Archives for category: Gates Foundation, Bill Gates

Have you ever wondered about the amazingly effective campaign to sell the Common Core standards to the media, the business community, and the public? How did it happen that advocates for the standards used the same language, the same talking points, the same claims, no matter where they were located? The talking points sounded poll-tested because they were. The language was the same because it came from the same source. The campaign to have “rigorous,” “high standards” that would make ALL students “college and career-ready” and “globally competitive” was well planned and coordinated. There was no evidence for these claims but repeated often enough in editorials and news stories and in ads by major corporations, they took on the ring of truth. Even the new stories that reported on controversies between advocates and opponents of the Common Core, used the rhetoric of the advocates to describe the standards.

This was no accident.

Lyndsey Layton of the Washington Post reported that the Hunt Institute in North Carolina received more than $5 million from the Gates Foundation to organize support for the brand-new, unknown, untested Common Core standards. Organizing support meant creating the message as well as mobilizing messengers, many of whom were also funded by the Gates Foundation.

In Layton’s blockbuster article about how the Gates Foundation underwrote the rapid adoption of “national standards” by spreading millions of dollars strategically, this remarkable story was included:

“The foundation, for instance, gave more than $5 million to the University of North Carolina-affiliated Hunt Institute, led by the state’s former four-term Democratic governor, Jim Hunt, to advocate for the Common Core in statehouses around the country.

“The grant was the institute’s largest source of income in 2009, more than 10 times the size of its next largest donation. With the Gates money, the Hunt Institute coordinated more than a dozen organizations — many of them also Gates grantees — including the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, National Council of La Raza, the Council of Chief State School Officers, National Governors Association, Achieve and the two national teachers unions.

“The Hunt Institute held weekly conference calls between the players that were directed by Stefanie Sanford, who was in charge of policy and advocacy at the Gates Foundation. They talked about which states needed shoring up, the best person to respond to questions or criticisms and who needed to travel to which state capital to testify, according to those familiar with the conversations.

“The Hunt Institute spent $437,000 to hire GMMB, a strategic communications firm owned by Jim Margolis, a top Democratic strategist and veteran of both of Obama’s presidential campaigns. GMMB conducted polling around standards, developed fact sheets, identified language that would be effective in winning support and prepared talking points, among other efforts.

“The groups organized by Hunt developed a “messaging tool kit” that included sample letters to the editor, op-ed pieces that could be tailored to individuals depending on whether they were teachers, parents, business executives or civil rights leaders.”

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why the advocates for the Common Core standards have the same rhetoric, the same claims, no matter where they are, because the campaign was well organized and well messaged.

What the campaign did not take into account was the possibility of pushback, the possibility that the very lack of public debate and discussion would sow suspicion and controversy. What the advocates forgot is that the democratic way of making change may be slow and may require compromise, but it builds consensus. The Common Core standards, thanks to Gates’ largesse, skipped the democratic process, imposed new standards on almost every state, bypassing the democratic process, and is now paying the price of autocratic action in a democratic society.

Anthony Cody is confused by the contradictions of the corporate reform movement. “On the one hand, we have a seemingly utopian project with bold pronouncements about the boundless capacity of all students – even those with serious learning disabilities – to succeed on ever more difficult tests. On the other hand, we have tests that are apparently intentionally designed to fail in the realm of two thirds of our students.”

Cody considers the views of Bill Gates, who has finally admitted that student motivation plays a role in whether students learn.

Cody points out that student motivation is affected by their sense of their own future. Yet as Gates himself admits:

“Well, technology in general will make capital more attractive than labor over time. Software substitution, you know, whether it’s for drivers or waiters or nurses… It’s progressing. And that’s going to force us to rethink how these tax structures work in order to maximize employment, you know, given that, you know, capitalism in general, over time, will create more inequality and technology, over time, will reduce demand for jobs particularly at the lower end of the skill set. And so, you know, we have to adjust, and these things are coming fast. Twenty years from now, labor demand for lots of skill sets will be substantially lower, and I don’t think people have that in their mental model.”

So if there are fewer jobs, a shrinking middle class, and fewer opportunities for social mobility, students face a bleak future. How can they be motivated in an economy where their prospects are dim?

Cody writes:

“Gates is suggesting we increase taxes on consumption by the wealthy, and use those revenues to provide a sort of subsistence level payment to the poor. He opposes an increase in the minimum wage because it might raise employer costs, which they would then try to cut by laying people off.

“Gates is unconcerned about income inequality as an issue. He defines poverty as abject starvation and homelessness, and hopes employers can be convinced to keep on employees because they do not cost very much.

“The motivation of 50 million K12 students in the US is directly related to the degree to which their education leads to a brighter future. We have a big disconnect here when the future does not, in fact, offer much chance at access to college or productive employment. And as Wilkinson and Pickett established in their book The Spirit Level, the level of inequality societies tolerate has a dramatic effect on the mental state and wellbeing of its citizens…..

“As I wrote earlier in the week, there seems to be an attempt to use ever more difficult Common Core aligned tests to certify as many as two thirds of our students as unworthy of such opportunities.

“This brings to mind a dystopian future where an underclass of Common Core test rejects is allowed to subsist with the bare minimum payments required to keep starvation at bay, while a shrinking cadre of insecure workers maintain the machinery that keep the lights on and the crops harvested.

“The fundamental problem of the current economy is that we have not figured out a means by which the top 1% can be persuaded to share the prodigious profits that have flowed from technological advances…

“I cannot reconcile how this future of growing inequality and a shrinking workforce intersects with the grand utopian vision of the Common Core. So then I go back and have to question the validity of the promises made for the Common Core, since the economic projections Gates is making here seem sound….

“These economic problems will not be addressed by Common Core, by charter schools or any other educational reforms. They will not even be addressed in a significant way by what we might praise as authentic education reforms, such as smaller class sizes or more time for teacher collaboration – though these are worthwhile and humane things.
Imperfect as they have been, public schools have been an institution under mostly democratic control, funded by taxpayers, governed by elected school boards, and run by career educators. Market-driven education reform is bringing the cruelty of commerce into what was part of the public sphere, attempting to use test scores to open and close schools like shoe stores, and pay teachers on test score commissions as if we were salesmen.

“The rhetoric of the corporate reform project draws on the modern movement for civil rights, and even Bill Gates asserts that his goal is to fight inequity. But elites have rarely, if ever, designed solutions that diminish their privilege, and this is no exception. It appears that corporate education reform has devised a means to affix blame for inequity on classroom teachers, even as technological advances make it possible to transfer even more wealth into its sponsors’ bank accounts, with fewer people being paid for the work that remains necessary. The promise that the Common Core will prepare everyone for the American dream is made a lie by the intentionally engineered failure rates on Common Core aligned tests.”

Thanks to Paul Thomas for the link to this impressive post by Kaiser Fung, a professional statistician.

Fung saw an article By Gates claiming that spending on education was rising but student achievement was flat.

Fung demolished this claim and said that Gates was promoting innumeracy.

The scales of his graph were wrong, the analysis was wrong, the arguments rested on fallacies. Gates, he said, compared apples and oranges, and he confused correlation with causation.

Fung writes: “Needless to say, test scores are a poor measure of the quality of education, especially in light of the frequent discovery of large-scale coordinated cheating by principals and teachers driven by perverse incentives of the high-stakes testing movement.” No one told Gates about that, apparently.

And he concludes:

” In the same article, Gates asserts that quality of teaching is the greatest decisive factor explaining student achievement. Which study proves that we are not told. How one can measure such an intangible quantity as “excellent teaching” we are not told. How student achievement is defined, well, you guessed it, we are not told.

“It’s great that the Gates Foundation supports investment in education. Apparently they need some statistical expertise so that they don’t waste more money on unproductive projects based on innumerate analyses.”

How refreshing to know that statisticians like Kaiser Fung are keeping an eye on what is called “reform,” but turns out to be the pet ideas or hobbies or whims of very wealthy people who know little or nothing about education.

This just in from a member of NEA from Massachusetts who is at the Denver convention. She hopes that Lily Eskelsen, the new president, will be a champion and fighter for kids, teachers, and public schools. Is she THE ONE? Will she stand up to the phony “reformers”? Will she fight for democratic control of the schools? Will she tell the plutocrats to use their billions to alleviate poverty instead of taking control of the schools?

I think Lily has it in her. Until proven wrong, I am placing bets that she will stand up fearlessly for what is right, that she will tell Arne Duncan to scram, that she will tell the billionaires to get another hobby.

Here is the message from one of her members:

My comment is awaiting moderation on Lily’s Blackboard.

Here it is.

Lily, thank you for posting this opportunity for substantive engagement on the Gates question.

I’m an activist NEA member in Massachusetts, in a low income district heavily engaged with the policies Bill and Melinda have imposed through their legislative interference and advocacy lobbying, with the compliance of the outgoing Massachusetts Teachers Association leadership.

MTA and NEA compliance directly aided in the imposition of Gates-backed corporate domination in my Commonwealth’s public schools, in my school, in my actual classroom, and over the actual living students I teach.

The (false) distinction you make between Gates’ imposed “standards” and the accountability measures he demands for them will allow the NEA to continue to take his money, and I’ll admit that almost chokes rank-and-file teachers who live and work under his heel. I am going to argue that you to can make a decision of your own, when you take office, to give that money back to him.

First, I’d like to offer congratulations on your succession to the presidency of NEA. The Representative assembly that voted you in brought with it a new activism and determination, and voted in resolutions which break sharply with the previous administration, of which you were a part. We look to you with great hope, holding our breath against it for fear of disappointment.

The Common Core standards can’t “stand on their own merit”. They were backwards-engineered to warp the teaching of language and literature into assessment readiness, with its own novel testing vocabulary. strung together with the bogus Moodle diagram you inserted in this page. The aligned WIDA tests that are now being imposed on ELL students, from the earliest grades, will steal the short and precious window of their childhood. People are tweeting me that those children can’t wait while you do your homework and find that out.

We’re fighting right now for schools in New Bedford and Holyoke that are already being taken over. They were full of living children, just a few weeks ago when we left them. What will we find in August?

We’re asking you to become the courageous and powerful leader of an engaged and mobilized union. I know you saw and felt the hall rise to its feet behind these initiatives. That felt different and deeper than the hearty applause for your victory, did it not?

Bring us to our feet: give back the Gates money.

The website I linked for you is an Education Week column describing the actual effects of the Gates Foundation’s profit-centered philanthropy model in the third world. It’s the responsibility of Americans to become aware of it, when we take money from American corporate philanthropies and allow them to pursue their profits internationally under the subsidy of our tax code.

Why Arne Duncan needs to listen to Bill and Melinda | Li…
I do not hate the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. I know it might seem strange to have to make that statement, but such are the times we live in.
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A few years ago, Arne Duncan, Bill Gates, David Coleman, and a merry band of policy wonks had a grand plan. The non-governmental groups like Achieve, the National Governors Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and Coleman’s own Student Achievement Partners would write the Common Core standards (paid for by the Gates Foundation); Duncan would require states to agree to adopt them as a condition of eligibility for a share of the billions of Race to the Top funds at a time when states were broke; the Feds would spend $370 million to develop tests for the standards; and within a few short years the U.S. would have a seamless system of standards and assessments that could be used to evaluate students, teachers, and schools.

The reason that the Gates Foundation had to pay for the standards is that federal law prohibits the government from controlling, directing, or supervising curriculum or instruction. Of course, it is ludicrous to imagine that the federally-funded tests do not have any direct influence on curriculum or instruction. Many years ago, I interviewed a professor at MIT about his role in the new science programs of the 1960s, and he said something I never forgot: “Let me write a nation’s tests, and I care not who writes its songs or poetry.”

So how fares the seamless system? Not so well. Critics of the standards and tests seem to gathering strength and growing bolder. The lack of any democratic process for writing, reviewing, and revising the standards is coming back to bite the architects and generals who assumed they could engineer a swift and silent coup. The claim, often made by Duncan, that the U.S. needs a way to compare the performance of students in different states ignores the fact that the Federal National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) already exists to do precisely that. In addition, critics like Carol Burris and John Murphy have pointed out that the Common Core tests agreed upon a cut score (passing mark) that is designed to fail most students.

As politico.com reports, support for the federally-funded tests is crumbling as states discover the costs, the amount of time required, and their loss of sovereignty over a basic state function. The federal government pays about 10% of the cost of education, while states and localities pay the other 90%. Why should the federal government determine what happens in the nation’s schools? What happened to the long-established tradition that states are “laboratories of democracy”? Why shouldn’t the federal government stick to its mandate to fund poor schools and to defend the civil rights of students, instead of trying to standardize curriculum, instruction, and testing?

So far, at least 17 states have backed away from using the federal tests this spring, and some are determined not to use them ever. Another half-dozen may drop out. In many, legislators are appalled at the costs of adopting a federal test. Both the NEA and the AFT, which have supported the standards, have balked at the tests because teachers are not ready, nor is curriculum, teaching resources, and professional development.

Time and costs are big issues for the federal exams:

“PARCC estimates its exams will take eight hours for an average third-grader and nearly 10 hours for high school students — not counting optional midyear assessments to make sure students and teachers are on track.

“PARCC also plans to develop tests for kindergarten, first- and second- graders, instead of starting with third grade as is typical now. And it aims to test older students in 9th, 10th and 11th grades instead of just once during high school.

“Cost is also an issue. Many states need to spend heavily on computers and broadband so schools can deliver the exams online as planned. And the tests themselves cost more than many states currently spend — an estimated $19 to $24 per student if they’re administered online and up to $33 per student for paper-and-pencil versions.

“That adds up to big money for testing companies. Pearson, which won the right to deliver PARCC tests, could earn more than $1 billion over the next eight years if enough states sign on.”

One of the two federally-funded testing consortia, PARCC, is now entangled in a legal battle in New Mexico, which was sued by AIR for failing to take competitive bids for the lucrative testing contract. This could lead to copycat suits in other states whose laws require competitive bidding but ignored the law to award the contract to Pearson.

Frankly, the idea of subjecting third graders to an eight-hour exam is repugnant, as is the prospect of a 10-hour exam for high school students, as is the absurd idea of testing children in kindergarten, first, and second grades. All of these tests will be accompanied by test prep and interim exams and periodic exams. This is testing run amok, and the biggest beneficiary will be the testing industry, certainly not students.

Students don’t become smarter or wiser or more creative because of testing. Instead, all this testing will deduct as much as a month of instruction for testing and preparation for testing. In addition, states will spend tens of millions, hundreds of millions, or even more, to buy the technology and bandwidth necessary for the Common Core testing (Los Angeles–just one district–plans to spend a cool $1 billion to buy the technology for the Common Core tests). The money spent for Common Core testing means there will be less money to reduce class sizes, to hire arts teachers, to repair crumbling buildings, to hire school nurses, to keep libraries open and staffed, and to meet other basic needs). States are cutting the budget for schools at the same time that the Common Core is diverting huge sums for new technology, new textbooks, new professional development, and other requirements to prepare for the Common Core.

Common Core testing will turn out to be the money pit that consumed American education. The sooner it dies, the sooner schools and teachers will be freed of the Giant Federal Accountability Plan hatched in secret and foisted upon our nation’s schools. And when it does die, teachers will have more time to do their job and to use their professional judgment to do what is best for each student..

Anthony Cody points out the contradiction between claims that the Common Core will prepare students for college and careers and the reality that the Common Core tests are designed to fail most students.

He also notes what happened to the GED graduation rate after Pearson took control of the program. The pass rate on the GED plummeted.

What is going on? Cody has two hypotheses:

“Hypothesis #1:

“Corporations are unable to find an adequate supply of highly skilled and educated people, and if we make it harder to graduate high school or earn a GED we will get a larger number of people on track for these skilled jobs.

“This is the basic reason stated by the Gates Foundation and other advocates of “higher standards.” This has been the rationale for the Common Core, along with the idea that we are somehow losing in an international race for higher test scores.

“If this were the case, we should see employers experiencing some sort of shortage of skilled workers. Economists can find no evidence of such a shortage. This report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the top seven occupations with the largest projected numerical growth require at most a two-year Associates degree, and most require only short-term on-the-job training.

“Hypothesis #2:

“Employers actually need FEWER employees with college degrees, and perhaps even fewer workers overall, due to increases in efficiency that are coming through technology. This creates a challenge to the stability of the system – how can we justify leaving many people who are willing to work idle? Perhaps we need a system to label these people “unready for college and career.”

“I do find some evidence to support this hypothesis. We are already in what has been termed a “jobless recovery,” which means that while corporate profits are sky-high, these profits are being made with fewer and fewer workers. A report in the MIT Technology Review suggests that in the next 20 years, 45% of American jobs could be eliminated as a result of computerization.

“There is an idea, most recently expounded by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, that any student, including those with significant learning disabilities, can pass ever more difficult tests. If our entire education system is re-tooled to prepare for Common Core tests, teachers are evaluated based on test scores, and energetic innovators produce new devices and “learning systems,” ALL students will somehow rise to meet the challenge. Where have we heard this premise before? Oh yes. The mythical 100% proficiency rates of No Child Left Behind. We have abandoned one myth simply to embrace another. I think it is time to call an end to this charade.

“Tests do not and cannot accurately measure who is “ready for college and career.” They can only serve to stigmatize, rank, sort, and justify the abandonment of an ever larger number of our students. The Gates Foundation’s Common Core project, in spite of Vicki Phillips’ reassurances, is NOT acting in the interests of our students when it labels large numbers of them as rejects. It is putting millions of them in grave danger. Fortunately, the Common Core tests are encountering serious trouble. The Pearson GED test ought to be rejected as well, and the sooner the better.

“Our public education system has as its noble mission the elevation of all students to their highest potential. This is not defined by their future usefulness to employers. And if corporations find ways to make their billions while employing fewer and fewer of our graduates, that will not be a failure of our educational system, nor of our students themselves. Our economic system ought to be critically examined and re-thought, if, in fact, “all lives have equal value.” As advances in efficiency allow greater productivity, those gains should be shared widely, not hoarded by the .01%. Any testing system that results in massive failure is an assault on our students and should be fought by anyone who cares for their future.”

At a meeting in Los Alamos, Bill Gates said it was easier to find cures for malaria and other diseases than to “fix” American education. Being the richest man in America, people hang on his every word.

Gates again knocks U.S. education. He said that technology should help, but it only benefits motivated students, and the U.S. has lots of unmotivated students. Usually, he blames teachers. Now he blames students.

My favorite line in the article: Gates could not land his private jet at the Los Alamos airport because his plane is too big for the runway.

What Gates needs to know:

1. The terrible effects of poverty on children’s ability to succeed in school. The fact that the U.S. has the highest child poverty rate of all advanced nations. He should read Richard Rothstein’s enlightening book, “Class and Schools,” which summarizes the social science on this issue. Or, if he doesn’t like reading books, he might read this article from the New York Times about counties in Texas where the economy is booming yet 39% of the children live in poverty. He should think about children who miss school because they are sick. Think about children who don’t get routine medical care. Think about children who are not sure there will be dinner on the table. They don’t need more tests. They don’t need schools where their teachers are evaluated by their test scores. They need economic security. If Bill thinks long enough about the lives of these children, maybe he will come up with some big ideas to do something about it.

2. His ideas about fixing education are wrong. He is surrounded by yes men and women who don’t want to break the bad news to him.

In response to a post by Peter Greene (“The Arne Duncan Drinking Game“), this reader describes the National PTA convention in Texas. The National PTA has received $2.5 million from the Gates Foundation, including $500,000 specifically for Common Core. Also, the National PTA provided a screening of the anti-public school “Waiting for Superman” at its annual convention in 2011. Odd.

She writes:

“I was at that PTA convention in Texas and I bit my tongue through his entire speech. I wanted to throw up. I have lost faith in the PTA. While I love what PTA does at a local level for our schools, I am sickened by what I see at the state and National PTA levels. Our voices as members have been sold out to corporate interests, and the top leadership is out of touch with parents today. Most of the top leaders dont even have children in public schools anymore so they think we are overreacting about the excessive testing and problems with common core. The leaders enjoy the power and prestige of their office and won’t listen to parents and teachers.

“Even more alarming, the general meetings at the national PTA convention were sponsored by Discover Card, Microsoft, and Pearson. During the general meetings, attendees were forced to sit through 15 minute commercials about their corporations and hear about their “partnerships” with PTA. The week before the convention, delegates received emails from PTA with advertisements for Pearson, telling us to be sure to stop by Pearson’s booth in the exhibit hall. How much did PTA get to spam our inboxes with marketing? We paid a lot of money to attend that convention, I don’t appreciate my email address being sold like that, especially to Pearson.”

Jesse Hagopian of Garfield High School in Seattle wrote this speech for the protest at the gates of the Gates Foundation a few days ago:

“Comments from Jesse Hagopian For the Gates Foundation Protest:”

Teaching in the shadow of the Gates Foundation is an ominous and treacherous endeavor. Everywhere you turn there is another so-called “expert”, funded by the Gates foundation–with very little, if any classroom experience—who believes that their dollars have given them sense.

Gates believes in the right of the rich to control the schools and even the very idea of what knowledge is. We believe that education and knowledge should be democratic pursuits and that only through collaboration—not market competition—can we fully become complete human beings.

Gates believes the intellectual and social-emotional processes can and should be reduced to a test score. We believe standardized testing can’t begin to quantify the things that matter most in education: imagination, collaboration, civic courage, empathy, and creativity.

The problem for us is that Gates has a few more dollars than we have.

The problem for Gates is that we have a few more friends, co-workers, and students than he has.

The power of solidarity to defeat the powerful was on full display when teachers at Garfield High School—and then teachers around Seattle—refused to administer the Measures of Academic Progress ( or MAP) test. That struggle defeated the MAP test for high schools in Seattle and helped to ignite a movement around the nation, not only against high-stakes testing, but also to redefine the purpose of education beyond the confines of “career and college ready” to talk about education in pursuit of social justice.

I am sorry I cannot be with you in person today as I am in Omaha sharing the lessons of this growing movement and meeting new people who want to join it. I am excited to say that we are currently in the midst of the biggest uprising against high-stakes testing in U.S. history.

And when the last bubble test is thrown into the dumpster; when our libraries and computer labs are liberated from Pearson tests and can again be used again for research, inquiry, and incubators of imagination; When our schools cease to rank and sort our children and instead become centers of empowerment; you all here today will be remembered as having stared down the self appointed Testocracy Tsar, Bill Gates, and having said to him loud and clear: “our schools are not for sale!”
Jesse co

On June 7, Lyndsey Layton of the Washington Post wrote a blockbuster article about how Bill Gates pulled off the Common Core coup, which the headline calls “the swift Common Core revolution.” In a short period of time, less time than it takes a state to write standards in one subject, the U.S. suddenly had “national standards,” written and then adopted by 46 states and the District of Columbia. The secret, revealed in Layton’s article: Gates paid for everything, and the U.S. Department of Education used Race to the Top funding as an incentive for states to adopt CCSS. Layton credits Gates with spending some $200 million for the writing, implementation, and advocacy of CCSS, but others believe that Gates’ investment was $2.3 billion. Whether $200 million or $2.3 billion, Gates bought control of standards, curriculum, and assessment in the vast majority of American public schools. Almost every major national organization and education policy group accepted Gates funding to promote CCSS. The Common Core standards were Gates-led, not state-led.

Layton interviewed many people for the article. Her interview with Gates was attached to the article as a video.

Mercedes Schneider transcribed the interview and posted it here. Schneider is writing a book about the origins of the Common Core.

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