For much of the last few years, if you were a proponent of the small schools movement (from program to space design), you felt a healthy kinship with the efforts of the Gates Foundation who was the single biggest backer (in name and investment) of the nacent education shift.
While no program can single-handedly solve the larger issues found within the complicated world of public education, Gates' efforts suggested that a greater investment in the development of small learning communities was at least a giant step in the right direction. And for many of us, it still is (although the critics have certainly found a few examples as of late to suggest otherwise...)
But if you've been paying attention lately, there appears to be a not-so-subtle shift from the foundation's investment point of view to look at larger solutions...or to not remain locked into small learning community development. I can see the headlines now: Gates Loses Faith in Small Schools. Big Schools are Now Back With a Vengeance!
If you look more closely at what is going on, however, the foundation has begun to put more energy and financial support and intellectual capital into the larger advocacy/legislative movements in order to push the educational conversation further. I see this not as a loss of faith in small schools, but a realization it may not need just one well-funded foundation to keep up the small schools discussions...while Gates simultaneously puts their muscle where it belongs on a more macro level.
And did you know that the Gates money pouring into public education has hit this level?
“We already account for about a quarter of K-12 philanthropy in America and more than that would be quite disruptive to the field, and could really begin to displace public and private investments in some areas.”