[There has been] a decade-long campaign to improve test scores and graduation rates, waged by a loose alliance of wealthy CEOs who arrived with no particular background in education policy—a fact that has led critics to dismiss them as “the billionaire boys’ club.” Their bets on poor urban schools have been as big as their egos and their bank accounts. Microsoft chairman [Bill] Gates, computer magnate Michael Dell, investor Eli Broad, and the Walton family of Walmart fame have collectively poured some $4.4 billion into school reform in the past decade through their private foundations.
Has this big money made the big impact that they—as well as teachers, administrators, parents, and students—hoped for? In the first-of-its-kind analysis of the billionaires’ efforts, NEWSWEEK and the Center for Public Integrity crunched the numbers on graduation rates and test scores in 10 major urban districts—from New York City to Oakland—which got windfalls from these four top philanthropists.
The results, though mixed, are dispiriting proof that money alone can’t repair the desperate state of urban education. For all the millions spent on reforms, nine of the 10 school districts studied substantially trailed their state’s proficiency and graduation rates—often by 10 points or more.
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