Archives for category: Gates Foundation, Bill Gates

Bill Gates lectured the Nationally Board Certified Teachers on Friday about the joys of Common Core and why standardization unlocks creativity. Not being a NBCT, I was not there to hear him, but this teacher was there.

She writes:

“As a high school English teacher, one of the first things I taught my 11th grade students was to know their audience when speaking and writing; knowing about the expertise, hopes, fears, vision, etc. of the audience is essential for getting one’s message across and engaging in dialogue that can foster learning and evoke meaningful change.

“As an NBCT who came to the Teaching and Learning Conference to engage in meaningful dialogue to evoke change in the teaching profession, I was insulted to see that Bill Gates did not seem to “know” the expertise represented in the audience.

“I didn’t need to hear a history of, or plug for, Common Core standards. I know them backwards and forwards. The standards are actually pretty good – the demoralizing high-stakes strings attached, and the reason they came to be, not so much.

“I didn’t need to hear more about the miracles of the Khan Academy. I saw the TEACH film during the pre-conference where it was plugged plenty. I get it: technology is a useful teaching tool. Duh.

“I didn’t need to hear more about what a flipped classroom was. That’s called Tuesday in room 741.

“What I *needed* was a flipped-conference in which NBCTs could broadcast *their* expertise out to people like Bill Gates.”

Mercedes Schneider was not at all pleased that Bill Gates lectured teachers about teaching at the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards annual conference. He has never taught but he thinks he knows how to teach. Messing with education is his hobby.

Why was he invited? Schneider thinks he bought the platform by donating millions to the NBPTS.

She takes him to the woodshed and gives him a talking to or a paddling, I am not sure which.

Half a century ago, as the civil rights movement grew in strength and intensity, “school choice” was understood to e a synonym for segregation. Leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., fought for a democratic and equitable public school system. But, oh, how times have changed. Now there are organizations led by African Americans who want vouchers and charters to escape the public schools. No matter that such schools promote segregation. These 21st century leaders want school choice.


Julian Vasquez Heilig explains here how billionaires have co-opted minority groups to join their campaign to fight unions, fight teachers, and demand privatization.

The answer will not surprise you.

“Under the mantra of civil rights, billionaires such as Eli Broad, Bill Gates and the Koch Brothers and the powerful corporate-funded lobby group the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) are using venture philanthropy and the political process to press for school reforms in the United States.

“The ongoing Vergara law case in California in which nine students are suing the state over teacher tenure laws, is backed by Student Matters, a non-profit that has received donations from the Broad Foundation and the Walton Foundation, run by the Walton family that founded supermarket chain Wal-Mart.

“The driver behind the case is a campaign to loosen labour rules in order to make it easier to fire “bad” teachers, under the argument that their presence discriminates against disadvantaged children. Opponents of the case argue that it is a blatant attempt to change the conversation from the realities of California’s divestment in education — the state is 46th in the nation in spending per student in 2010-11, and 50th in the number of students per teacher.

“What these organisations and other others such as the the Koch brothers, Bradley Foundation, Heritage Foundation, Students First and Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education – all supposedly supporters of school reform – have as a common denominator is a vision of a profit-based market approach to education.

“School vouchers are one of the primary education reform policy approaches pressed by the billionaires and the business lobby. Voucher programs, which provide public funding for students to attend private schools, have become more popular in the US in the past several decades.”

He adds:

“….these special interests are supporting vouchers and other neoliberal reforms contrary to the interests of students of colour. In doing so they will shift the US education system to maximise corporate profits, while limiting democratic control of public schools.

“These same billionaire “reformers” have co-opted the equity discourse by offering a carrot to minority groups. This can sometimes be in the form of millions of dollars as in the case of the Black Alliance for Educational Options and Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina. But all this hides the inequity that profit-based approaches to education foment.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo appointed a panel to study the state’s botched implementation of the Common Core standards and tests.

In its report, the panel recommended that the state halt its relationship with inBloom, the data collection project created by the Gates Foundation and Carnegie Cotporation at a cost of $100 million. It would have collected confidential and personally identifiable data about every child and stored it on an electronic cloud created by Rupert Murdoch’s Wireless Generation and managed by, with no certainty that hacking would not happen.

The US Department of Education loosened regulations governing student privacy in 2011 in the FERPA law to make inBloom and other data mining projects possible.

Parents have loudly opposed such invasion of their children’s privacy.

The committee concluded that the issue distracted from the important task of implementing CCSS.

This exclusive news appeared this morning on’s education site. When Randi spoke at the Network for Public Education conference in Austin, she told the audience for the Common Core panel that she would ask the AFT executive board for permission to do exactly what is described here. She understands that many members of the AFT do not trust the Gates Foundation, do not like Bill Gates’ public statements such as encouraging larger class sizes, or his unwavering commitment to measuring teacher quality by student test scores, despite the lack of evidence for its efficacy. I welcome this change and thank Randi and the AFT for severing ties with the Gates Foundation. Gates and Pearson have bought most of American education. Those who represent teachers should be free of their influence.

By Caitlin Emma

With help from Stephanie Simon

EXCLUSIVE: AFT SHUNS GATES FUNDING: The American Federation of Teachers ended a five-year relationship with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation after rank-and-file union members expressed deep distrust of the foundation’s approach to education reform. AFT President Randi Weingarten told Morning Education the union will no longer accept Gates money for its Innovation Fund, which was founded in 2009 and has received up to $1 million a year in Gates grants ever since. The Innovation Fund has sponsored AFT efforts to help teachers implement the Common Core standards – a Gates priority – among other initiatives.

- Weingarten said she didn’t believe Gates funding influenced the Innovation Fund’s direction, but still had to sever the relationship. “I got convinced by the level of distrust I was seeing – not simply on Twitter, but in listening to members and local leaders – that it was important to find a way to replace Gates funding,” she said. Weingarten plans to ask members to vote this summer on a dues hike of 5 cents per month, which she said would raise $500,000 a year for the Innovation Fund.

- The Innovation Fund isn’t the only AFT initiative funded by the Gates Foundation. Since 2010, the union has received more than $10 million. The AFT’s executive council hasn’t formally voted to reject Gates funding for other projects, but Weingarten said she would be very cautious about taking such grants. “I don’t want to say ‘never never ever ever,’” she said, but “this is a matter of making common bond with our members and really listening to the level of distrust they have in the philanthropies and the people on high who are not listening to them.”

- Vicki Phillips, who runs the Gates Foundation’s education division, said her team is “disappointed by Randi’s decision.” She called the AFT “an important thought partner” for the foundation. “We continue to applaud the work of the Innovation Fund grantees to engage teachers in improving teaching and learning in their local communities,” Phillips said.

Peter Greene writes here on why the “reformers” will lose.

The subject of my speech at the NPE conference was “Why We Will Win.” I will post it when I find the link in a few minutes.

Peter notes that no one espouses the “reformer” agenda unless they are paid to do so.

On our side, as we saw at the NPE conference in Austin, everyone is a passionate and knowledgeable volunteer, unpaid and deeply concerned first and foremost about children and the future of our society and the survival of a basic public institution–our public schools.

When I read his post, I was reminded of a brief exchange I had with the reporter from the Wall Street Journal, who stopped by our conference for a few minutes, on her way to SXSW, which enlists every imaginable corporate sponsor, from Pearson to Amplify, to dozens of others.

We talked about the issue of money and profits. She said, to my shock, “There are people on both sides looking to make money.” I waved my hand across the room of education activists and said, Who here is making money? The teachers making $40,000 a year? The parents? Everyone here paid their own way, or we supplemented their expenses. We have no corporate sponsors. We have no union sponsors. Who is making money?” I am still waiting for an answer.

Oh, I did admit that Randi Weingarten gave us money. She joined as an individual member and paid $20.

A friend passed along this email.

What an awesome threesome!

The Boston Consulting Group (whose reports always recommend privatization, as in Philadelphia); the Harvard Business School; and the Gates Foundation.

Lots of bright young men and women, probably graduates of our finest private schools. They will redesign public education for other people’s children. They need some good ideas.

I propose they take a field trip to Finland. There they will see happy, healthy children; no standardized testing; strong academic and vocational-technical programs; and a well-prepared, highly respected teaching profession.

What are the metrics? That will be their challenge!

Time for fresh thinking! Time to break the mold! Abandon the status quo of high-stakes testing and privatization!

Here goes:

“As part of an effort to improve the competitiveness of the United States, BCG has partnered with Harvard Business School and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to bring business and education leaders together to better understand how they can collaborate and transform America’s PK-12 education system.

“The BCG-Gates-HBS PK-12 research focuses on best practices for partnerships between business leaders and educators to accelerate improvement in America’s schools. The research has identified three high-leverage ways in which business leaders can engage with educators to bring about significant change for the better:

* Laying the policy foundations for education innovation
* Scaling up proven innovations that boost student outcomes
* Reinventing the local education ecosystem in cities and regions

“It is our pleasure to share with you two joint research reports on these important topics. We hope the first report, Lasting Impact: A Business Leader’s Playbook for Supporting America’s Schools, will inspire business and education leaders to work together on the urgent task of transforming the nation’s education system. The second report, Partial Credit: How America’s School Superintendents See Business as a Partner, summarizes the findings of a nationwide survey of school superintendents on business’s role in education.

“In 2014, we aim to spur action on many of the ideas that have been captured in the research so far. We welcome your thoughts and input on the material.

Best regards,

J. Puckett
Leader, Global Education Practice Tyce Henry
Nithya Vaduganathan

The Boston Consulting Group”

NEA, the larger of the nation’s two teacher unions, never ceases to surprise.

In December 2011, Dennis Van Roekel co-authored an article in USA Today with Wendy Kopp of Teach for America, expressing their agreement on how to improve the preparation of teachers. Needless to say, the article provoked outrage among some NEA members, especially those who rightly see TFA as a placement agency for inexperienced, ill-trained youngsters who provide staff for a growing number on non-union schools.

Now NEA has announced a new partnership with the Gates-funded Teach Plus, which advocates for the use of student test scores to evaluate teachers. Its model is Colorado’s SB 191, one of the nation’s harshest laws, where student test scores count for 50% of a teacher’s evaluation. Bear in mind that evaluating teachers by the scores of their students has been shown by researchers to be inaccurate and to punish teachers whose classes include the neediest students. See here and here, for example.

Mercedes Schneider here explains why Teach Plus is a strange bedfellow for NEA.

She assumes that the teachers’ union wanted “a seat at the table” by aligning with an organization that is deeply embedded in the corporate reform movement. She warns that the union and experienced teachers will be “at the table,” but they will not have a seat. They will be on the serving platter.

A teacher sent me this letter offering helpful advice to Bill Gates. He hopes that someone will see it on the Internet and pass it along to Bill.

Dear Mr. Gates,

“I don’t know many business leaders who are satisfied with America’s schools. In fact, just about every CEO I know is worried that this country simply isn’t producing enough graduates with the skills they need to compete globally.” – Bill Gates

I find it ironic that you opened your notes with this remark just prior to a story was published about two hundred wealthy and famous Wall Street figures to the Kappa Beta Phi dinner in New York City. It consisted of a group of wealthy and powerful financiers making homophobic jokes, making light of the financial crisis, and bragging about their business conquests at Main Street’s expense. The reporter who witnessed this dinner didn’t mention any CEO’s worried about the plight of the American schools.

As a 7th grade middle school Social Studies teacher in Carmel, NY, I never thought about the need to satisfy business leaders. I focus on teaching students to value American History and to question the choices that have been made in the past. Since the Industrial Revolution, business leaders have been given enormous opportunities in this country and throughout the world. The technology has made American lives remarkably more convenient but certainly at a price to our environment and to economic equality.

As a teacher, I am worried that this country simply isn’t producing enough CEO’s with the moral and ethical skills they need to create a sustainable future. The news is constantly reporting on chemicals being leaked into drinking water or how the CEO of McDonald’s makes $8 million a year compared to his employers making minimum wage and yet nothing gets done to make it better. The Common Core Standards do not address how our future CEO’s will be prepared to make compassionate and ethical decisions that will benefit all of humanity.

The public is skeptical about Common Core because they see the individuals who are backing this privatization of education. The public views the standardized testing and modules being produced by Pearson Corporation as products that Americans are being forced to purchase. These tests will not produce the leaders with the collaborative and innovative skills to solve the problems of the 21st century. The public views Common Core as a marketing scheme designed to make a few CEO’s and the shareholders billions of dollars. Your foundation money has bought off our elected officials and teacher unions but the public outcry remains.

Mr. Gates, I’m sure that you are an excellent CEO and I hope that your heart is in the right place when it comes to your educational endeavors. I am offering you insight into why you are facing backlash about Common Core. K -12 education is a very human and personal experience with complicated interactions that Common Core is trying to standardize and dehumanize.

Our American experience is to be individuals who make our own decisions about our lives and our children’s education. By your remarks you are making it very clear that your priority is only to care about CEO’s and not the American public. It is not a myth that the business CEO’s are primarily concerned about profit and are going to benefit the most from Common Core implementation. It is a fact. In the future, please come clean with the American public and admit to the flaws of Common Core. If you are committed to improving American education, it will require collaboration and an understanding of United States history.

Thank you for your time. I hope that this response from a Social Studies teacher will help you. Please feel free to contact me if you would like my insight on teaching in a public school.


Keith J. Reilly

Mercedes Schneider recently wrote an open letter to Bill Gates. She is angry that he will be the keynote speaker for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. Let’s face it: Bill Gates has never taught and most of what he knows about education is wrong.

Schneider calls on him to explain how teachers can hold him accountable for having the nerve to tell them how to teach.

She writes:

“Your money is philanthropic cocaine to the organizations accepting your dollars.

“Your millions appear to foster a quick addiction in which organizations bend their agendas to suit the stream of your continued millions– to the detriment of their constituents.

“It is time for you to be accountable, Bill. Toward this end, the best I have is to call you out on my free blog.

“In your 2014 NBPTS speech, break new ground by offering a plan for your own accountability regarding your education reform spending.

“Feel free to share your plan with Eli Broad and the Waltons.

“Perhaps you might form a philanthropic support group to help each other withdraw from the bored-billionaire addiction to purchasing democracy.”

Earlier, she participated in a debate in Louisiana about the Common Core standards. Two panelists favored Them. One joined her in opposition. She was the only experienced teacher in the debate. Actually, the only teacher.

Reading the claims, you do get the sense that advocates see CCSS as the very thing that will prepare all students for college and great careers and will lift up the state’s economy too. How they know this to be true is not clear.

Schneider mopped the floor against the advocates.

My favorite lines.

“As for business leader Barry Erwin, the other CCSS supporter on the February 4th panel, CCSS is the solution for filling those 21st-century jobs with qualified Louisiana graduates.

“It certainly sounds good– except that the Louisiana Workforce Commission (LWC) projects that in 2016, the top three available jobs in Louisiana will be cashier, retail sales, and waiter/waitress.

“The first job on the list requiring a bachelors degree for entry level is ranked eleven: elementary school teacher. What irony.”


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