Zuckerberg Pledges $120M to SF Bay Area Schools

IF AT FIRST YOU DON'T SUCCEED: Fail fast and fail early. But most importantly, pick yourself up and try again. That's one of the central tenets of the "Hacker Way" espoused by Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook--and that appears to be his approach when it comes to reforming education. Fresh from being scrutinized in a critical New Yorker article about the controversies and mixed results from the $100 million pledge to Newark schools, Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, announced "a $120 million commitment to support efforts to improve education for underserved communities in the [San Francisco] Bay Area."

The $120 million will be disbursed over the next five years by Startup:Education, a foundation launched by Zuckerberg in 2010 when he first announced the commitment to Newark. Its executive director is Jen Holleran, a former high school teacher and principal at The Bullis School, and who later led school reform efforts in Oakland Unified School District.

According to Zuckerberg and Chan, the money will be spent across two strategic fronts:

One part will be working with partners to start new district and charter schools that give people more high quality choices for their education. The other part is listening to the needs of local educators and community leaders so that we understand the needs of students that others miss.

Five million dollars has already been set aside for Ravenswood School District, Redwood City School District and "several other high need communities in San Francisco." Technology and professional development are top priorities: "The initial grants will go toward initiatives that provide computers and connectivity in schools, as well as teacher training and parent outreach to make these a really valuable addition to the learning experience," they wrote.

In the op-ed, the power couple conceded that "It's still too early to see the full results in Newark, but we're making progress and have learned a lot about what makes a successful effort." Two of the small successes, they claim, was developing teacher contracts to reward strong performance and improving student graduation rates by 10%

Startup:Education has invested in edtech companies and non-profits such as EducationSuperhighway, Code.org and Panorama Education.

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