Another Front in the Common Core War: Investing in Literacy Tools for Teachers

The war (to save the Common Core) rages on.

We have written before about the newest front in this internecine conflict: capacity building among educators as supported by the major funders in the field. And one related area that we are seeing considerable energy and investment from funders has been literacy education.

Anticipating the need for resources to implement the Common Core, the Gates Foundation launched the Literacy Design Collaborative (LDC) a little over two years ago to “provide teachers with a guiding framework that includes tools such as lesson plans, webinars, online platforms for sharing and networking events.”

LDC is now operating in forty-one states (with discrete forty partners) nationally and is being managed by the New Venture Fund at this point. (There is also a companion Math Design Collaborative operating in much the same fashion as well under the auspices of Gates’ College Ready portfolio.)

Initially, Gates was giving direct grants to school districts and local coordinating organizations as pilot sites for the LDC. (These grants were typically in the hundred thousand dollar range.) Now, as the pilot phase has wrapped up and the initiative has matured, Gates has handed over the reins to the New Venture Fund with over $13 million in grant funding since 2012 to facilitate the incubation and growth of this work around the country.

This is yet another example of how funders understand that supporting teachers is a key to winning the Common Core war. Just last week, we wrote about Hewlett’s backing of teacher-created curricular resources in New York State. The Gates’ support for the LDC is also a way in which funders are engaging with educators firsthand to advance the Common Core.

A question that lingers in comparing these two instances is why Gates chose to essentially seed-fund and spin off its own outfit (to New Ventures) while Hewlett engaged directly with the State of New York in creating these resources? Both funders have engaged with districts and states directly, while the Hewlett work is filtered through the state education department in New York and hit a significant speed bump when many educators criticized the low-quality of its modules in their first draft form.

Perhaps Gates (through the Literacy Design Collaborative) believes that bypassing the state, the main authority in education policy (constitutionally speaking), is a more prudent and effective approach when it comes to bolstering the rollout of the Common Core.