop a deeper understanding of student agency, motivation, and mindsets – some of the critical barriers that keep too many students from seeing themselves as “math people.” Please read here for more of my thoughts about how the foundation is thinking about math instruction and what we’ve learned from our current partners.

And as we head into a new school year, my thoughts are with all the students and families, educators, administrators, districts and support staff that are preparing and grappling with another year affected by COVID. While there will be bumps along the road, we remain inspired by your commitment to ensuring students continue to advance on their learning journey and look forward to supporting you alongside our partners.  

In partnership,

Bob Hughes

Quick Takes

  • Bill Interviews Washington’s Teacher of the Year

    Before the pandemic, Brooke was already an innovative teacher-- she created “learning communities” for the students in her ethnic studies class to share their experiences and knowledge with each other. She had them draw sunglasses with parts of their identity as a lesson in how they view the world, then displayed the glasses so everyone would feel represented in the classroom. Pivoting to Zoom last year, Brooke found creative ways to engage her students—such as recording prompts instead of just sending a document, so that they could retain parts of an in-person learning experience without being in person. For these reasons and more, Brooke was this year’s Washington Teacher of the Year. Read more about her here.
  • Helping 21,000 Teachers Get What They Need!

    Thanks to a 50% boost from Bill earlier this month, over $7 million was raised for 12,587 teacher projects in one day. Over 40,000 donors stepped up to help fund classroom activities and supports across the country.

What We're Reading

  • Read more about our Algebra 1 Grand Challenge announcement at the 74 and Ed