Archives for category: Gates Foundation, Bill Gates

Nancy Flanagan is a retired teacher, who is a retired National Board Certified Teacher and a former Teacher of the Year. She read the post about the Gates Foundation listening to teacher voice, if they agree with the Gates Foundation.

She writes:

“I am a member of the NNSTOY (National Network of State Teachers of the Year). The organization was originally called NSTOY–a kind of “same time next year” friendly meet/greet conference organization that provided camaraderie and scholarships. But recently, the renamed organization is getting large Gates grants and singing the Common Core/edTPA/managed “teacher leadership” tune. I have remained a member simply to get access to their plans and publications.

“Recently they sent out a message asking us to renew our dues ($15/yr for retired TOYs), after which we would be sent a survey to share our policy views. I paid my $15 (to New Venture Fund), and waited for the survey link. It never came.

“In a separate mass mailing, there was a reminder–have you taken the survey? I clicked on the link, and got an error message: the moderator has blocked your access to this item.

“So much for hearing the voices of exemplary teachers, eh?
http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/teacher_in_a_strange_land/2015/11/five_cynical_observations_about_teacher_leadership.html”


John Thompson reviews here the report by the Network for Public Education on 15 years of Gates’ experiments on the lives of other people’s children and teachers.

 

“During the last fifteen years, we educators have each endured corporate school reform in our own way. It has not been fun. Sometimes competition-driven, data-driven micromanaging has been downright frightening. It has sometimes looked like our profession, our unions, and public education values were on the verge of being destroyed by market-driven, test-driven reform. The Network for Public Education (NPE) has just done us a great service in connecting the dots, and showing how many of the mandates we have endured are different verses of the Gates Foundation hymnal, and how they created the same discord.
“The NPE’s feature report, “Around the States with Bill Gates,” begins with the aptly titled “Gates Funding Elevates Teacher Voices that Sing Their Tune” by Anthony Cody. It ends with Carol Burris’s post mortem on the Gates’s “costly and ineffective adventure” with the Hillsborough, Florida teacher evaluation system. In between, ten contributors describe the Gates follies that have occurred in their postage stamp of the education world.
“In 2012, Anthony Cody engaged in a five-part exchange with representatives of the Gates Foundation. Cody presented a thorough, well-researched, review of the scientific evidence ignored by the foundation. The Gates participants largely repeated their same old talking points. Shockingly, the Gates debaters closed the series with a temper tantrum.

 

“Perhaps, they saw the debate as a high-stakes confrontation and they were embarrassed by the extent of their defeat. Or, maybe the foundation didn’t expect a mere teacher to assemble and concisely present such an overwhelming case against its policies.
“Back when Cody touched a nerve with the Gates Foundation, it was already clear that its ill-conceived teacher evaluation gamble would be extremely risky, but it was possible to believe that the foundation could learn how to listen to practitioners. That hope was shattered as $23 million of Gates grants were made to elevate “teacher voices.”

 

“Unfortunately, their scripted voices were elevated in order to counter ours.
“As the foundation explains, when Gates creates new organizations or funds existing ones that align with its clearly defined agenda, they “‘develop proposals that align with our strategic priorities and the organization’s focus and capabilities.'” For instance, Cody notes, “‘Teach Plus has received $17 million in Gates grants, and has worked to train teacher leaders, who then show up to testify before public hearings in support of the elimination of tenure, or the use of test scores for teacher evaluations.”
“Later, Carol Burris concludes with a review of the Hillsborough failure. Previously, there had been a close working relationship between district officials and the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association. Moreover, the national AFT has long been committed to rigorous teacher evaluations (through peer review) and professional development (through National Board Certification.) It was working collaboratively with Gates and Hillsborough.
“The rank-in-file teachers pushed backed at the Gates methods, however, complaining about the negative effects of merit pay and evaluation by test scores on their teaching. The president of the union local, who had once enthusiastically embraced the early Gates efforts, “told the School Board that the system she helped put into place is considered by teachers to be ‘demeaning and unfair’ and that teacher voice and input has decreased.” After Hillsborough spent half of its $300+ million in reserves in order to pay for the costly failure, and with another $50 million in cost overruns expected, the district pulled the plug on the Gates experiment.
“It was not just teachers who were ignored in Florida. Parent activist Colleen Wood, and other local community groups, were invited to join the United Way’s Committee for Empowering Effective Educators. But, the grant “prescribed exactly how many teachers, non-profits, and businesspeople were to be on the committee.” Wood quickly realized that the purpose of the process was to “rubber stamp” the Gates’s preferences.
“The Hillsborough debacle was consistent with what was witnessed by Denver teacher Aaron Lowenkron, who concludes that the Denver version of the Gates model “is mechanistic, punitive, and opaque.

 

“Essentially, it has become a tool of the administration to generate teacher churn and keep our union weak.”
“The Hillsborough and Denver setbacks are also consistent with my summary of the Tulsa experience where the Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association says that the district and the union had a good relationship until Tulsa “became indebted to groups who pushed for charter schools, tying tests to teacher evaluations and other so-called ‘reforms’ that do not improve public schools or provide a true picture of a teacher’s worth and ability.” After becoming the 6th largest recipient of Gates funding, in 2015, Tulsa had to scramble to fill 499 of its 3,000 teaching positions, which is up from the normative turnover of about 300
“Similarly, Newark student, Tanaisa Brown, explains that due to Gates-style reforms, “Teachers are forced to teach to a test without proper resources, and are being evaluated by scores that hardly take into consideration multiple other factors that affect students’ ability to learn such as poverty and unique learning types.” Moreover, students are “pushed out of their very own school buildings and have to wonder if they will even have a school to attend for the upcoming school year.”

 

“The NPE also gives today’s recipients of Gates funding a historical perspective. As Mike Klonsky recalls, when Gates came to Chicago in 2001, its mission was “small schools.” When educators and small-schools activists asked whether they could be on the board that would administer the grants, they were told, “That would be like allowing the workers to run the factory.” Also at the beginning of the Gates efforts, Curt Dudley-Marling witnessed the funding of organizations such as National Council for Teacher Quality (NCTQ). Dudley-Marling explains how the NCTQ illustrates Gates’s “antipathy toward traditional teacher education.”

 

“”He saw the truth in Diane Ravitch’s explanation that it was founded “with the explicit purpose of harassing institutions of teacher education.”
“The NPE’s Bill Mathis and former TFA teacher, Gary Rubenstein, further remind us that it was not always clear that corporate reform policies would be pushed in such a ham-handed manner. The late AFT President Al Shanker advocated for charter schools as a place for innovation, not as a mechanism for charter management systems to assist in the mass closures of schools. Before 2005 or so, Rubenstein did not see TFA as morphing into “a massive public relations campaign whose main accomplishment was fueling its own growth and power.” Since then, TFA has allowed its fund raising message to be “weaponized by uninformed, but rich, meddlers like the Gates Foundation.”

 

 

“Bill Gates famously said of educators, “They have to give us this opportunity for experimentation.” Gates and his foundation (which largely staffed the leadership of Arne Duncan’s USDOE) did not wait for the results of preliminary experiments regarding their hunches about teacher quality before they were codified into law in almost all of the nation’s states. When after-the-fact research discovered that their teacher evaluation experiments would cost about 2% of school budgets, Leonie Haimson reminds us, Gates made a snap judgment that class size should be increased to pay for it. Since then, he has “continued to fund unconvincing studies attempting to prove that class size reduction is not cost effective; … Singlehandedly, he has financed an entire industry in anti-class size screeds from shoddy think tanks.”
Haimson also recounts the failure of InBloom which “was designed to help achieve Bill Gates’s vision of education: to mechanize instruction by plugging every child into a common curriculum, standards and tests, delivered by computers, with software that can data-mine their responses and through machine-driven algorithms, deliver ‘customized’ lessons and adaptive learning.” Despite “the demise of inBloom,” Haimson notes, “the Gates Foundation has not given up their attempt to supplant real personalized learning with learning through software and machines.”
“And that bring us to Susan DuFresne’s personal account of the impact of Gates policies on teachers in Washington. An informal poll determined that 16 of her 18 fellow K-2 teachers have considered quitting. She describes how Gates’s data-driven pedagogy “stack-rank(s) children like his Microsoft employees.” She concludes that, “These reforms have stripped humanity from what was once a whole-child system. Schools are now more segregated, more punitive, often joyless test-prep factories designed to sort, rank, and cull human beings for Gates’ profit.”
“The teacher in me would like to stress one of DuFresne’s points that may not be obvious outside the classroom. She protests, “The first two months of school is now 1:1 testing vs building relationships and establishing routines.”
“There is no time when the genuine teacher voice is more important than when kicking off the school year. That is the time when we must be fully devoted to leading a class worthy of our students’ dignity.

 

“We can’t serve two masters. We can’t fully commit to the building of trusting and loving relationships, and to engaging instruction, while subordinating ourselves and our students to the metrics loved by Gates. Teaching requires authenticity and it’s hard to tell your kids that you place their welfare above all – except when you have to obey the billionaire’s mandates. We can’t challenge our kids to fully and honestly embrace learning, while warning them that our quest for knowledge will be routinely interrupted by corporate micromanaging.
“It’s bad enough when high school teachers like I was are torn between two masters. I can only imagine the angst felt by a kindergarten teacher like DuFresne as she helps launch children on that first stage of schooling and the pursuit of a real education. Sadly, if we want to protect our ability to speak with our genuine teacher voice in class, we must raise it now to defeat the Gates mandates and it’s faux “teacher voices.”

 

 

 

Leonie Haimson is a fearless advocate for students, parents, and public schools. She runs a small but mighty organization called Class Size Matters (I am one of its six board members), she led the fight for student privacy that killed inBloom (the Gates’ data mining agency), and she is a board member of the Network for Public Education. None of these are paid positions. Passion beats profits.

 

In this post on the New York City parent blog, she takes a close look at a new report that lauds the Bloomberg policy of closing public schools as a “reform” strategy. The report was prepared by the Research Alliance at New York University, which was launched with the full cooperation of the by the New York City Department of Education during the Bloomberg years (Joel Klein was a member of its board when it started).

 

Haimson takes strong exception to the report’s central finding–that closing schools is good for students–and she cites a study conducted by the New School for Social Research that reached a different conclusion. (All links are in the post.)

 

Furthermore, she follows the money–who paid for the study: Gates and Ford, then Carnegie. Gates, of course, put many millions into the small schools strategy, and Carnegie employs the leader of the small schools strategy.

 

Haimson writes:

 

“The Research Alliance was founded with $3 million in Gates Foundation funds and is maintained with Carnegie Corporation funding, which help pay for this report. These two foundations promoted and helped subsidize the closing of large schools and their replacement with small schools; although the Gates Foundation has now renounced the efficacy of this policy. Michele Cahill, for many years the Vice President of the Carnegie Corporation, led this effort when she worked at DOE.

 

“The Research Alliance has also been staffed with an abundance of former DOE employees from the Bloomberg era. In the acknowledgements, the author of this new study, Jim Kemple, effusively thanks one such individual, Saskia Levy Thompson:

 

[He wrote:] ‘The author is especially grateful for the innumerable discussions with Saskia Levy Thompson about the broader context of high school reform in New York City over the past decade. Saskia’s extraordinary insights were drawn from her more than 15 years of work with the City’s schools as a practitioner at the Urban Assembly, a Research Fellow at MDRC, a Deputy Chancellor at the Department of Education and Deputy Director for the Research Alliance.’

 

Levy Thompson was Executive Director of the Urban Assembly, which supplied many of the small schools that replaced the large schools, leading to better outcomes according to this report — though one of these schools, the Urban Assembly for Civic Engagement, is now on the Renewal list.

 

After she left Urban Assembly, Levy Thompson joined MDRC as a “Research Fellow,” despite the fact that her LinkedIn profile indicates no relevant academic background or research skills. At MRDC, she “helped lead a study on the effectiveness of NYC’s small high schools,” confirming the efficacy of some of the very schools that she helped start. Here is the first of the controversial MRDC studies she co-authored in 2010, funded by the Gates Foundation, that unsurprisingly found improved outcomes at the small schools. Here is my critique of the follow-up MRDC report.

 

“In 2010, Levy Thompson left MRDC to head the DOE Portfolio Planning office, tasked with creating more small schools and finding space for them within existing buildings, which required that the large schools contract or better yet, close.

 

“And where is she now? Starting Oct. 5, Saskia Levy Thompson now runs the Carnegie Corporation’s Program for “New Designs for Schools and Systems,” under LaVerne Evans Srinivasan, another former DOE Deputy Chancellor from the Bloomberg era Here is the press release from Carnegie’s President, Vartan Gregorian:

 

“‘We are delighted that Saskia, who has played an important role in reforming America’s largest school system, is now joining the outstanding leader of Carnegie Corporation’s Education Program, LaVerne Evans Srinivasan, in overseeing our many investments in U.S. urban education.'”

 

Concludes Haimson:

 

“How cozy! In this way, a revolving door ensures that the very same DOE officials who helped close these schools continue to control the narrative, enabling them to fund — and even staff — the organizations that produce the reports that retroactively justify and help them perpetuate their policies.”

 

 

What is it about billionaires that makes them either fascinating or punching bags or both? For some, it may be envy; it may be admiration; it may be a sense of injustice that life is so unfair. At the present moment, several billionaires have set themselves up as objects of ridicule because of their presumptuous belief that they have the wisdom to reform public education. Some among them, such as Eli Broad, the Waktins, and Bill Gates have decided that privately managed schools are superior to democratically controlled schools. They feel no compunction about pushing privatization of what belongs to the public.

 

The most tempting target for ridicule is Bill Gates, because he thinks he knows how to fix teaching and he pays states and districts to support privatization. He actually knows nothing about teaching, having never taught; and he knows little or nothing about public schools, having never been a student or a parent in one.

 

He recently visited South Carolina to pontificate on subjects about which he is misinformed. This gave Paul Thomas, who taught in the public schools of that state for many years and is now a professor at Furman University, an opportunity to reflect on Bill Gates’ shortcomings. He concluded that the much esteemed Mr. Gates is delusional. Maybe there are more diplomatic adjectives: misinformed, ignorant, uninformed, arrogant. I guess if people bow and scrape because you are rich, it makes you think you know it all.

 

Thomas cites four of Bill Gates’ delusions about reforming education. The first is his delusion that he is doing something new, when in fact he is perpetuating the same failed accountability policies of the past 25 years or so. The second delusion is that school choice solves any problems worth solving. The third delusion is that ever-higher standards and more rigorous tests lead to education improvement. Read the piece to see what the fourth delusion is!

 

 

This is a must-read article by Linsey McGoey in Jacobin magazine about the big foundations–especially Gates–and how they use their alms for for-profit companies and start-ups.

 

McGoey of the University of Essex has written a book on the influence wielded by Gates and other big philanthropies. It’s title: “No Such Thing as a Free Gift: The Gates Foundation and the Price of Philanthropy”  (Verso).

 

“In 2010, the Gates Foundation offered $1.5 million to ABC News and a little over $1.1 million to NBC in 2011 “to support the national education summit.” The following year, the Gates Foundation gave another million to NBC, this time for the more vague purpose of “inform[ing] and engag[ing] communities.” Other for-profit media companies receiving Gates Foundation money in 2012 included Univision — a Spanish language broadcaster whose parent company, Univision Communications pulled in revenues of $2.6 billion in 2014.

 

“Traditionally, philanthropic grants to for-profits were rare, but this is no longer the case. The Gates Foundation has offered dozens of grants to for-profit companies around the world, including beneficiaries poised to profit from the Common Core standards…

 

“Indeed, the Gates Foundation makes similar donations all the time. Scholastic, a company that, like Pearson, is a for-profit education publisher, has received over $6 million in grant money from the foundation. A November 2011 grant of $4,463,541 was designed to support “teachers’ implementation of the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics.”

 

“What’s not clear is why this counts as charity. Doesn’t Scholastic stand to gain from the expansion of textbook and testing materials accompanying the Common Core standards?”

 

She goes on to describe other for-profits that Gates has supported, such as Tutor.com.

 

“Indeed, numerous for-profit education start-ups are indebted to the foundation. Another example, BetterLesson Inc., billed as the “Facebook for educators,” circulates free online lesson plans to teachers but charges schools a service fee. It has received over $3.5 million in grant money from the Gates Foundation. BetterLesson may well prove to be a useful tool for teachers.

 

“But it also charges a premium for that service — a cost borne by taxpayer-funded public education institutions. At a time of growing anger over dwindling educational resources in public schools, at a time when extreme poverty is on the rise in the United States — does yet another tech start-up deserve Gates’ charity?….

 

“Contrary to the conventional wealth-creation narrative, large multinationals are increasingly assuming less financial risk when it comes to investing their own capital — even as they reap excessive financial rewards by exploiting subsidies from the public sector and philanthropic foundations. Companies like Mastercard are just as bullish and self-satisfied about the charity they receive as the charity they give away.

 

“But challenging the new corporate charity claimants will not, alone, mitigate the unrivalled power of large philanthropic funders to frame the terms of debate in the fields of education, health and global poverty or shape the policies of institutions such as the WHO.

 

“Over a century ago, when Andrew Carnegie published his first “Wealth” essay suggesting that private philanthropy would solve the problem of rich and poor, he was met with fierce rebuke. “I can conceive of no greater mistake,” commented William Jewett Tucker, a theologian who went on to become president of Dartmouth College, “than that of trying to make charity do the work of justice.”

 

“Today’s philanthrocrats share Carnegie’s gospel of wealth. To take back the mantle of justice and equality, the Left must delegitimize private foundations and refute the centrality of charity in solving the world’s most pressing problems.”

The Network for Public Education has created an interactive graphic and a narrative that describe Bill Gates’ experimentation on our nation’s children over the past year. It is a must-see!

The extent of Gates’ meddling, says Carol Burris, is breathtaking; the results are not.

 

Burris and Anthony Cody write:

 

In his October 7 speech as he ruminated on how his foundation shaped educational policy and practice for the past fifteen years, Bill Gates spoke of the importance of what he called “high impact” strategies. His speech contained only one acknowledgement of error on his and Melinda’s part – and it was an error of the most innocent sort. He said they had been “naïve” in the way in which they rolled out the Common Core. Apparently they did not anticipate that democracy might get in the way of their plans.

 

For Bill Gates this has all been a grand experiment, one that he believes he is entitled to conduct on our children, our teachers and our schools. It is astounding that a man, who has no qualifications to guide our nation’s educational system has been allowed, by virtue of his fortune, to meddle in it as he has.

 

Although he spoke of the importance of continuous learning, (even admitting that the Gates Foundation still had a great deal to learn), Bill Gates did not show any signs of veering from the checkered record of their past 15 years of pushing the United States to adopt his vision of K12 education reform.

 

We at the Network for Public Education, however, will not let Mr. Gates, his wife or his Foundation off the hook. And so we bring you this special report on the grand experiment of Bill Gates. The breadth and scope of meddling is breathtaking. The evidence of success is not.

 

 

Marla Kilfoyle is executive director of the BadAss Teachers Association (BATs) and a 29-year veteran of teaching.

In this post, she says that the #TeachStrong campaign is yet another effort to blame teachers instead of supporting them.

The groups aligned with #TeachStrong are recipients of Gates funding; she looks only at the last year of funding. Some of these groups have received many millions from Gates in the past.

She has her own ideas about how to improve teaching:

Here would be my humble, “teacher of 29 years in public education”, suggestion for a 5 point plan to challenge TeachStrong to do something that could actually help children and teachers.
1. Rehire the 7,000 teachers who were fired in Chicago over the last two years.
2. Return the over 7,000 teachers who lost their jobs in New Orleans after Katrina and use them to help rebuild the public school system.
2. Start to assist in the rebuilding of the Detroit Public School system and promote the return of its exiled elected school board.
3. Promote and create PUBLIC SCHOOLS with wrap around services in every community of need in America. End school closings and use teachers to set policies for schools that struggle.
4. Begin a campaign that promotes the hiring of teachers of color and an end to pushing out our veteran teachers.
5. Begin a campaign that includes all government agencies to eradicate child poverty, gentrification of neighborhoods around America, and address issues of systemic racism that not only exist in education policy but also in our communities.

I dare you to try that 5 point plan.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh gave no indication in 2013 when he ran for office that he was a supporter of school privatization; his opponent John Connolly clearly was. Walsh accused Connolly–a charter school supporter of wanting to “blow up” the school system. Yet now Walsh is working closely with the Gates Foundation and the far-right, union-busting Walton Family Foundation to close 36 public schools and replace them with privately managed charter schools. In 2012, Boston was one of seven cities that signed a “Gates Compact,” agreeing to treat public schools and charter schools as equals. Boston received $3.25 million to sell out  public education to the Gates Foundation and the billionaire-backed charter movement.

 

If you live in or near Boston, show up for the meetings of the “Boston Compact” committee listed below. Don’t let them steal our democracy!


 

 

Blogger Public School Mama used the Freedom of Information Act to discover the sneaky backdoor deal that the mayor is hammering out with the billionaire boys to shutter 1/4 of Boston’s public schools.

 

She writes:

 

“This proposal is not being driven by the wishes of Mayor Walsh’s constituents. These plans are not being hammered out in open meetings where the citizens of Boston can hold policy makers accountable. These decisions are being made in closed meetings with the Gates Foundation and the Walton Foundation where Mayor Walsh is hoping to receive funding for his education agenda….

 

“I think everyone can agree that our education policy should be driven by the people of Boston and not outside foundations.

 

“On October the 14th, the unelected Boston School Committee voted unanimously to renew the Boston Compact.

 

“Here are the last Boston Compact meetings:

 

“Here are the last meetings:

 

“Thursday, November 12
6:30 – 9:00 pm
1st Church of Jamaica Plain

 

“Tuesday, November 17
5:30 – 8:00 pm
West End Boys and Girls Club”

 

 

Bill Gates recently said that he didn’t realize how hard it was to change education. It is really hard work. He has no idea. Sitting in his air-conditioned offices overlooking Seattle, flying in his personal jet, relaxing on his family yacht, surrounded by hordes of assistants and aides, he has no idea of what teachers do and no understanding of why his efforts to “reform” schools keep failing. He thinks it is hard work.

 

But, in Valerie Strauss’ blog, she quotes Nancy E. Bailey, a special education teacher who left the classroom because of the damage done to her students by high-stakes testing. Bailey explains to Gates what is really hard work. It is harder than “philanthropic work.”

 

Bailey, who wrote the 2013 book “Misguided Education Reform: Debating the Impact on Students,” challenged Melinda and Bill Gates to spend “some serious time in poor public schools” to learn what is really hard in education for teachers and students — and to “spend time with the many moms of students with disabilities who home-school not because they want to, but because schools have cut special education services.”

 

Here is a shortened version of her admittedly incomplete list of what’s really hard in education (and you can see the full blog post and list here):

 

Being an over-tested kindergartner, not getting any recess, and being made to feel you are a failure before you get started in your schooling.
Working as a teacher on a day-to-day basis with students who come from abject poverty and must deal with the many troubling consequences that come with a life lived in hardship.
Being a child with disabilities and being afraid of a high-stakes test (or several) you don’t understand and feeling like a failure!
Being made to read before you are ready,
Failing third grade based on one test.
Being a high school student who has to focus on test-taking and not given ample time to explore real career options.
Being poor and working only in math and reading with little opportunity to participate in music or art classes.
Deciding if you can afford to leave teaching because you hate the changes that negatively impact children, including all the high-stakes Common Core testing.
Knowing you have to teach to pay the bills but understanding why parents dislike you for being forced to implement harsh reforms.
Being told you will have to reapply for the job you need in the career you hold dear because your school has been turned into a charter school.
Working with overcrowded class sizes because some reformer doesn’t know better and thinks class size doesn’t matter.
Not being able to get to all your students because your paraprofessional has been let go.
Not being able to go to the bathroom when you need to because your paraprofessional has been let go.
Not being paid for a master’s degree on which you spent time and money to better yourself professionally.
Working in a crummy school building while a brand new charter school is opened down the street.
Getting judged for your teaching by the test scores of students you don’t have.
Being forced to focus more on data than children, and filling out mounds of time-consuming and often useless paperwork.
Watching your young students fail computer-based tests because they can’t type fast enough.
Knowing how much time you spent learning to be a teacher and watching others with inadequate training get jobs.
Being forced to put away your developmentally appropriate student play kitchens, puppets and costumes in kindergarten.
Seeing your school put money into iPads when there are so many other things needed.
Working in a school with no librarian or media specialist.
Sending your child to a school that has no school nurse.
Not having enough guidance counselors to work with you when your student has mental health issues.
Not having appropriate special education services to offer children who need them.
Being a student in a no-excuse charter school and knowing that you could be punished for the smallest disciplinary infraction.
Having your local school board ignore your pleas to keep your public school open.

 

 

 

What if you build it and it collapses? Well, you can always try to “stay the course.”

Or, in the case of Hillsborough County, Florida, you can start all over again and just write off the millions of dollars already spent on a failed teacher evaluation system as a bad debt. Just pay it off and move on.

Valerie Strauss reports that the new superintendent of schools in Hillsborough County (who followed MaryEllen Elia, who was fired, then hired as New York State Commissioner of Education) has decided to drop the Gates-funded teacher evaluation plan. Gates promised $100 million but delivered only $80 million because the approach wasn’t working.

Strauss writes:

Here we go again. Another Bill Gates-funded education reform project, starting with mountains of cash and sky-high promises, is crashing to Earth.

This time it’s the Empowering Effective Teachers, an educator evaluation program in Hillsborough County, Florida, which was developed in 2009 with major financial backing from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. A total of more than $180 million has been spent on the project since then — with Gates initially promising some $100 million of it — but now, the district, one of the largest in the country, is ending the program.

Why?

Under the system, 40 percent of a teacher’s evaluation would be based on student standardized test scores and the rest by observation from “peer evaluators.” It turned out that costs to maintain the program unexpectedly rose, forcing the district to spend millions of dollars more than it expected to spend. Furthermore, initial support among teachers waned, with teachers saying that they don’t think it accurately evaluated their effectiveness and that they could be too easily fired.

Now the new superintendent of schools in Hillsborough, Jeff Eakins, said in a missive sent to the evaluators and mentors that he is moving to a different evaluation system, according to this story in the Tampa Bay Times. It says:

“Unlike the complex system of evaluations and teacher encouragement that cost more than $100 million to develop and would have cost an estimated $52 million a year to sustain, Hillsborough will likely move to a structure that has the strongest teachers helping others at their schools.”

Eakins said he envisions a new program featuring less judgmental “non-evaluative feedback” from colleagues and more “job-embedded professional development,” which is training undertaken in the classroom during the teacher work day rather than in special sessions requiring time away from school. He said in his letter that these elements were supported by “the latest research.”

This may be the beginning of the end for test-based accountability. It has not worked anywhere, and it has cost the schools of the nation hundreds of millions–or more likely–billions of dollars that would have been better spent on reducing class sizes, promoting desegregation, opening health clinics, and hiring teacher of the arts.

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