Bill Gates released an advance copy of his speech to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, and as reported in the Huffington Post, he defended the Common Core standards as the key to creativity in the classroom.
The article says that the Gates Foundation had spent $75 million on the standards, but we know from Mercedes Schneider’s study of the Gates’ website that the foundation has spent nearly $200 million to pay for every aspect of the Common Core: the writing, the reviews, the evaluation, the implementation, the promotion and advocacy by numerous groups inside the Beltway and across the nation.
Gates told the teachers:
“Gates argued that America’s education system currently does not prepare students adequately for college, because it’s not asking enough of them. So the transition to the new standards is hard because it has to be, he said, and asked teachers to explain the standards to local families.
While the initiative was supported by most state schools chiefs and governors, a recentpoll from Achieve, a group that supports the Core, found that almost two-thirds of American voters have heard “nothing” or “not much” about the effort.
Gates went on to address critiques that the Common Core represents a national curriculum, a federal takeover or the end of innovation. He said these claims are false and distract from teaching — and that teachers can provide the most effective response to critics.”
This blogger created an infographic to show “how Bill Gates bought the Common Core,” relying on the information gathered by Schneider from the Gates Foundation website. She says the total spent by Gates was closer to $300 million.
Of course, $300 million is not much to a foundation as large as the Gates Foundation, but it is not peanuts either. Clearly, Bill Gates believes that if everyone in every school studies the same material, then there will be equity for all. That is a theory that has yet to be demonstrated.
And in any discussion of the rapid adoption of the CCSS by 45 or 46 states, it is best to be frank and acknowledge that this movement was not spontaneous; it occurred because the U.S. Department made adoption of the standards a requirement for states to be eligible for a piece of $4.3 billion in Race to the Top funding.
There seems to be a concerted effort on the part of Common Core advocates to halt the erosion of support that is occurring in states across the nation. In the past week or so, major editorials have appeared in many newspapers defending the Common Core, and the Chamber of Commerce and Business Roundtable have agreed to redouble their campaign to persuade opponents to support the CCSS.
What Gates’ presentation demonstrates is that he really doesn’t understand the reasons for the pushback in many states, some of it coming from the right (fearful of a federal takeover of local schools), some from the left (opposed to standardization), some from parents who don’t understand why it is a good thing to make standards and tests so “hard” that most students are bound to fail them. Nor does Gates understand that there is scant, if any, evidence that high standards alone are enough to produce either high achievement or equity. If we expect everyone to run a four-minute mile, that won’t make everyone run a four-minute mile. Some will, most won’t. What we know from the states that have tested the standards is that the majority of students fail the tests and that the failure rate for English language learners, students with disabilities, and children of color is staggeringly high. In New York state, for example, only 3% of English learners passed the ELA exam; only 5% of students with disabilities passed it; only 16-17% of African American and Hispanic students passed; and overall, only 31% of all students passed in grades 3-8. Will that change in years to come? Let’s hope so, or we will have a vast army of young people without high school diplomas.