Archives for category: Gates Foundation, Bill Gates

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 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.

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.

“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?





John Thompson reviews Anthony Cody’s néw book THE EDUCATOR AND THE OLIGARCH. The book recapitulates Cody’s five-part debate with the Gates Foundation. Thompson says Cody demolished their spokesmen.

Thompson writes that Cody won the debate, hands down:

“They probably didn’t expect a mere teacher to assemble and concisely present such an overwhelming case against their policies. But, who knows?, perhaps they were completely unaware of the vast body of social science that Cody drew upon, and they blamed the messenger for the education research he brought to the table. The Educator and the Oligarch explains how the failed Gates reforms could create an education dystopia.”

Best of all is Thompson’s summary of Cody’s proposal for how Gates ought to be evaluated.


“Since Bill Gates, more than any other person, is responsible for the absurd evaluations that are now being imposed on teachers, Cody wonders if Gates’ practice as a philanthropist should be evaluated. If so, what would it look like? Cody makes a strong case that in the tradition of the Danielson and Marzano teacher evaluation frameworks, an abbreviated version of his evaluation would look like the following:

Standard 1: Awareness of the Social Conditions Targeted by Philanthropy

Rating: Below Standard

… Actions and statements by him and his representatives indicate ignorance of the pervasive effects of poverty, and the overwhelming research that indicates the need to address these effects directly.

Recommendation for Professional Growth: We recommend Bill Gates take a year off from his work as a philanthropist, and work as a high school instructor in an urban setting. …

In response to an earlier post about the U.S. Department of Education setting “measurable and rigorous targets” for children with disabilities, ages 0-3, Laura H. Chapman writes:

“This is nothing more than an extension of the Data Quality campaign that Bill Gates has funded since 2005 along with USDE– initially limited to Pre-K through college, but now clearly starting at birth, and likely in a race to get as much data into “the cloud” on each cohort of kids ASAP along with some hard-wired policies such as do this or we will gut the health and human services funding and IDEA funding for your state.

“Comply or else.

“Of course, closing the achievement gap will be easy enough if you just demand more of the parents and hand over all of the “evidence-based interventions” to instant experts. They will have conjured all of the necessary and sufficient measures for ratings of “infant and toddler and parent effectiveness.”

“Don’t forget checklists for observation, with rubrics for properly identifying all-purpose and specialized remedies for every condition, Instant experts on “disabilities” are sure to be ready (for a fee) to share their power points and modules for corrective action.

“Let’s see, let’s have some infant and toddler SLOs with targets to reach every three months, so quarterly reports can be filed at the state level. Or some VAM calculations with grand inferential leaps from scores on cognitive function, locomotion, eye-hand coordination, new scores for versions of the old Piaget experiments. Add some body sensors to pick up rigorous data on pee and poop and tantrum control, a measure of infant and toddler grit in retaining gas or vomit.

“Perhaps the real aim is to privatize the US Census, the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Health and Human Services, etc., etc., etc.

“I think that Arne Duncan and Bill Gates have never been in the presence of infants and toddlers and adults who are struggling to make sense out of the booming buzzing confusion that marks you as alive and human and doing your best even if you are not blessed from birth with “the right stuff,” plenty of money and connections with people who give you a bunch of tax dollars and discretionary authority to spend these at will..

“I hope the over-reach on this idiotic plan makes big news.

“My fear is that it will not.”

One of the genuine, stand-up heroes of American education is Anthony Cody. I am happy to place his name on the honor roll of this blog.

As a veteran teacher, he worked constantly to improve his craft. He became a National Board Certified Teacher. Now, he is an advocate for teachers and public education, for equity and children. As a blogger, he has been fearless in defending the right of every child to a good education. He has deferred to no one in his passion for justice. Please order his new book “The Educator and the Oligarch.”

Please read this interview of Anthony conducted by Valerie Strauss. He explains why he challenged the strategies of the Gates Foundation.

He says:

“One of the problems with the Gates Foundation is that they have had an almost unlimited source of funding over the past decade. And they are conducting a large-scale experiment with the children of the nation. Nobody voted for them to do this. They use the power of their money to pay for research, to pay organizations to support their agenda, and this undermines democratic decision-making, especially in communities that, due to poverty, lack effective political power.

“I have no great wealth, no real access to political power. I am a retired science teacher with a blog. I saw the effects their agenda had on the schools in Oakland and across the country, and I challenge them to take a closer look and see what is happening. See what happens when you increase class sizes, as Bill Gates suggested. See what happens when you tie teacher evaluations to test scores. See what happens when your policies ignore the very real effects of poverty. See what happens when you attempt to “personalize” instruction by the use of computers instead of human beings. I am one teacher, but as more and more people realize the experiment we have all become unwilling subjects of, more will join me in challenging this oligarch. Because money may give you the power to do all this, but might does not make right.”


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