Laura Chapman, retired teacher of the arts and curriculum designer, vastly enriches this blog with her research and insights. In this commentary, she reacts to a post written by Peter Greene about the corporate reformers’ efforts to colonize teacher education.

Chapman writes:

“Patrick Riccards, author of the article that Peter demolishes, is the chief communications and strategy officer for the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. The Foundation might be called an operating arm of the Gates Foundation, having received over $13 million to promote “competency based” programs for higher education. The president of the WWNFF is Arthur Levine who earns about $475, 500. The WWNFF pays the Podesta Group in DC to help it get government grants. Patrick Riccards is a new hire, but an old hand in promoting other people’s ideas.

“So, who provided the talking points for this promotional piece? My guess is that these came from any number of sources, including but not limited to Bellwether.

“Peter’s comments are fairly glib, funny, but they fail to recognize that four Gates-funded teacher preparation “transformation centers” are set to “scale-up” district-based teacher education programs, with marginal connections to higher education. One “center “is Relay Graduate School of Education, with Doug Lemov views of teaching. These transformation centers are based on the idea that master/mentor teachers are hard to find, especially in low-income urban schools. And these centers are counting on replacing a large number of teachers who are reaching the golden years and finding other reasons to leave teaching.

“The reasoning in the Gates Foundation (and other foundations) is that teacher prep programs should focus on developing a “pipeline” of teachers, especially for “high needs districts and high need subjects.”


Therefore teacher prep should begin with recruiting people only after they have a bachelor’s degree in a content area (or life experience credentials). These recruits should have at least a 3 point GPA (or comparable), then enter a two–year induction period completing courses and passing “competency” tests while teaching under the guidance of a certified master teacher. During those two years, teaching responsibilities are gradually added. Some induction programs are residency programs with stipends paid to student teachers for increased responsibilities. Program completers earn a master’s degree, some with subtitles as in Masters Degree in Urban Education. They are on their own to meet state certification requirements.

“Some of the new competency tests are being adapted from medical training where avatars are presented and the physician-in-training is expected to “perform” a series of fairly standard assessments of the patient, analyze the data, make a preliminary diagnosis, and offer a plan for treatment.

“One version in education is a virtual classroom with student-avatars. You can see one example here, Mursion is one of the leading companies, founded by CEO Mark Atkinson, who previously was the founding CEO of Teachscape. Teachscape markets Danielson’s (infamous) Framework for Teaching, student surveys, and more.
“In the next three years 70 teacher preparation “providers” in Massachusetts will be transformed, aided by $3,928,656 from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (not counting a separate separate grant in October 2015, for $ 300,000 “to launch, execute, and utilize implementation data collection at the state-level.”)

“Gates funds will support “data-driven analysis and continuous improvement,” provide “robust and direct support for new Candidate Assessment of Performance (CAP) process with nine reporting forms,” build “additional Edwin Analytics Reports,” develop “regulations for the Pre-Practicum experience,” embed “mixed-reality simulations in coursework” and coordinate “regional induction institutes.” That is an overview. Here are some details.

“The Elevate Preparation: Impact Children (EPIC) program will:



“1. Set rigorous expectations for pre-practicum studies.

“2. Require candidates to practice high-value skills by using a technology embedded in course work. Candidates practice these skills in a low-risk virtual environment simulating a classroom, but with programmed interactions among five or six “students” (animated avatars) and the candidates.

“3. Standardize expectations and tests for teacher performance.

“4. Certify the ability of supervisors of field-based experiences to offer high-quality feedback to student teachers.

“5. Refine data gathering for annual reports on each teacher preparation program including surveys of: candidates, program graduates one year after employment, supervisors of teachers, and hiring principals in addition to other state-managed outcome measures (e.g., educator evaluations, employment histories, student achievement).

“6. Create a coordinated system to ensure: (a) that teachers are prepared for the anticipated labor market in the district where they do student teaching and (b) that candidates in the “pipeline” meet diversity requirements “for human capital in the PK-12 sector.”

“We are working toward an ambitious goal that by 2022, candidates prepared in Massachusetts will enter classrooms and demonstrate results on par with peers in their third year of teaching.”
“I would not want to be a “provider” of teacher preparation in Massachusetts. Student teachers who are on the threshold of taking a job will be evaluated for “fitness to teach” using the same criteria that Massachusetts uses for experienced teachers.

“The new phrase for talking about the education of teachers is make them “classroom ready.” Everything else is superfluous and can be dropped. Scholarly knowledge and critical thinking about the work of teachers is unnecessary. This is also called “elevating” the profession.

“Here is my take: The new view is that every teacher is a technician dealing with conventional content and conventional problems. The “new teacher education” is being tailored for robots and for avatar teachers, cheap after initial funding from USDE and philanthropies.”