Allan C. Golston, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

TITLE: President, US Program

FUNDING AREAS: K-12 educational reform

CONTACT: allan.golston@gatesfoundation.org, 206-709-3100

IP TAKE: Equality in education is just one of the causes Golston champions. His work at Gates isn't limited to helping children attending public schools in America; he also aims to help the nation's teachers.

PROFILE: Currently president of the U.S. Program, Allan C. Golston has been working with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for nearly 15 years. Although his background is in business, at Gates a large area of focus in his (and the foundation's) grantmaking is about reforming America's public education system. Golston works toward leveling the playing field for K-12 students for low-income families and other traditionally underserved groups who are at risk of falling through the cracks of what many perceive to be a crumbling system. 

Golston has been known to remind the public of the disparity between whites and minorities in education. He cites grim statistics, such as the 70 percent of black fourth graders who don't read at their grade level. He's also quick to note the two or three grade-level years that separate black students from their white classmates. The U.S. Program's K-12 initiative, called College-Ready, seeks to prepare all students for postsecondary education, regardless of race or background.

The Bill & Meinda Gates Foundation's overall goal for the U.S. Program: To improve the quality of life for disadvantaged Americans. (Golston speaks eloquently about this goal here.) His own views complement those of the foundation nicely. Golston is aware that the national education system has along way to go, though. He has publicly questioned the equality of our existing schools, asking: "In this land of opportunity, doesn't everyone have the right to a great education, regardless of race, family income, ZIP code, or life circumstances?"

It's hard to argue with that.

Golston's work at Gates does have a heavy focus on America's students; however, helping teachers is also an area of focus for the foundation. As part of their College-Ready Education program, which focuses on K-12 school systems, the foundation states: "Teachers deserve professional development opportunities that they help shape, give them the support they need when they need it, and enable them to collaborate and share best practices."

But the program has not been without its critics. In a blog post on February 22, 2012, Golston stood behind a statement made by Bill Gates himself regarding the foundation's education focus :

Developing a systematic way to help teachers get better is the most powerful idea in education today. The surest way to weaken it is to twist it into a capricious exercise in public shaming. Let's focus on creating a personnel system that truly helps teachers improve.

Golston also looks at a big picture from a financial perspective. In a post on the foundation's blog, he cited a McKinsey & Company report that linked the academic success of Latino and black students to America's gross domestic product (GDP). The report argued that bringing these minority students up to par with Caucasian students would have increased the GDP by $310 billion in 2008 alone.

Of course, Golston's background sheds a little bit of light on his financial perspectives in education. He earned a bachelor's in accounting from the University of Colorado and and MBA from Seattle University. When he joined Gates in 1999, he served as the foundation's chief financial and administrative officer. In another recent post on the foundation's Impatient Optimists blog, Golston discusses how his own childhood, family, and educational experiences have affected his point of view and professional journey.

Though Gates does not currently have an overall open policy on unsolicited LOIs or RFPs in its education grantmaking programs, the foundation does announce such opportunities as they come up. So grantseekers would do well to check the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation website regularly. 

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