Redefining Student Support

Melissa Connelly, CEO, OneGoal (L) and Bill Tucker, Sr. Advisor, Pahtways speak at the Annnual Employee Meeting in McCaw Hall in Seattle, WA on May 9, 2023.

Dear colleagues,

This month, Gates Foundation staff from around the world gathered in Seattle for our annual meeting. This gathering allows us to connect with colleagues and learn about the work the foundation is doing across the globe to increase access to opportunity and improve outcomes in health, development, nutrition, gender equality, education, among other issue areas. Another goal of the meeting is to draw inspiration for our work ahead, and we were very fortunate to have with us Melissa Connelly, CEO of OneGoal – a partner in our education pathways work – who shared with us the inspiring work OneGoal is doing to support equitable student success.

OneGoal works with students in schools to provide them with the support and resources they need to finish high school and enroll in higher education. Melissa’s talk reinforced why we focus on education as a foundation – to put students in charge of their own futures and support them to achieve their full potential. It also served as a reminder of how urgently we need to strengthen the systems and supports that enable students to follow a path through their education journey and into good jobs that will allow them to fulfill their aspirations. Melissa said this, which really stuck with me:

Students in OneGoal say, ‘I love OneGoal, but I think it’s unfair that I get this kind of support. I get this opportunity and my brother, my sister, my cousin, my friend in the classroom down the hall, does not.’

So why, why isn’t this kind of holistic student-centered advising the norm in all of our high schools? At OneGoal, we’ve learned that the best ideas in the world live or die depending on whether or not they have infrastructure to support them. So, think of it like this: the washing machine and the refrigerator went to market at almost the exact same time in the 1930s. You fast forward 10, 20 years and almost every home in America had a refrigerator, but very, very few had a washing machine. These are both arguably life altering innovations. But adoption was slow. Washing machines didn’t scale as quickly because the refrigerator had a plug and homes had outlets. There was existing infrastructure to support this great idea. Washing machines needed walls to be torn down, plumbing to be put in — good ideas scale when there is infrastructure.

We are so lucky that we’ve been able to redefine what success is for OneGoal. It’s no longer scaling a program. The Gates Foundation has asked us instead to think about what it would take to build the infrastructure across all of our schools for the kind of supportive spaces that OneGoal has created and led for the last 15 years to take hold. And that’s exactly what we’re doing. Success is redefining student support to be in the DNA of our schools, to truly honor our students’ ambitions.

Melissa Connelly

There are many great ideas in education today, as well as effective pathways programs. But too often, these are the exceptions. What we need is infrastructure in communities across the country – better data, partnerships among schools, postsecondary institutions and employers, and committed leaders – so that all students benefit from intentionally-designed programs. If we can do that, we won’t be knocking down walls for plumbing, but we will be knocking down barriers students today currently face. Thank you, Melissa, for the inspiration, and thank you to the all the partners joining us in this effort.

Sara Allan
Director, Early Learning and Pathways
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Making Math Relevant for Students – Reflections from ASU+GSV and Beyond

New research confirms what we have long thought to be true: parents, teachers, and the general public believe that math is the school subject most in need of updating. They agree that math must be reformed to be more engaging and relevant for students, and with more course options aligned to students’ aspirations.

K-12 math pathways mostly still follow outdated course sequences that push all students in the direction of calculus. This is often unnecessary for students who aren’t pursuing STEM majors and is often misaligned and difficult to access for students who do want to pursue STEM majors.

Students need additional math options, such as statistics. As Bill Gates said in a conversation at ASU+GSV, “It’s very easy to check out from math. And it’s very easy to think, ‘Okay, I’m not going to be a scientist, so I don’t need it,’—whereas a lot of math is about understanding the world, particularly now with so much data and statistics. The world and these subjects are super-fascinating, even for understanding our tax system or income distributions or sports variants.”

High schools must diversify math courses to offer pathways that align with students’ postsecondary programs of study and career goals. You can catch more of Bill Gates’s conversation about math and other topics at ASU GSV with Jessie Woolley-Wilson, CEO of DreamBox Learning (video here!). In the 40-minute conversation, Bill talks about his own love of math as well as the ways technology and AI are changing education paradigms at dizzying speed. Read more in The 74’s Kevin Mahnken interview.

Teach AI – International Education and Tech Leaders Unite to Offer Guidance on Integrating AI Safely into Classrooms

AI is not a new addition to the education pathways space. The recent explosion in AI’s rapid pace of development builds upon a history of advising chatbots, automated applications and much more. However, the opportunities and challenges from this remarkable technological growth will have implications in and outside of the classroom, demanding rigorous deliberation., ETS, ISTE, Khan Academy, and World Economic Forum recently announced the formation of TeachAI, bringing together education, nonprofit, and technology partners to assist governments and education authorities with integrating artificial intelligence (AI) into primary and secondary curricula worldwide while protecting student safety, respecting privacy rights, and addressing issues of bias and misinformation. 

This partnership will bring critical voices across education, policy, and technology to develop a practical framework for teaching with and about AI. This framework will provide guidance to governments and educational leaders on how to adapt policy, standards, curriculum, pedagogy, tools, and assessments to meet the needs of an increasingly AI-driven world.

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