Billionaire Bill Gates, who has spent millions advocating for and implementing the Common Core Standards in 44 states and thousands of public schools across the United States, sends his children to a private school where it’s hard to find any mention of the increasingly unpopular Common Core.
Gates’ three children are students at the Lakeside School, the same school he attended while growing up in Seattle. A quick review of the “academics overview ” section of the Lakeside web site provides no reference to Common Core. It reads:
A Commitment to Excellence
Lakeside’s 5th to 12th grade student-centered academic program focuses on the relationship between talented students and capable and caring teachers. We develop and nurture students’ passions and abilities and ensure every student feels known.
The cultural and economic diversity of our community, the teaching styles and the approaches to learning are all essential to Lakeside academics. We believe that in today’s global world, our students need to know more than one culture, one history, one language.
Each student’s curiosities and capabilities lead them to unique academic challenges that are sustained through a culture of support and encouragement. All students will find opportunities to discover and develop a passion, to hone the skills of writing, thinking and speaking; and to interact with the world both on and off campus. Lakeside trusts that each student has effective ideas about how to maximize his or her education, and that they will positively contribute to our vibrant learning community
That’s the type of education a school can provide for nearly $30,000 a year in tuition and expenses. No mention of Common Core here. In fact, the framework for education seems to be the antithesis of Common Core in that it’s student-centric — built around the student’s abilities, passions and interests.
The description of academics at the Upper School is also instructive.
Lakeside’s Upper School academic program is fueled by principles and resources that combine to create a dynamic, fun, challenging and relevant educational experience.
The talent and the innovation of our students, faculty and staff are at the heart of our learning community. Expertise in a wide array of fields developed over time make our faculty highly effective teachers. Curiosity and self-advocacy engage our students so they become interested learners. Ask any alumnus what the best thing about Lakeside is, and they will likely mention an environment that promotes relationships between teachers and students through small class sizes.
Our educational program is based on the concepts of choice, global understanding, and an effective combination of challenge and support. Our flexible requirements for graduation are designed to ensure a balanced fundamental understanding of the major academic disciplines while giving students options for how best to complete their education.
Again, there is no mention of the Common Core Standards. However, the language of student-centric learning is again present. Also notice the reference to “choice.” A Lakeside education values choice and flexibility, two qualities that help students expand and complete their education. Is it right that only certain students and certain schools have access to choice and flexibility options?
Lakeside’s self-description doesn’t much sound like Common Core; in fact, it sounds like just the opposite. The only reference we saw to Common Core on the entire web site was a 2011 document discussing Lakeside’s new science program. Again, the text is interesting:
Perhaps you have wondered, do the standards [Common Core Standards] have any relevance for Lakeside School or any effect on us? The answer is yes and yes. . . .
Having uniform standards nationwide should make it both easier and less costly for states to share quality curricula and manage federally mandated testing and for companies or organizations to develop innovative technology and other learning tools. . .
Some of what’s driven most states, including Washington, to sign up to Common Core isn’t germane to Lakeside, it’s a component of the Federal Race to the Top competition for public schools, and the existing federal laws regarding testing with the aim to ensure educational equity for all students. . .
But Common Core is playing an important role here and nowhere more than the redesign of the middle school science program. Piloted last spring and launched this fall, a revamped curriculum for grades 5-8 is built around the Common Core Science framework, including, notably a new engineering component.
In all honesty, this document sounds dated, terribly defensive and almost as if it were drafted to allow Lakeside to say it uses and supports the Common Core Standards. The text touts Common Core’s benefits, but then says much of the impetus behind Common Core (ensuring educational equality for all students) is “not germane to Lakeside.” An interesting thought: somehow Lakeside also thought that the very specific Common Core math and English Language Arts standards weren’t germane to a Lakeside education either.
The last paragraph of the text is an attempt to say yes, we know Common Core Standards are important – even though we don’t use them. And yes, the science framework at Lakeside is built around the Common Core Science Framework. But before anyone gets too excited, let’s remember this is a science “framework,” not standards. A science framework identifies the key scientific practices, concepts and ideas that all students should learn by the time they complete high school. The framework is intended as a guide for those who develop the specific education standards as well as those who design curricula and assessments. These are not grade-specific standards as is the case for Common Core math and English Language Arts standards.
This is not a slam on Bill Gates or Lakeside School. Lakeside is regarded as one of the best private schools in Seattle. Parents and alumni speak glowingly of the school and its graduates. I commend Gates for the financial support he provides other Lakeside students because he believes the school provides a great education. 
Still, it’s hard to ignore the stark practical and philosophical differences between a Lakeside education — the type of education Gates said he liked — and the education many other students will receive via the Common Core Standards.
Lakeside seems to take pride in a fact that Common Core ignores: Students and learning environments are different. For best results, apply flexibility and creativity
Gates has spent more than $230 million on Common Core Standards. Since 2008, the Gates Foundation has spent approximately $18 million in North Carolina alone to aid in the development and implementation of Common Core Standards.
Those standards and how they’ve been implemented war against the very principles that have helped Lakeside and other schools excel: a commitment to institutional diversity, local control, innovation, high standards and accountability.
Gates says he believes in Common Core because of its substance and what it will do to improve education. I and many others believe otherwise. If the Common Core standards are superior, why have so few private schools chosen to adopt them?
Gates and other top executives place a high premium on using data to inform decision-making. Yet where was the data to substantiate the basic premise of Common Core Standards? There is far too little research behind Common Core. For instance, Harvard Professor Tom Loveless said Common Core is built on “a shaky theory.” He has found no correlation between quality standards and higher student achievement. 
Nor was Common Core adequately tested. Gates is a wise businessman who has made billions. He knows how to bring products to market. It’s a relentless cycle of research, product development, testing and more testing. I have yet to hear Gates explain why the Common Core Standards were not pilot-tested. Were a CEO replicate a similar effort without pilot testing, he or she would most likely be fired.
Gates has spent the last forty years in the computer and technology fields. I’m sure he’s familiar with the painstakingly slow and bottom-up process needed to develop industry standards. It’s curious as to why Gates ditches that process for a top-down template when it comes to education. Is it any wonder that Common Core standards continue to lose support among parents and teachers?
Bill Gates has every right to send his children to Lakeside School. However, you can’t but notice what he likes about the school are qualities that are not only inconsistent with but instead opposed to the Common Core Standards. That Lakeside School essentially thumbs its nose at Common Core Standards speaks volumes.
Don’t you wish everyone had the right to send a child to a school that could do the same?
Bill Gates was hit by a cream pie thrown by a protestor in 1998 at a speech on education.
 For an expanded discussion on this topic see “Bill Gates tells us why “his” high school was a great learning environment.” Available at: http://seattleducation2010.wordpress.com/2012/06/18/bill-gates-tells-us-why-his-high-school-was-a-great-learning-environment/
 For more on Loveless’ research on Common Core Standards see: A Progress Report on the Common Core, Part III of the Brown Center Report on American Education. Available at: http://www.brookings.edu/research/reports/2014/03/18-common-core-loveless