Archives for category: Gates Foundation

Bill and Melinda Gates told Nicholas Kristof that they have poured billions into education reform, but there’s been “no dramatic change.”

Although the Gates’ normally pay attention to results, in the case of education reform they are unfazed by failure.

As Inside Philanthropy reports:

This is significant for a bunch of reasons, not the least of which is that the Gateses still have not tapped the bulk of their personal fortune for philanthropy, as we’ve discussed in the past. While the Gates Foundation lists assets of $43 billion, Forbes pegs Bill Gates’ personal fortune at nearly $80 billion—most of which will likely go to philanthropy eventually.

This is actually a fatuous and unknowing article, as it praises the widespread adoption of the Common Core standards without mentioning how many states have dropped them or dropped the tests aligned with them or how they have become an issue in state and national campaigns. It also states that Gates spent “tens of millions” on the CCSS, when it was long ago reported by the Washington Post that Gates paid about $200 million to underwrite the effort, and some think it may have been ten times that amount. To discuss CCSS without referring to the controversy surrounding the standards is lazy (or star-struck) journalism.

The writer predicts that the Gates will shift their focus to early childhood programs, like the one run by Illinois Governor Rauner’s wife (Ounce of Prevention), and to teacher preparation programs. Again, no mention of the meager results from the Gates Foundation’s efforts to quantify teacher quality.

More testing on the way. If it can’t be measured, it doesn’t count. But don’t expect accountability; accountability is for the little people, as the super-wealthy Leona Helmsley once said about paying taxes.

In recent days, you have read posts about the program in Lawrence, Massachusetts, called NNN (No Nonsense Nurturing), a for-profit program in which coaches sit in the back of the room and tell teachers what to do and say via a wireless earbud. EduShyster wrote the original post. Others did research on google and connected NNN to the Gates Foundation and KIPP. It is a behaviorist approach to classroom discipline.

One reader points out that NNN was tried out first in Memphis.

Some wired-for-sound city school teachers are testing the value of real-time coaching that the NFL has made as common as a Sunday in the park.

Through earbud headphones, the teachers hear cues from experts observing from the back of the room.

“Once a teacher understands what it feels like to be successful, it takes root immediately,” said Monica Jordan, coordinator of teacher professional development in Memphis City Schools.

“The teachers get training first. It’s not like someone walks in and shoves an (earbud) in your ear and starts rattling in your ear,” she said.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is funding the work in Memphis, Tampa and New York, hoping to prove that tailoring professional development raises the needle on test scores….

Teach for America in Memphis sees so much promise it is spending $15,000 to conduct its own earbud research next year.

“Essentially we are looking at a control group that doesn’t get coaching to see to what extent coaching and real-time feedback enhances the process,” said Athena Turner, TFA executive director.

“We want to know, does it speed up the timeline in which a teacher develops?”

The back-and-forth between the coach and teacher is happening through walkie-talkies now. As early as March 2, the coach could be anywhere in the world, coaching with digital video feeds from Memphis classrooms….

“I think this new approach gives you an opportunity to differentiate professional development based on teachers’ own strengths and weaknesses,” said Thomas Kane, a Harvard University researching working with the Gates Foundation.

Kane’s hypothesis is that teachers who can watch themselves work will see places to improve.

“Next year, we would hope to have enough classrooms so we can start to answer that question,” Kane said.

Memphis ordered 11 180-degree cameras at $4,500 each. When parent permission slips are returned, the cameras will be set up in classroom corners.

“We’re asking teachers to watch themselves and reflect,” Jordan said. “What does it feel like to be your own observer? … What would you tell yourself if you had to give yourself feedback?”

The technology is so new that the cameras, which also record audio, are being built as they’re ordered.

“Memphis is right behind Harvard’s order,” Jordan said.

Question: Did Harvard get its order? Is it videotaping professors? Who is being videotaped and given earbud instructions at Harvard?

Next question: Is Lakeside Academy in Seattle, where Bill Gates’ children are students, putting earbuds in their teachers’ ears?

Next question: Four years have passed since the experiment was launched in Memphis: What are the results? Was there an experimental group of teachers with earbuds and a control group without earbuds? What happened to the test scores of their students?

Last question: Was the experiment worthwhile? O should the money have been spent on reducing class sizes and tutors?

Gene V. Glass, emeritus professor at Arizona State University and an associate of the National Education Policy Center, ponders the ubiquity of the “Shoe Button Complex” among leading “reformers” of education.

In this essay, he recalls a story of a man who became the nation’s leading vendor of “shoe buttons” a century ago. He cornered the market on shoe buttons. He knew everything there was to know about shoe buttons, and he became a very rich man. His great success persuaded him that he was an expert on everything. The essay then refers to the “reformers” who think that their fabulous wealth entitles them to opine on how to re-engineer schools. They don’t listen to people who work in schools or people who are researchers and scholars of education, because those people are not fabulously wealthy; in the eyes of those who have cornered the market on shoe buttons or computers, the opinion of mere educators counts for nothing. Educators, in the eyes of “reformers,” are the status quo because they are educators. Better to trust someone who has never taught or studied the subject in depth.

Glass suggests that Bill Gates and his wife Melinda may be prime examples of the Shoe Button Complex. And then there is Arizona, where he finds this scenario:

Jan Brewer, Republican governor of Arizona and famous for issuing a tongue wagging to President Obama, appointed Intel ex-CEO Craig Barrett to chair a council—Ready Arizona–to study and recommend public education reform for the state. It is unclear what Barrett knows about education. One suspects that we are encountering another case of the Shoe Button Complex. Barrett is urging businesses to push school reform. His public utterances strike familiar chords: the future of the entire state rests on the test scores of little kids; more science and math majors will attract businesses to the state; it’s a global economy. After all, the public schools are “suppliers” of labor for businesses. And at Intel, “if a supplier didn’t meet our specifications, we would call the supplier and say, ‘Meet our specifications or we will fire you.’” Apparently, Barrett shares his fellow Republican Mitt Romney’s pleasure in firing people.

Of course, what Barrett is actually and unknowingly talking about is crony capitalism: Linking government and business in relationships that favor the economy. Whether the intellectual, moral, physical, and aesthetic well-being of young people is benefited by their education probably never occurs to Barrett and his ilk. Or perhaps “well-being” to Barrett means having acquired a taste for consumerism and a job to support it. In fact, most industry leaders would like to see specialized training pushed down as early in the curriculum as possible so that high school graduates appear in their HR departments job-ready, trained at public expense. And if training kids for Intel just happens to involve piping a bunch of online courses into Arizona public schools, well so much the better since Barrett also serves on the board of K-12 Inc., the nation’s #1 supplier of cyber-courses. Whether the former CEO of Intel knows everything there is to know about selling microprocessors AND education, or whether this is merely another manifestation of the Shoe Button Complex remains to be seen.

This discussion between MaryEllen Elia, then superintendent of the Hillsborough County school system, and Vicky Phillips, the president of the Gates Foundation in Seattle, took place a year ago. Robert Trigaux, business writer for  the Tampa Bay Times, sat down with the two to check on the progress of the Gates Foundation’s investment of $100 million in the Hillsborough County schools.

 

Trigaux writes:

 

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation may not view our country’s stressed public schools as full of Neanderthal teachers trying to bash knowledge into bored, thick-skulled students. Yet the foundation’s leaders do consider most U.S. schools terribly outdated, technologically deficient and bureaucratic morale-suckers in need of overhaul.

 

That’s why the foundation decided to try to help.

 

Just a quarter of U.S. public high school graduates possess the skills needed to succeed academically in college. That statistic should terrify this country, given the aggressive rise of economic competition and rapidly improving education elsewhere in the world. Left unchecked, we are slipping in the global race to sustain a quality workforce.

 

So, as Brian Williams once memorably said on the NBC program “Education Nation,” “Bill Gates is  paying for this program, and we are using his facts.” (Slight paraphrase.)

 

We know what the Gates Foundation wants: It wants a workforce that is prepared to compete with workers in other nations. Leave aside for the moment whether we are losing jobs because of better-educated competitors or because American workers expect to be paid more than workers in China and Bangladesh; businesses outsource where the costs are lowest. And leave aside as unproven the claim that only a “quarter of U.S. public high school graduates possess the skills needed to succeed academically in college.” Some, like President Obama, say that American workers are the most productive in the world. But leave that aside too. Ask yourself how the United States got to be the most powerful nation in the world if our citizenry is as hapless and poorly educated as Bill Gates assumes.

 

Here is the stated goal of the Gates’ $100 million: “The goal: to improve student achievement by rethinking how best to support and motivate teachers to elevate their game during the adoption of the Common Core curriculum and beyond.” Summarize as: Raise test scores and implement the Common Core.

 

Elia has lasted in her job longer than most superintendents, nine years when the interview was taped in 2014 (ten years when she was fired in 2015):

 

Nine years running the same school system is commendable. Especially in Florida where public schools rarely receive adequate attention or funding. Florida spends roughly half per pupil compared to New York or Connecticut. And Florida teachers remain among the poorest paid in the nation.

 

Let’s repeat that line: Florida teachers remain among the poorest paid in the nation. That includes Hillsborough County.

 

What has the Gates grant done? It has changed the way the district evaluates and compensates teachers (presumably with merit pay for higher test scores, though it is not clear in this interview).

 

And this is a new Gates-funded feature:

 

A cadre of mentors, one for every 15 teachers, has slowed the turnover of young teachers leaving the profession. And Hillsborough is ahead of many districts in making teacher evaluations more meaningful. Principals observe teachers and give more concrete feedback. And teachers get peer reviews, which can be sticky at times but is considered quality input. All of that means Hillsborough has not had to follow the state’s own strict evaluation guidelines. The foundation also wants to sharply improve the role technology plays in the classroom by providing more easily accessible curriculum support to teachers and better ways to keep students engaged in their work.

 

So the strategy is to train and evaluate teachers, to give bonuses to some, but not to mess with the fact that teachers are “among the poorest  paid in the nation.” Not our problem.

 

What are the results so far? Not clear but there is always the future.

 

Bottom line? Both Elia and Phillips admit it has been a struggle at times but seem satisfied with progress that has outpaced other large Florida school districts.

 

The trick is most of what has occurred so far is procedural, putting systems in place to improve teaching and, in turn, future student achievement. Measuring that achievement in a meaningful way has yet to happen. Hillsborough hopes it can deliver improved results soon.

 

Another tough challenge is education’s biggest oxymoron: teacher respect. “One thing we are dismayed about is how we have made teachers feel over the last 15 years,” Phillips said. “We shamed and blamed them. It was unconscionable. We do not want them to feel that way.”

 

Phillips says celebrating good teachers is part of the recovery plan. So is listening to them.

 

The Gates Foundation listening to teachers? Now that is an innovative idea!

 

Apparently the other two districts–Memphis and Pittsburgh–have not made much progress. That seems to be the implication of this exchange:

 

Elia and Phillips insist big strides are still to come in the remaining three years of the partnership. And even when the seven years are up, Phillips says the foundation and Hillsborough will stay in close touch. There will still be much to learn.

 

For the Gates Foundation, it has invested heavily in Hillsborough schools. It certainly is hopeful of a return on those funds, one measured by a successful outcome of better student achievement that it can show off to other U.S. school systems.

 

Similar Gates Foundation grant commitments to school districts in Memphis and Pittsburgh have suffered slower progress, which may make Hillsborough a beacon of best practices.

 

Hillsborough County has two years left to go in its seven-year grant. Superintendent Elia has been fired but landed the prestigious job as state education commissioner in New York. What ideas will she bring with her from Florida?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Buffalo News reports that MaryEllen Elia will be selected by the New York Board of Regents as the next state commissioner of education, replacing the controversial John King. The news was repeated by a Tampa television station.

 

The vote will occur sometime today, according to reports. When the news leaked, parents began bombarding the Regents with emails and tweets. As one said, “It is not over until the fat lady sings.” So, listen.

 

Elia was fired by the Hillsborough Board of Education last February in a 4-3 vote. The business community was upset. But critics complained about micromanagement, a top-down style, lack of transparency, and complaints from parents of students with special needs. One board member who voted to dismiss her “accused Elia of creating a workplace culture of fear and bullying, and failing to pay enough attention to minorities, including Hispanics.” Others, including parents, said that her disciplinary policies had a disparate impact on African American students.

 

Hillsborough County received about $100 million from the Gates Foundation to design and implement a value-added measurement system for evaluating its teachers. Its plan apparently included a promise to fire the 5% lowest performing teachers every year. Florida has a harsh style of accountability, launched by Jeb Bush and carried forward by Governor Rick Scott and the Republican-dominated Legislature and state board of education.

 

Her official biography on the district’s website says that the Florida State Board of Education named her the Dr. Carlo Rodriguez Champion of School Choice in 2008. She is a strong supporter of the Common Core (see the video on this website, where Elia is interviewed about Common Core).

 

So, New York, once a bastion of liberalism, is getting a state commissioner who supports value-added testing and school choice, like John King. This aligns with Governor Cuomo’s agenda of “breaking up the public school monopoly” and using test scores to evaluate teachers.

The biggest news in the state in the past year was the historic success of the Opt Out movement. Last year, 60,000 students refused the state tests. This year, nearly 200,000 did. If MaryEllen Elia is state commissioner, will she raise the stakes on testing? If so, don’t be surprised if 400,000 students refuse the tests next year.

Blogger Louisina Educator writes of the combination of forces fighting for Common Core:

“These heavily promoted standards pushed by an alliance of so called education reformers such as the Gates Foundation, The Broad and Walton Foundations, the Pearson education publishing conglomerate, and the Obama administration are also supported by the Charter School Association, big business interests LABI, CABL, the Baton Rouge Area Chamber of Commerce and two astro turf groups (phony grassroots organizations funded by the big foundations). All of these groups will also be fighting hard to kill HB 21 and 340 that would only modestly curtail the expansion of New Charter schools in Louisiana.

“The dedicated and informed parents and educators who oppose Common Core and PARCC testing are so outgunned by the privatization and Common Core promoters that the battle this week could be compared to confronting an Abrams tank with a BB gun.”

Perhaps you have heard of Educators 4 Excellence, or their shorter name E4E.

The group started in New York City, led by young teachers who did not like the union. They seem to be Teach for America teachers, mostly with a year or two of experience. They have received millions from the Gates Foundation and other corporate reformers.

Now they are spreading to other states, to substitute wherever possible for the traditional teacher organizations as the “voice” of young teachers, those who want merit pay, like high-stakes testing, want to be evaluated by test scores, etc.

Jonathan Pelto tells their story here.

This story in the Hechinger Report has good news about the Common Core PARCC test: teachers assembled by TeachPlus really like it. They think it is appropriate for the grades they teach. They say it is an improvement over their current state tests, even the MCAS in Massachusetts. Some even want the tests made “harder,” for the benefit of their students.

 

TeachPlus was created and is funded by the Gates Foundation, which has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the Common Core. Thus, it is not surprising that TeachPlus would discover that teachers really like the PARCC test and think it is just right.

 

What the article does not mention is that the results of the Common Core tests are reported four-six months after the students take the test (in some states, even later). The student no longer has the same teacher. The teachers are not allowed to see how any student answered particular questions. Thus, they will learn nothing of any diagnostic value from the PARCC or Smarter Balanced Assessment. The results will be used to rate students, rate teachers, and rate schools. Did the teachers who participated in the TeachPlus survey know that?

 

What do you think? Please leave a comment on the article on the website of the Hechinger Report. And here too.

 

 

Mercedes Schneider reviews what is in store for children in Néw Jersey when they take the PARCC test:

“PARCC testing in New Jersey is scheduled to begin March 2, 2015. The NJ PARCC testing “window” will not end in March, but will continue into April, May, and June, depending upon the grade level and whether the test is part of the PBA (performance-based assessment), which is given 75% of the way through a school year, or EOY (end of year), which comes 90% of the way into a school year.

“For third grade, New Jersey schools must schedule 4.75 hours for the English language arts (ELA) PBA and EOY PARCC and 5 hours for the math PBA and EOY PARCC.

“Just shy of 10 hours of schedules testing time for a third grader.

“For fourth and fifth graders it is a full 10 hours.

“For sixth through eighth graders, almost 11 hours.”

Why is it necessary to spend so much time to find out whether children can read and do math?

Some parent groups are urging opting out.

The opt out talk has grown so loud that DC-based Education Trust has sent opinion pieces to Néw Jersey papers urging parents not to opt out. Schneider points out that Education Trust is heavily funded by the Gates Foundation.

New Jersey parents: do not subject your children to 10 hours of testing. Opt out.

Anthony Cody will speak on February 4 at 5:15 pm at the University of Georgia Chapel.

Cody is an experienced educator, a fearless blogger, co-founder of the Network for Public Education, and author of the recently published “The Educator and the Oligarch,” about his public debate with the Gates Foundation.

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