Archives for category: Gates Foundation, Bill Gates

How many times have you heard people like Bill Gates, Arne Duncan, Joel Klein (remember him?) and other so-called reformers say that poverty doesn’t matter, that poverty is an excuse for poor teaching?

I have always believed that poverty imposes tremendous burdens on students and their families: hunger, homelessness, lack of medical care, illness, etc.

The best evidence of the difference that poverty makes is SAT scores. The poorest kids have the lowest scores, the most affluent have the highest. The difference from bottom to top is nearly 400 points. To be exact, it is 398 points.

The Wall Street Journal suggests a new name for the SAT: the Student Affluence Test.

What does the SAT measure? Family income and family education.

Those with vast resources of their own probably think that poverty is a personal defect rather than the inevitable result of an inequitable tax system.

Anthony Cody just published a book about his efforts to educate Bill Gates. The book is called “The Educator and the Oligarch: A Teacher Challenges Bill Gates.” Please buy it and read it.

Bill Gates has used his billions to impose his ideas, despite his total lack of experience as a teacher or student or parent in the nation’s public schools. He surrounds himself with people who obviously never say no to him, never tell him his ideas are wacky and harmful.

Anthony Cody set himself the mission of explaining to Bill Gates why his ideas were wrong and what he should do instead. Cody even got the Foundation to engage in a dialogue with him.

I was honored to write the preface to my friend Anthony’s book.

This is what I wrote:

Anthony Cody is a teacher. For Cody, teaching is not just a job. It is his profession. It is his way of life. It is the place where his brain, his life experience, and his heart are joined. Having spent eighteen years as a middle-school science teacher in Oakland, California, having achieved National Board Certification while teaching in one of the nation’s toughest urban districts, Cody embraces teaching as his mission in life. He now coaches teachers, mentors teachers, and tries to instill in them the love and spirit that animated his own teaching.

When Cody began blogging on a regular basis in Education Week, he called his blog “Living in Dialogue,” which was an acknowledgement that truth is elusive and that there are usually at least two sides to every argument. Each column ends with pointed questions, inviting readers to agree or disagree with him, not to accept whatever he wrote as authoritative. He writes in the spirit of the science that he taught, with an informed mind, but with a skeptical bent, encouraging readers to question him and to question their own beliefs.

As a regular blogger, one with a particular interest in the teaching profession, it was only a matter of time until he began taking on the myriad of interest groups that are now seeking to undermine and destroy his beloved profession. He developed a large following, as he sharpened his ideas and his aims. In time, he recognized that the most powerful force in opposition to his own ideas about teaching was the Gates Foundation.

With his blog as his platform, he trained his sights on the Gates Foundation. While others feared to criticize the richest foundation in the United States, Cody regularly devoted blogs to questioning its ideas and programs. He questioned its focus on standardized testing. He questioned its belief that teachers should be judged by the test scores of their students. He questioned its support for organizations that are anti-union and anti-teacher. He questioned its decision to create new organizations of young teachers to act as a fifth column within teachers’ unions, ready to testify in legislative hearings against the interests of teachers and unions.

Perhaps because of his persistence, perhaps because of his earnest tone, perhaps because of his experience, Anthony Cody managed to get the attention of the Gates Foundation. The Foundation agreed to engage in a written debate with Cody. At the time, some of his admirers wondered whether the Gates Foundation would find a way to buy off or mollify or silence one of its most outspoken critics. But they underestimated Cody.

He exchanged several blogs with high-level members of the Gates Foundation, and his blogs were incisive, carefully documented, and fearless. The main point that he made—drawing on his own experience in Oakland as a classroom teacher but also on external and unimpeachable data—is that poverty is the greatest handicap to the academic performance of students today, not “bad teachers.” He knew that the Gates Foundation had helped to fund the anti-teacher propaganda film “Waiting for ‘Superman,’” and he saw the hand of the Foundation in almost every effort to reduce the status of the teaching profession and to replace it with scripts, standardized testing, and technology.

This book is a record of Anthony Cody’s valiant struggle to force the nation’s most powerful foundation and richest person to listen to the voice of an experienced teacher. Did Cody succeed? It is hard to know. Even as Cody was debating the Gates Foundation, it was spending billions of dollars to develop and implement the Common Core standards, which was yet another attempt to “teacher-proof” America’s classrooms. Cody knows that past efforts at “teacher-proofing” the schools were never successful. He knows that good schools depend on teachers who are well prepared, devoted to improving their craft, and devoted to their students.

There is no replacement for well-prepared teachers or for a school where collaboration—not competition—is the norm. Cody also understands that teachers alone—no matter how good or great they are—and schools alone—no matter how good or great they are—cannot overcome the handicaps imposed on children, families and communities by inequality, poverty, and segregation. This is his message to the oligarch who runs the Gates Foundation: Will he listen?

Diane Ravitch

Daniel S. Katz, a professor of education at Seton Hall University, explains on his blog how to recognize a phony education reform group.

The key is, as always, follow the money. If the group is funded by the Gates Foundation, the Broad Foundation, the Walton Foundation, the John Arnold Foundation, or the Helmsley Foundation (among others), you can bet there are no grassroots. If they not only have said funding but an expensive location and grow rapidly, and if they advocate for charter schools and test-based evaluation of teachers, there are no grassroots, only faux reform roots that are part of the movement to privatize public education. The “reform” movement likes to pretend that it has a broad base so it funds numerous “front” groups. We have not seen so many front groups since the 1930s. Today, as then, they represent no community, no one but the funders and the elites and those with a hidden but anti-democratic agenda.

Readers of this blog understand the corporate assault on public education. With few exceptions, you know of Bill Gates’ belief that metrics can solve all the world’s problems. You are aware from the events in your state or district that corporate raiders look at the public schools as a way to get rich with their sales pitch for a charter school, a charter chain, a cyberschool, a professional development gig, or new technology.

 

Again and again, the question arises: How do we get the story to the mainstream media when media giants are cashing in on testing and technology? How can we make the voices of parents and teachers heard?

 

Here it is. Bob Herbert, who was a columnist for the New York Times, tells the story in his new book, Losing Our Way: An Intimate Portrait of a Troubled America (Doubleday).

 

Herbert’ explains “The Plot Against Public Education: How Millionaires and Billionaires Are Ruining Our Schools” in politico.com.

 

 

Here is Bob Herbert on the reformers’ favorite reform:

 

“This hit-or-miss attitude—let’s try this, let’s try that—has been a hallmark of school reform efforts in recent years. The experiments trotted out by the big-money crowd have been all over the map. But if there is one broad approach (in addition to the importance of testing) that the corporate-style reformers and privatization advocates have united around, it’s the efficacy of charter schools. Charter schools were supposed to prove beyond a doubt that poverty didn’t matter, that all you had to do was free up schools from the rigidities of the traditional public system and the kids would flourish, no matter how poor they were or how chaotic their home environments.

 

“Corporate leaders, hedge fund managers and foundations with fabulous sums of money at their disposal lined up in support of charter schools, and politicians were quick to follow. They argued that charters would not only boost test scores and close achievement gaps but also make headway on the vexing problem of racial isolation in schools.

 

“None of it was true. Charters never came close to living up to the hype. After several years of experimentation and the expenditure of billions of dollars, charter schools and their teachers proved, on the whole, to be no more effective than traditional schools. In many cases, the charters produced worse outcomes. And the levels of racial segregation and isolation in charter schools were often scandalous. While originally conceived a way for teachers to seek new ways to reach the kids who were having the most difficult time, the charter school system instead ended up leaving behind the most disadvantaged youngsters.”

 

This is a lucid and compelling account of the corporate-driven effort to replace public education–a basic democratic institution–with a market-based, data-driven system of choice and metrics. Herbert sees through the subterfuge s and the double talk. This is an article you should read and a book I plan to order right now.

Peter Greene knows, unlike Bill Gates, that children are not like toasters that Ned to be plugged into an electrical outlet that is everywhere the same. But then Gates brings in the metaphor of a railroad gauge. Ah! A fresh metaphor! New writer? Who knows?

Greene explains why it is a bad metaphor that has nothing to do with students or teaching. And he asks the $64 question: if standardization and uniformity are so great, why does Gates love charter schools?

And now the big question: what metaphor will Gates use next to make the case for standardization of learning?

As we noted previously, Bill Gates compares the Common Core to standardization of electrical plugs and outlets, and to the gauge of railroad tracks. This is not a new metaphor from him. He used it several months ago when he explained the need for Common Core to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

The question of the day, therefore, is this: is your child an electrical outlet, an electrical plug, or an electrical appliance? Is she a toaster or a lamp?

Here is the standard I want for my grandchildren and your children: the standards at Lakeside Academy in Seattle, where Bill sends his children. The school has small classes, experienced teachers, a beautiful campus, a wonderful arts program, foreign languages, a fabulous gymnasium, a well-stocked library, the latest technology. That’s where I want our children educated. Not as toasters but as human beings.

Denny Taylor, a professor emerita of literacy studies at Hofstra University, here comments on the recent exchanges among Marc Tucker, Anthony Cody, and Yong Zhao about high-stakes testing and education reform. The key issue, she believes, is not so much about policy as it is about money, power, and control. When big money takes control of public policy, what is at risk is not only children’s lives and their education, but democracy itself.

Taylor has written a scorching analysis of Marc Tucker’s finances and his role in education reform.

She writes:

“I have read with interest the dialogue between Marc Tucker, Diane Ravitch, Anthony Cody, and Yong Zhao on the establishment of an American test-based public education accountability system. Forty years of research on the impact of political structures on social systems,[1], [2] in particular public education,[3] leads me to categorize Marc Tucker’s rhetoric as nothing more than political cant to protect the lucrative profits of poverty “non-profit” industry that is bent to the will of the powerful rich donor groups that are dominating education policy in the US and UK.

“It is the PR discourse of big money that shapes the lives of teachers and children in public schools, and confounds the lives of families with young children struggling with the grimness of developmentally inappropriate instruction in public schools – instruction that rejects all that we have learned as a society about child development, how children learn language, become literate, and engage in math and science projects to both discover and solve problems. Knowledge gained from the sciences and the lived knowledge of human experience, the very essence of our human story, no longer counts.

“Tucker’s view of education is economic. Children in, workers out, could be the mantra of National Center on Education and the Economy. The NCEE website toots the familiar horn of the rich non-profit educational organization stating that: “Since 1988, NCEE has been researching the world’s best performing education systems to unlock their secrets.” Nonsense, of course. What NCEE has actually been doing is making money.

“In 2012 the total assets of NCEE were $93,708,833, with total liabilities of $1,572,013, and net assets of $92,136,820.[4] This highly lucrative “non-profit” fiefdom receives substantial funding from a long list of “donors” including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Broad, Walton, and Walmart Foundations. NCEE has also received substantial funding from the US Federal Government…..

“NCEE was the majority shareholder of America’s Choice, Inc. (ACI), which was established in November 2004 as a taxable for-profit subsidiary of NCEE. NCEE reorganized its internal America’s Choice program as a separate subsidiary to attract the capital investment and management talent to expand the implementation of the America’s Choice comprehensive school design program and related offerings for struggling schools. [6]

“In addition to his lucrative salary [$819,109 in 2012], Tucker was awarded stock options in ACI. In the 2010 Federal tax return for NCEE it further states:

“While any growth in the value of ACI would benefit these optionees, it was anticipated that such growth would also benefit NCEE’s charitable mission.

“NCEE then sold off ACI to Pearson. Here’s what is written on the next page of the 2010 federal tax return:

“The work of NCEE going forward will be funded in large part by the $65.9 million in proceeds that NCEE received as a result of the sale of ACI to Pearson…”

Taylor writes:

“Local control has been eviscerated through the enactment of laws and policies that have ensconced the Common Core in the new business driven public education system, which is centrally controlled through mandatory, highly lucrative, commercial accountability systems, that drain the coffers of local communities and diverts funds from essential programs and services that are no longer available for children in public schools.

“The new report on the American accountability system is just another example of big money writing private policy and sugar coating it to make it palatable. Zhao took the plan apart piece by piece, and Tucker might indeed counter Zhao’s arguments, but there is another problem, a little known fact, that cannot be explained away, not by the educational non-profits serving the needs of the big money backers who make public policy, or by the federal government that benefits.

“The basic research on which the economic system of public education was founded has no scientific legitimacy. This is not unsupported opinion; it is fact.

“At the beginning of the 1990’s, a well-orchestrated effort in state-corporate cooperation was initiated to disenfranchise the growing influence of teachers at the local level across the US, who were creating and using developmentally appropriate teaching-learning materials and activities in public schools that limited the influence of corporate curriculum producers. [19]

“School districts were spending money on real books instead of artificial, commercially produced programs, and there was concern about the growing rejection of commercial text-book producers, including McGraw-Hill, in the five big adoption states – Texas, California, Michigan, Florida, and New York.

“Billions in revenues and profits were at stake. Profits dropped. Not a whole lot, but even a slight dip could be counted in the hundreds of millions. Worse, the growing teacher-led democratic movement was taking hold, causing concern about displacement of the powerful elites in government and big business. From studying the teacher movements of that time, I can write that teachers really believed that through the ways in which they were teaching children in school, society could become more equitable.[20]….”

After a lengthy analysis of the power of big money to capture education policy at the federal and state levels, Taylor writes,

“Again, to ensure that this is not seen as unsupported opinion or that NCEE is an aberrant anomaly, one of the platforms on which big money is falsifying facts is the National Council on Teacher Quality, which has an Advisory Board that includes Pearson International, The Hoover Institution, the American Enterprise Institute, and Murdoch’s News Corporation. The assessment of the syllabi of reading courses in US schools of education by private groups with a commercial agenda is not only political, it is predatory. The assault on faculty and students in colleges of education by NCTQ is also an aggressive act against teachers and children in K-12 public schools that impacts the academic development of the nation’s children, and also their health and well-being.

“When an ideological elite joins with the economic and political forces that control what human beings do, it is important that we confront our illusions and expose the myths about what is happening in K-12 public education. The very existence of NCTQ is a clear indication that we live at a time when the pressures on educators and children in K-12 public schools are reaching a tipping point.

“It is the nightmare scenario that so many of us dread, when the escalation of the causes and conditions that have such a negative effect on the lives of teachers, children and their families become self-perpetuating, and reach a point beyond which there is no return from total disequilibrium. When this happens, at our peril, this nation will no longer have the smallest hope of becoming democratic. Self-aggrandizing private groups with corporate power will overwhelm the system and our struggle for democracy will flounder.

“But there is more than democracy at stake. Once again, to quote Eisenhower:

“Another factor in maintaining balance involves the element of time. As we peer into society’s future, we — you and I, and our government — must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering, for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.
What Tucker or many of his contemporaries don’t seem to get is that there is no time left for big money to mess around. The problem is that the redesign of our public education system based on “meeting today’s economic needs” is getting in the way of the transformation of schools which is urgently required to meet the real needs of our children tomorrow. The assessment system that he is pushing on teachers and children is designed to prepare children to work for the corporations that are using up Earth’s resources, contaminating the planet, causing the climate system to adversely change, and making Earth an unsafe place for our kids to be.”

“….. In public education we need big money to change everything. Tucker must alter course, save face before it is too late, and help get his contemporaries – the men with money, power, and privilege – to acknowledge that under their leadership the public education system has floundered, and that if, we are going to prepare today for tomorrow, we need to support the courageous teachers who were and are making a difference for children and society before big money got in the way. [26], [27]”

Anthony Cody writes that the corporate reformers have decided that it’s time to shift the narrative. Having spent the past few years ginning up a crisis climate about our “failing schools” and the need to fire “bad” teachers, the reformers realize the public is tuning them out. There’s an old line about npt wanting to listen to a broken record but there aren’t too many people left who remember what a record is (you know, the vinyl discs that were either 78, 45, or 33 rpm; if they got a scratch, the needle would get stuck in a groove, and the same notes would play over and over, to the point of tedium).

Cody says that Gates is now funding “success” stories. We all love success stories. But what we really need is honest, objective reporting about how testing and choice are working and how they affect children and the quality of education.

Cody writes:

“In 2010, a stark image was broadcast around the nation. It showed a child seated at a school desk surrounded by absolute devastation and ruin. That image was used promote the movie, “Waiting For Superman.” The movie was boosted with a $2 million advertising grant from the Gates Foundation, and was further promoted on Oprah and NBC’s Education Nation – also underwritten by the Gates Foundation. The clarion call was “public schools are broken and bad teachers cannot be fired

“But that is not what we hear now, for some reason. Now, we have stories of success popping up in the media – strangely sponsored by some of the same people who were shouting warnings of calamity just a few years ago.

“How and why has the prevailing story advanced by sponsors of education reform shifted over the past four years from one of failure and doom to one of success? And how is our media cooperating with the crafting of these dominant narratives?”

Well, it is not all happy talk. We still have the Vergara attack on teachers’ due process; we still have loopy efforts to judge teachers by test scores; we still have Pearson buying up every organization that measures American education; we still have Arne Duncan with his snide comments about parents, students, and schools.

I would settle for objective reporting about our schools, better informed and more of it.

Anthony Cody noted a very interesting exchange of comments about the Gates Foundation on Mercedes Schneider’s blog. Schneider wrote about a perceived conflict of interest when the Gates Foundation funds media and even meets with their representatives.

One of her examples was a grant to establish the “Education Lab” at the Seattle Times. The Lab is supposed to report on “success” stories. Focusing on “success” is itself a form of bias , Schneider said. Cody added, “What would stories have looked like in the 1960s if reporters covering the Vietnam War were supported with grants that encouraged them to “focus on success”?”

Then followed, on Schneider’s blog, an exchange between Wayne Au, a professor at the University of Washington, and Claudia Rowe, a reporter for Education Lab.

My bet: Education Lab will never write an article that questions the role of the Gates Foundation in steering American education to satisfy the whims of Bill Gates. A free press must be free of its sponsors.

Mercedes Schneider wrote a book about the origins of the Common Core this past summer, and she continues to keep a close watch on Bill Gates’ investment in the purchase of American education. In this post, she recounts Bill’s infatuation with the idea of standardizing every classroom, because he believes in the glories of standardization. And if he believes in it, so should everyone else.

You know how Arne Duncan and his echo chamber say again and again that the Common Core is not a curriculum? Mercedes says that the Gates Foundation made a grant to “hardwire” the CCSS curriculum. Oops! They didn’t mean to use that word! Maybe by the time this post goes public, they will change the word and call it “standards,” not “curriculum.”

But what’s with the “hardwiring”? Does the Gates Foundation really believe they can hardwire every school to the standards or curriculum of their choosing? This is America. We believe that our states are “laboratories of innovation.” A top-down set of standards, written in D.C., imposed by the lure of federal dollars? Never gonna happen. Ten years from now, maybe sooner, some states will stick with them, others won’t. Whatever they are, they will not be national standards. Americans don’t like to take orders. We don’t want to be hard-wired. We dissent. We debate. We question authority. We march to our own drummers. Or at least enough of us do to make trouble for anyone who wants to standardize us and hardwire us. Bill Gates will have to find a new plaything.

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