Foundations Join to Offer Online Courses for Schools

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the world’s largest philanthropy, and the foundation associated with Pearson, the giant textbook and school technology company, announced a partnership on Wednesday to create online reading and math courses aligned with the new academic standards that some 40 states have adopted in recent months.

The 24 new courses will use video, interactive software, games, social media and other digital materials to present math lessons for kindergarten through 10th grade and English lessons for kindergarten through 12th grade, Pearson and Gates officials said.

Widespread adoption of the new standards, known as the common core, has provoked a race among textbook publishers to revise their current classroom offerings so they align with the standards, and to produce new materials. The Gates-Pearson initiative appears to be the most ambitious such effort so far.

The Pearson Foundation is heading the course-writing effort. But Pearson Education, which owns textbook houses like Prentice Hall and sells an array of multimedia classroom tools, will market 20 of the new courses to schools and districts.

The Gates Foundation, which has promoted the common core standards movement in its philanthropy, is providing $3 million so that four of the 24 courses can be offered free to schools, partly to give educators a taste of how the digital courses can be used in classrooms.

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