Archives for category: Gates Foundation, Bill Gates

Jennifer is a Momma Bear in Tennessee. The Momma Bears are a parent group that fights for their children and their schools.

Jennifer had a fantasy: She imagined she was stuck in an elevator with Bill Gates. Trapped between floors. And she told him what she thought. In the time they were stuck, she insisted he watch a video that disproved his world-view. She even gave him fruit snacks (he was famished).

What did she teach him? Read and enjoy.

Denny Taylor is Professor Emerita of Literacy Studies at Hofstra University. She has won many awards for her writing about literacy and literature. She is also the founder and CEO of Garn Press, which published the book I am reviewing (and also published Anthony Cody’s The Educator and the Oligarch).

 

Save Our Children, Save Our School, Pearson Broke the Golden Rule is a political satire about the current education “reform” movement. It takes place in an imaginary “Cafe Griensteidl” in New York City, at 72nd Street and Broadway, where the author and a friend meet for coffee. In this comedy, the leading players in the “reform” movement appear at the cafe and get into discussion or debate with the author. Nine powerful men happen to be in the cafe, including Arne Duncan, Bill Gates, Rupert Murdoch, Joel Klein, and Michael Barber (of Pearson). They banter with the author and her friend. She makes clear that these nine powerful men know nothing about education yet are taking control of the American public school system.

 

The men leave, and in the last “Act” of the book, twelve eminent female scholars (living and dead) talk about what is happening and the need to resist. The chapter is headed by this statement: “In which twelve venerable women scholars with more than 500 years of teaching experience refuse to capitulate to the demands made by nine rich men who have no teaching qualifications or teaching experience.” Hannah Arendt, Virginia Woolf, Simone Weil, Adrienne Rich, Yetta Goodman, Toni Morrison, and more are there. As the wise women speak, people come into the cafe and make YouTube videos, Tweet, or just listen. Yetta begins to rap. Horns honk. Traffic jams form at the corner of 72nd Street and Broadway. The women at the table clap along with Yetta’s rapping. The women talk about how to stop the corporate takeover of U.S. education.

 

Denny Taylor, sitting at the table with the great women, says, “Children have a right to a free and public education. For the pursuit of human knowledge and understanding that is free of corporate greed.”

 

“We should not have to ask permission for teachers to teach in developmentally appropriate ways that inspire and excite, and enhance our children’s incredible capacity to learn–

 

“–for the sheer joyfulness of their lives and for their lightness of being.”

 

The great women agree: We are and always will be defenders of every child’s right to a childhood free of despots and demons, except those they imagine when playing with friends….”

 

The author says, “Dump Pearson….Barber and Pearson are taking our children in the wrong direction,” she says. “His Whole System of Global Education Revolution is a global social catastrophe, a total system failure.”

 

Others ask how to stop this recklessness. The author responds, “The madness will stop if we refuse to participate. The struggle for democracy is always ground up….Make it a crime for oligarchs to interfere with democratic social systems. It’s vote tampering on a national scale.” She adds, referring to Bill Gates, “He’s violating the rights of fifty million children, jeopardizing their future. Send him to jail.”

 

“Tell Gates we choose decency and democracy and not the indecency of his oligarchy. He does not have the power to dictate how our children are taught in public schools.

 

“Tell him we refuse to participate in his Common Core experiments. Ban the use of galvanic skin devices in affective computing trials that he’s funded.

 

“Tell him to stop wasting his money. To spend it for the Common Good. Build new public schools. Create parks in poor urban neighborhoods. Make sure there are health centers. Medical care for everyone in the community.

 

“Tell him to put his money into Earth-friendly low-income housing.

 

“Libraries. Media centers.

 

“Work with local leaders. Make sure they’re not exploited…

 

“Pearson could too. Tell Barber we take back our independence. That US public schools are no longer under Pearson’s colonial rule.”

 

The book is funny, learned, and zany. If you want to order it, go to http://www.garnpress.com.

This post, written by Joseph Ray Lavine, gives an account of Anthony Cody’s speech at the University of Georgia. Cody told the audience that programs like No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top had squandered billions of dollars, and that methodologies like “value-added measurement” could not measure what mattered most in education. Teachers want students who can engage in critical thinking, collaboration, and who can persevere, but the testing regime does not promote or encourage these qualities, nor can it measure them. We are not raising the bar, he said; we are actually lowering expectations by relying so heavily on high-stakes testing.

 

Cody recently published a book about the Gates Foundation and its influence on current failed reforms. The book is “The Educator and the Oligarch”; it describes his exchanges with the foundation and his efforts to persuade it to change course.

Gary Rubinstein—high school
math teacher, author, blogger, reformer of TFA–has been writing letters to reformers he knows–and sometimes getting a reply. Now he is writing letters to reformers he doesn’t know and inevitably he must write to Bill Gates.

Gary is civil, polite, and candid. He patiently explains to Bill that the “reforms” he has underwritten have failed. He likens the malfunctions of “reform” to buggy software. He writes as one computer programmer to another.

“Creating a bug-free software package is not something that happens by accident. You don’t just hire a bunch of programmers and have them, unsupervised, write five million lines of spaghetti code, then without even testing it, hit ‘compile’ and ship it out to customers. No. You start with a sound plan and stable architecture. The specifications must be clear and easy to test to see if they are met. Throughout the development lifecycle, components of the product are created and tested. When these components are assembled, there is another round of robust testing to make sure that the components interface with each other properly. Good software design would include a team of experts that will surely, from time to time, disagree about the best way to make the program work. This sort of disagreement is useful since if everybody on the team always agrees, there will be an issue when one person is wrong about something, therefore everyone is wrong about something. What good is a team of ‘Yes Men’? A productive team includes people who disagree. Excluding people who are known computer experts because they are skeptical of the direction the team is taking is not going to result in a robust program. Only after the program passes all the quality review tests and the program is declared to be reasonably bug free can the product be deployed to the customers….

“I spent several years as a debugger in Colorado working on the one-time giant of desktop publishing Quark XPress. I’m hoping that my abilities as a veteran teacher and also as a one time professional debugger will make you willing to listen to me when I say this current version of education reform is in need of some serious debugging. Whatever the original specifications were, maybe to raise test scores in this country?, it isn’t accomplishing that. What it is accomplishing, unfortunately, is making education worse.

“I know that it has already been deployed. But just as buggy computer software can now be updated easily by downloading patches, the ed reform bulldozer you’ve created can also be fixed — but only if you’re willing to accept that it is currently not functional. Modern ed reform is the Windows ME of education. But just as you pretty quickly replaced Windows ME with Windows XP which everyone liked, you can do the same with education reform, I’m certain. Debugging ed reform is not easy. Since it was never properly designed with a plan to ensure quality, you’ve got yourself a bug riddled mess. It was not developed modularly so it is difficult to track down where the most critical bugs are even occurring.”

Gary walks Bill through the flawed assumptions of the “reforms” he has subsidized. They aren’t working.

Gary notes that in 2013 Bill sang the praises of a Colorado school that had adopted the Gates’ approach to teacher evaluation. Gary shows that this very school was experiencing declining test scores and was actually lagging the state.

Gary gives Bill candid advice:

“I do believe that you want your money to go to a good cause. This is admirable. The problem is that most of your money is going to people I’d describe as education hucksters. I’m going to be as blunt as only someone who is not on the payroll can be. In the education game you are what’s known as a ‘fat-cat,’ a ‘mark,’ a sucker.

“You are like the Emperor who was swindled into purchasing non-existent clothes. But that Emperor was brought back to reality when a blunt child said what everyone else what thinking. In ed reform it is blunt experienced teachers who are willing to say the obvious.”

Gary speaks respectfully to Bill but bluntly. I hope Bill reads Gary’s letter. Gary is trying to help him by straight talk.

A regular commenter on the blog, Laura H. Chapman, shares her research on data mining:

 

Policies on data mining? “The future, like everything else, is no longer quite what it used to be.” Paul Valéry, poet.

 

It is no surprise that the Gates funded Teacher-Student Data Link Project started in 2005 is going full steam ahead. By 2011 his project said the link between teacher and student data would serve eight purposes:

 

1. Determine which teachers help students become college-ready and successful,

2. Determine characteristics of effective educators,

3. Identify programs that prepare highly qualified and effective teachers,

4. Assess the value of non-traditional teacher preparation programs,

5. Evaluate professional development programs,

6. Determine variables that help or hinder student learning,

7. Plan effective assistance for teachers early in their career, and

8. Inform policy makers of best value practices, including compensation.

 

The system is intended to ensure all courses are based on standards, and all responsibilities for learning are assigned to one or more “teachers of record” in charge of a student or class so that a record is generated whenever a “teacher of record” has a specific proportion of responsibility for a student’s learning activities.

 

These activities must be defined by performance measures for a particular standard, by subject, and grade level.

 

The TSDL system requires period-by-period tracking of teachers and students every day; including “tests, quizzes, projects, homework, classroom participation, or other forms of day-to-day assessments and progress measures.” Ultimately, the system will keep current and longitudinal data on the performance of teachers and individual students, as well schools, districts, states, and educators ranging from principals to higher education faculty.

 

This data will then be used to determine the “best value” investments in education, taking into account as many demographic factors as possible, including….health records for preschoolers. but the cradle is next, and it is part of USDE’s technology plan.

 

Since 2006, the USDE has also invested over $700 million in the Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems (SLDS) to help states “efficiently and accurately manage, analyze, and use education data, including individual student records”…and make “data-driven decisions to improve student learning, as well as facilitate research to increase student achievement and close achievement gaps.” The newest upgrade of the concpt is for these state-wide systems to become multi-state…and a national system. This goes WAY, WAy beyond (and may pre-empt) routine data-gathering by the National Bureau of Education Statistics.

 

It is not widely known that in 2009, USDE modified the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act so that student data—test scores, health records, learning issues, disciplinary reports—can be used for education studies without parental consent (The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, 20 U.S.C. §1232g). Moreover, a 2012 issue brief from USDE outlined a program of data mining and learning analytics in partnership with commercial companies.

 

The envisioned data- mining program includes an automated, instant access, user-friendly “recommendation system” for teachers that links students’ test scores and their learning profiles to preferred instructional actions and resources. Enhancing teaching and learning through educational data mining and learning analytics: An issue brief. Retrieved from http://www.ed.gov/edblogs/technology/files/2012/03/edm-la-brief.pdf p. 29).

 

USDE is also pressing forward a “radical and rapid” transformation of public education. The new system is marketed and funded as “personalized, competency-based learning” 24/365 from multiple sources. It is intended to dismantle place-based schools, seat time, grade levels, subject-specific curricula, traditional concepts about “teachers” and diplomas. Multiple certifications with flower along with an abundace of badges earne for completing learning paths and play-lists of learning options, awarded by profit and non-profit “learning agents.” The role of “teacher” is envioned as a relic, along with the institution of public schools. See USDE, Office of Educational Technology, Transforming American Education: Learning Powered by Technology, Washington, D.C., 2010. http://tech.ed.gov/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/netp2010.pdf/////////

Mercedes Schneider, a high school teacher in Louisiana who holds a Ph.D. in research and statistics, here reviews Bill Gates on education. Although he never went to public school, never taught anywhere, never studied education, and dropped out of college, he is listened to with reverence when he talks about education. Why?

Why do people listen? Schneider explains. What is his vision of education for our children? Does it align with what he wants for his own children? How is he using his billions to redirect education? Is this what we need or want?

Bill Gates convened 1,000 people in Seattle, where he admitted that his big global health challenge has not produced significant gains in the Third World. Educators may recognize parallels to the Gates’ involvement in Common Core, where the foundation looked for a technological fix to complex human, social, and economic problems.
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“When he took the stage this fall to celebrate the 10th anniversary of his signature global health research initiative, Bill Gates used the word “naive” — four times — to describe himself and his charitable foundation.
It was a surprising admission coming from the world’s richest man.

“But the Microsoft co-founder seemed humbled that, despite an investment of $1 billion, none of the projects funded under the Gates Foundation’s “Grand Challenges” banner has yet made a significant contribution to saving lives and improving health in the developing world….

“Not only did he underestimate some of the scientific hurdles, Gates said. He and his team also failed to adequately consider what it would take to implement new technologies in countries where millions of people lack access to basic necessities such as clean water and medical care….

“Among his favorite projects is an effort to eliminate Dengue fever by infecting mosquitoes with bacteria that block disease transmission. Another is a spinoff biotech working on a probiotic to cure cholera.

“But critics say projects like those demonstrate the foundation’s continuing emphasis on technological fixes, rather than on the social and political roots of poverty and disease.

“The main harm is in the opportunity cost,” said Dr. David McCoy, a public-health expert at Queen Mary University, London. “It’s in looking constantly for new solutions, rather than tackling the barriers to existing solutions.”

“The toll of many diseases could be lowered simply by strengthening health systems in developing countries, he said. Instead, programs like Grand Challenges — heavily promoted by the Gates Foundation’s PR machine — divert the global community’s attention from such needs, McCoy argues.”

The state of Washington rejected charter schools three times. But in 2012, Bill Gates and his wealthy friends like a Walton and a Bezos, spent $10 million and barely got their legislation passed.

The state’s first charter is in big trouble.

According to the Seattle Times:

“Just months after it opened, First Place Scholars, the first charter school in Washington state, is in turmoil.
Its first principal resigned in November, more than half of its original board of directors have left, too, and the state’s charter-school commission has identified more than a dozen potential problems that need to be fixed soon if the school wants to keep its doors open.

“Among them: hiring a qualified special-education teacher for the roughly two dozen students who need those services, and completing background checks on some of its nonteaching staff.”

The Washington Policy Center, a free-market advocacy group, insisted that the charter school was not in trouble and the law is working just fine.

It has to annoy Bill Gates that he has not yet been able to buy the schools of Seattle, where he lives. But the stars are aligning for him. He is pushing behind the scenes for a mayoral takeover–which is a sure path to charters and corporate reform. Nothing like killing off democratic control of public education to clear the way for corporate reform.

Next on the docket is a rushed process to make the interim superintendent, Larry Nyland, the permanent superintendent. He seems like a pliable sort, and he is surrounded by Broadies left over from an earlier superintendent who was Broad-trained.

The school board announced hearings just a few days ago, while everyone was thinking about Thanksgiving, that the future of Nyland will be decided Wednesday. Forget about the national search the board promised.

Citizens should turn out, ask questions, and insist that the public schools belong to the public, not to Bill Gates, Eli Broad, or their billionaire friends.

Myra Blackmon, who writes for the Athens (Georgia) Banner, poses a question. What if Warren Buffett, one of the richest men in the world, came up with an idea for a drug? Would we skip clinical trials and the FDA? Would we just dispense because he said so?

 

That’s what Bill Gates is doing to our children, she writes, and we shouldn’t stand for it.

 

But that is exactly what Bill Gates, another megabillionaire, has done with education. Gates is rich, he has purchased his bully pulpit and we are swallowing his “brilliance” hook, line and sinker.
Just because he has made a lot of money. Just because he is smart. Gates is suddenly the education expert, advising the president and secretary of education on what is “best” for America’s children. He funds the development and promotion of his idea of “good” education practice.
He has never taught nor studied education. His own children went to private schools that wouldn’t touch his ideas with a 10-foot pole. But he is Bill Gates and we let him get away with it.
Gates decided, for example, that the Common Core State Standards are a great idea. And he proceeded to pour mountains of money into bringing it to market with little or no research, no clinical trials and absolutely no evidence of efficacy. He gives organizations big money to push the Common Core, which was developed in virtual secrecy, with almost no input from real teachers.
Gates also espouses “data-driven” education, in which numbers and data analysis take precedence over what teachers and parents believe is best for individual children. Their scores on high-stakes tests trump any firsthand knowledge or special circumstances that might determine the educational course for any given child.
There is no evidence that Gates’ big ideas work. We are allowing him to experiment on our children, absent even the simplest protections we would expect for a new medication or a new infant formula. We believe that because he is smart and rich, he knows what is best for our children.

 

Where is the moral outrage? Why on earth do we accept what Bill Gates says and deny the research that tells us not only that data-driven, test-based education doesn’t work, but tells us what can best help our children learn?

 

 

 

 

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