Archives for category: Gates Foundation, Bill Gates

Discounting for the rhetoric and hyperbole, it is worth reading Bill and Melinda Gates’ letter about what they do and why they do it.

They claim that Deborah Meier was one of their primary inspirations for their work in education, but knowing Debby Meier, I doubt that they read her book The Power of Their Ideas or that they understood what she was saying.

Both of us had the chance to attend excellent schools, and we know how many doors that opened for us. We also know that millions of Americans, especially low-income students and students of color, don’t have that same opportunity.

Experts, of course, have a much more rigorous vocabulary to describe this situation. In 2001, I met an educator named Deborah Meier who had a big impact on me. Her book The Power of Their Ideas helped me understand why public schools are not only an important equalizer but the engine of a thriving democracy. A democracy requires equal participation from everyone, she writes. That means when our public schools fail to prepare students to fully participate in public life, they fail our country, too.

I think about that a lot. It really helps drive home the stakes of this work for me.

If you’d asked us 20 years ago, we would have guessed that global health would be our foundation’s riskiest work, and our U.S. education work would be our surest bet. In fact, it has turned out just the opposite.

Deborah Meier believes in democracy. She believes that democracy should be the norm inside schools and outside schools. She does not believe that billionaires should fund a national standardized curriculum and pay to impose it on everyone.

The Gates’ should invest more in global health, where help is desperately needed, and stop imposing standardized curriculum, standardized technology, and and standardized testing on everyone.

They truly  don’t understand Deborah Meier.

Laura Chapman writes:

“EdReports, an independent curriculum review nonprofit, rates curriculum on three gateways: Text Quality, Building Knowledge, and Usability. Amplify CKLA earned a green rating in all three.”

This should not be regarded as a trustworthy endorsement. Here is Why. Recall that the Common Core State (sic) Standards were first marketed as if they were not intended to be about curriculum (but they were), because the owners of the CCSS soon offered up “publisher’s criteria” for curriculum materials (2011). Those criteria morphed into a system for reviewing curricula, based on absolute compliance with the CCSS, including grade-by grade alignments. In 2013, the initial criteria for reviewing curriculum materials for compliance with the CCSS were called “drop dead” (meaning comply with these criteria or do not waste the time of reviewers). A year later, the language was softened to the idea that materials had to meet “gateway” criteria (2014), but with the same meaning,—comply or else the reviewers will not bother to look at anything else.

By 2015, the promoters of the CCSS had set up a non-profit called EdReports.org to function in the capacity of a consumer-reports of newly published math and ELA materials. The purpose was to rate publications that claimed to be in compliance with the CCSS.

EdReports is said to be the result of a meeting at the Annenberg estate of “the nation’s leading minds in math, science, K-12 and higher education.” I have not been able to find a list of participants in that meeting or the sponsors, but in 2014 professionals in branding and communications were hired to promote EdReports. You can see the strategy and their pride in getting coverage in national news, http://www.widmeyer.com/work/edreports-org.htmlincluding from Peter Greene at http://curmudgucation.blogspot.com/search?q=EdReports

In August 2015 the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gave $1,499,988 to EdReports for operating support followed in 2016 with $6,674,956 for operating support. The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation gave EdReports.org $1.5 million in 2015 and $2 million in 2016.

Ed Reports.org is also funded by Broadcom Corporation (Board member from Broadcom is with EdReports), the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Foundation, the Helmsley Charitable Trust, the Overdeck Family Foundation, the Samuel Foundation, the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation, and the Stuart Foundation.

You can find more about the quest for absolute continuity from the writing of the CCSS, largely funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to current efforts to impose “approved curriculum materials” for any state that has adopted the CCSS… https://www.edreports.org/about/index.html

EdReports is a Gates funded review process initially marketed to ensure that “approved” curriculum materials were in compliance with the common core. Any curriculum materials that did not pass muster with three gateway “drop dead criteria” would not be subjected to further review.

Amplify does not want you to know the history of this phony system of rating materials. Bob Shepard has offered another excellent history of this absurdly wrong effort to standardize ELA curriculum.

I see that Margaret Spellings, former Secretary of Education, has found a position at Amplify. She also serves on the board of Gates’ relatively new lobby shop. She is not competent to make judgments about education, but that seems to qualify her to be a crony of the disrupters who will do almost anything to please a billionaire.

Laura Chapman, intrepid researcher, reports on Bill  Gates’ next adventure in education.

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Gates is not finished with meddling in public education. Far from it. In case you missed it, here is the new twist on how he will be spending money.

In June of 2019, Alex Gangitano of The Hill reported “Bill and Melinda Gates launch lobbying shop.” The new Gates Policy initiative will lobby for the same issues as the foundation, including “ US education and outcomes for black, Latino and rural students specifically.”

This will be 501(c)(4) initiative led by the current director of the Gates Foundation, Rob Nabors, who was White House director of legislative affairs for President Obama. According to Nabors, “the group” hopes to avoid giving to political groups, but will focus “almost exclusively on legislative outcomes and the lobbying effort.” According to Nabors, they hope to “accelerate outcomes” without getting too “wrapped up into broader political types of issues.” “They are interested in learning what works and what doesn’t work.” Nabors said the lobby shop will be using data the Gates foundation has collected from programs it has funded.

Organizations designated as 501 (c) (4) are supposed to promote “social welfare” and may directly engage in some political activities. For details on the limits and advantages of the Gates 501(c)(4) tax structure, see https://www.irs.gov/charities-non-profits/other-non-profits/life-cycle-of-a-social-welfare-organization.

Valerie Strauss at the Washington Post noted that Gates has a long history of influencing legislation without having a lobby shop. https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2019/06/19/bill-melinda-gates-have-spent-billions-drive-their-agenda-education-other-issues-now-they-have-created-lobbying-group-push-even-more/#comments-wrapper

And there is ample evidence that Gates has failed with most of his education projects (from small high schools, to the Common Core, to identifying “effective” teachers) with many of these failed ventures the result of placing his foundation staff in the US Department of Education, and vice versa.

Gates has launched a new method of trying to have his way. So far, there is very little news about this lobby shop dubbed the Policy Initiative. Nicholas Tampio, who has a higher education blog, has some ideas about Gates lobby shop, timing of the announcement, and why the initial focus may well be on post-secondary education. Tampio thinks the announcement of the lobby shop (in April) and a very low profile since then makes sense because Gates wants Congress to pass legislation that will do a triage on public university programs. See more of his reasoning at https://www.higheredjobs.com/articles/articleDisplay.cfm?ID=1988

I think Tampio is right about timing and initial focus. Gates has been pushing for legislation that will do a triage on publicly funded postsecondary programs, including four-year and graduate degree programs. He wants to see programs defunded, whither, and die if they produce a poor return on investment for students who complete them (or don’t, or take too long to complete them).

In May 2019, Gates put together a “Postsecondary Value Commission” whose charge is “to define the value of postsecondary education in the US.” This 30-member commission includes Dr. Mark Schneider, Director of the Institute of Education Sciences USDE who was commissioner of the Commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and now has oversight of NCES. All members of the Commission are DC insiders or academics who know perfectly well that they will be tweaking recommendations and data points already in use or easy to get. The Commission’s work will be completed in June 2020. The efforts of the Commission will produce rankings of best economic value degrees and credentials. https://www.postsecondaryvalue.org/members/

This Postsecondary Value Commission is set up to push years of Gates-funded policy work, especially “A Blueprint for Better Information: Recommendations for a Federal Postsecondary Student-Level Data Network (2017). This is a summary of Gates-funded work since 2015, work that included 11 commissioned policy papers justifying specific “metrics” (p. 10) for tracking student’s personally identifiable information (PII).

Data attached to PII are essential for linking progress from high school into postsecondary programs, completion of those programs, and ultimately to calculations of economic returns. Economic returns are tracked through IRS data, financial aid, loans and loan repayment rates, and measures of cost-effectiveness of online programs with “personalized” instruction versus course credits and seat time. http://www.ihep.org/research/publications/blueprint-better-information-recommendations-federal-postsecondary-student

Specifically, the new Gates lobby shop may be able to influence the “College Transparency Act,” (S.800) co-sponsored by Elizabeth Warren and now in committee. Among other provisions, S.800 gives the Commissioner of National Center for Education Statistics extraordinary power to use databases that include student’s personally identifiable information (PII). The Act is rationalized as necessary to address the student loan crisis. It does nothing about that but S.800 does empower the Commissioner of NCES to appoint an “advisory committee” to oversee implementation of the College Transparency Act.

I am confident that Gates would like to help populate that “advisory committee.” Moreover, if S. 800 passes, I am confident he would love to introduce amendments that would permanently allow federal agencies to use PII, cradle to career.

Gates yearns for his free use of PII for linking data on education–conditions, “Interventions,” and outcomes of interventions–from infancy to workplace.

He is a data guy. He thinks data should be the ONLY basis for judgments and policy formation. His ambition is far greater than his wisdom. He thinks he can and must “accelerate” change in education and his other ventures, he hopes to move fast and if he break things, he has already said that he will try something else.

The New York State Board of Regents received a grant of $100,000 from the Gates Foundation to hire a consultant to evaluate its testing illness. The Regents hired Achieve, an organization devoted to standardized testing and it’s proliferation. In addition, Achieve was deeply involved in the development of the Common Core.

After hearing outrage from constituents, the Regents broke ties with Achieve and replaced them with California-based consultant WestEd.

Uber-reformer John White announced that he is resigning as superintendent of Louisiana.

He has sterling disrupter credentials.

Teach for America. Broad Academy. Joel Klein’s inner circle. Briefly leader of New Orleans’ charter district.

Mercedes Schneider has the story here. She thinks the next state superintendent might actually be an experienced educator.

Under White’s leadership, Louisiana dropped to nearly the very bottom of NAEP.

Watch to see which disruption group or leader picks him up next: the Waltons? The City Fund? John Arnold? Charles Koch? Bill Gates? Jeb Bush?

 

 

Hi, Bill and Melinda,

We have never met but I feel that I know you because I am so familiar with your education projects.

I have tried in the past to meet you and have a candid conversation but have never had any luck.

You were always too busy or out of town.

But I am trying again.

I will be in Seattle on February 3-4.

I arrive on the afternoon of the 3rd and am speaking at a public event on February 4 at Town Hall. The wonderful teacher-leader Jesse Hagopian is introducing me.

I have some down time and wondered if we might be able to meet at last.

Are you available to meet in the late afternoon or evening of February 3 or during the day on February 4?

Please let me know if you can make time on your busy schedule.

My partner will be with me.

I hope you can do it!

We have a lot to talk about!

Diane

John Thompson is a historian and a retired teacher, who blogs often, here and on other blogs. He has keen insight into what’s happening in Oklahoma.

He writes:

Since 2015, the Tulsa Public Schools have cut $22 million from its budget, even dipping into its reserve fund to balance the books. Now it must cut another $20 million.

Given the huge support for the TPS by local and national edu-philanthropists, patrons should ask why it faces such a crisis, even after the state has started to restore funding. Despite the assistance of the outcome-driven Billionaires Boys Club, the TPS has lost 5,000 students, especially to the suburbs and online charters. But that raises the question of why Chief for Change Superintendent Deborah Gist and her staff of Broad Academy administrators have produced such awful outcomes.

https://www.gkff.org/what-we-do/parent-engagement-early-education/prek-12-education/

After a series of community meeting, Gist recommended school closures designed to save $2 to 3 million. Gist also seeks $3 million in saving by increasing class sizes. Then, Gist proposed $13 to 14 million in cuts to district office administrators.

It’s great that most of the burden will be carried by the central office. But that raises the question why the district has such a well-funded administration.

Even though the Oklahoma press wouldn’t dare ask what the corporate reform-subsidized administration has accomplished, Tulsans should ask why the district in near the nation’s bottom in student performance from 3rd to 8th grades. Why does it have more emergency certified and inexperienced teachers than other districts after being awarded Gates Foundation “teacher quality” grants?

https://www.tulsaworld.com/news/local/education/tulsa-public-schools-patrons-weigh-in-on-million-budget-cut/article_fecdcb9d-f914-578c-913a-433ecb90d7b7.html

Participants in the recent community engagement process “were most willing to make budget reductions related to student transportation and bell times, teacher leadership opportunities, building utilization and district office services.” Perhaps as a repudiation of the Gates Foundation’s experiment, cutting teacher coaches was the recommendation that received the most votes. Tulsans were most protective of teacher pay, class sizes, and social-emotional learning and behavioral supports.

The fear is that closures and increased class sizes will result in more patrons leaving the district. Community participants also expressed concerns that closures will lead to more charter schools. The Tulsa World’s report on community meetings noted the worries of a parent, Wanda Coggburn:

Many shared Coggburn’s suspicion of a charter school taking over Jones or the other targeted elementary school buildings. But Gist said the needs of the six TPS-sponsored charter schools did not factor into the recommendation to close the schools.

The World also reported the fears of parents with disabilities. The parents of a child who has cerebral palsy and a developmental delay that causes behavioral issues say he was moved from a special education to a general education class against their wishes, and “they worry that adding more students would hinder his progress even further.”

Betty Casey of TulsaKids also describes the protests of parents whose deaf children attend Wright Elementary, which the superintendent wants to close. She talked with a mom who said of Wright:

She fears that it will be given to Collegiate Hall Academy, a charter school which currently shares space with Marshall Elementary. She wants her child to continue at Wright, not a charter school. She pointed out that Marshall has two gyms and a swimming pool currently not being used that could be put to use by public school students. Why not close College Bound Academy and put those students in Wright and Marshall? Closing a small charter school without a building would be much less disruptive.

https://www.tulsaworld.com/news/local/education/tulsa-s-jones-elementary-school-was-closed-once-before-and/article_2a08579f-2236-5bb8-b2a5-feb9db156682.html
https://www.tulsakids.com/where-does-tps-find-20-million/

Why would patrons have such fears? Maybe it’s because Gist responded to a question about a closed building saying “she’s confident the growing TPS-sponsored charter schools are interested in the potential space and are closely watching this process.”

I previously said that the traditional press hasn’t dared to investigate the results of corporate reform in Tulsa. However, Ms. Casey’s TulsaKids is a parents’ magazine that asks the questions that journalists have ducked. She recently wrote:

Why is it that when public schools are starved, and resources are stretched to the breaking point, that TPS is supporting a parallel school system of charters that drain more resources from the public schools? … The savings in closing schools is a drop in the bucket, but once the school is closed, it’s very difficult to go backward. Didn’t the superintendent say she was going to try to draw families back to TPS? Where will those returning families put their children? If Wright becomes a College Bound Charter, the families who wish to remain at a neighborhood school will have only one “choice” of a charter school.

Casey further explains:

I’m glad that Superintendent Gist has vowed to interview all the families leaving TPS. But, it seems a little late to wonder why people are leaving as they walk out the door. Why not work to create public schools that families love right now? …

Maybe it’s time to look at the “reforms” being implemented by the superintendent, and prior to that, Dr. Ballard’s acceptance of Gate’s Foundation money (MAP testing), and admit that those changes aren’t working for our kids, and families are leaving as a result.

https://www.tulsakids.com/where-does-tps-find-20-million/

Among rightwing think tanks, none has more intellectual firepower than the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, due to its leading thinker Chester E. Finn Jr., who has an Ed.D. from Harvard Graduate School of Education and worked in the administrations of Reagan and Nixon, as well as working for Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Lamar Alexander.

The Institute, formerly a foundation, is based in Washington, D.C., where it has a large voice in Republican politics, but its actual (if not physical) home is Ohio, because the money came from a Mr. Thomas B. Fordham, who lived in Ohio.

TBF is very influential in Ohio, where it recently wrote the state’s academic standards. TBF has been a loud cheerleader for the Common Core standards, having received millions from the Gates Foundation both to evaluate them and advocate for them.

Fordham looms large as an advocate for charters, vouchers, high-stakes testing, and punitive policies towards teachers and principals. I was an original member of the TBF board, when it was launched, and resigned in 2009, when I realized that my views were no longer aligned with those of TBF. One of the projects I disliked intensely was a “manifesto” funded by Eli Broad, which argued that one did not need to be an educator to be a school principal. I disagreed. I also disagreed with the TBF decision to accept Gates’ funding, since it would hamstring TBF’s role as an independent think tank and put it in the debt of Gates. It was also unnecessary, since TBF had $40 million in the assets at the time. Since I left TBF, it has accepted many, many millions from Gates, Broad, Walton and other external funders.

Who was Thomas B. Fordham? How did his fortune become the founder of a rightwing think tank?

Mercedes Schneider here reviews an analysis of the origins of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, based on a paper by Richard Phelps. 

As I have often stated, I was an original member of the board of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation. I objected to two major policy positions: one, the decision to become an authorizer of charter schools in Ohio, which I believed was not the role of an independent think tank. I lost that vote. As I recall, almost every one of the charters authorized by TBF either closed or failed or both. I also objected to accepting money from the Gates Foundation, as it would impair our independence and make it impossible to criticize Gates when it was wrong. And TBF didn’t need the money, it had assets of $40 million. I lost that vote too. I left the board in 2009, since I no longer supported either choice or the TBF vision of accountability. I later heard that “my seat” (the girl) was awarded to the CEO of a Gulen charter chain in Los Angeles. So there.

Every blogger who has written about MSNBC’s Public Education Forum expressed gratitude that a big cable network paid attention to our most important democratic institution.

Nancy Bailey is angry about the issues that were ignored, the ones that threaten the future of students, teachers, and public education.

She is also streamed that the program was not on live TV. Public education not important enough for live TV? 50 million children are in public schools. They have parents. Quite an audience to overlook.

Good work, Nancy!

She writes (in part, read it all):

Candidates talked about making the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes to help schools, but no one mentioned Bill Gates, the Waltons, Eli Broad, Mark Zuckerberg or any of the corporate reformers who are taking control of public schools.

They didn’t mention Common Core or the failure of the initiatives funded by the Gates Foundation and taxpayers. Nor did they speak about portfolio schools, the latest corporate endeavor to push choice and charters.

No one mentioned using Social Impact Bonds or Pay for Success to profit off of public schools. See: “Wall Street’s new way of making money from public education — and why it’s a problem” by Valerie Strauss.

CEO Tom Steyer mentioned corporate influence towards the end, but it was brief, and no moderator attempted to explore what he said.

Ed-Tech

No one mentioned what might be the biggest threat to public education, the replacement of teachers and brick-and-mortar schools with technology.

Disruption was initially described by Clayton Christensen and Michael Horn in their book Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns. This is seen as the revolution by those in business and the tech industry and is being played out in online charter schools like Summit and Rocketship. Summit also has an online virtual school.

Many students across the country get school vouchers to be used for substandard online instruction like K12 and Connections Academy.Preschoolers are subjected to unproven Waterford UPSTART.

The candidates might want to review Tultican’s “Ed Tech About Profits NOT Education.”

Wrench in the Gears is another blog good at describing the threat of technology.

Teach for America

Teach for America corps members with little training have taken over classrooms, and they run state departments of education!

Do Democratic candidates have Teach for America corps members as consultants on their campaigns? It’s troubling if they do. They should not be wooing teachers with professional degrees and experience while relying on TFA behind the scenes.

Other insidious reform groups are also about replacing education professionals. Relay Graduate School, The New Teacher Project, New Leaders are a few.

This needs to be addressed, sooner, not later.

Betsy DeVos et al.

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t enjoy hearing Democratic candidates say they’re going to boot Education Secretary Betsy DeVos out.

But President Obama had individuals from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and other corporate reform groups, working in the U.S. Department of Education. Arne Duncan was no friend to teachers or public schools.

So, while applause against DeVos are justifiable, now’s the time to address the role Democrats have played (and continue to play) in corporate school reform.

The fact is, many groups and individuals are working to end public education, who wear Democratic name tags. It’s imperative that Democratic candidates address this.

 

Mercedes Schneider reviews the Gates Foundation’s long and costly list of failed interventions into K-12 schools and points out, quoting the words of the Foundation, that it has never admitted any failure and never apologized.

Gates paid for the interventions but the real cost was borne by teachers and public schools.

He tried breaking up big schools into small schools, convinced as he was that big schools are ineffective, but when the small schools didn’t produce higher test scores, he abandoned that idea.

He prodded Arne Duncan to include the untested of evaluating teachers by the test scores of their students, and he launched his own experiments in seven districts and charter chains. That too was a flop.

He poured uncounted millions into boosting the charter industry, despite the fact that charters do not get different results from public schools when they enroll the same students.

He spent millions promoting a charter law in his home state of Washington, which passed on the fourth state referendum only after he overwhelmed the opposition by spending 16 times as much as they did; the charters he fought so hard for have struggled to get enough enrollment to stay open (four of the original dozen have already folded), and a CREDO evaluation concluded that they don’t get different results than public schools in the state.

Gates provided almost all the funding necessary for the Common Core State Standards, which required districts and states to spend billions of dollars on new tests, new textbooks, new software, new teacher training, new everything.

When the backlash grew against the Common Core, Gates simply didn’t understand it, since he compares education to an electric plug with standard current into which all possible appliances can be plugged in and get power.

This year, the Gates Foundation awarded 476 grants, but only seven went to K-12, mostly to promote charter schools, a passion he shares with the rightwing Walton Foundation and Betsy DeVos and her foundations.

Read the Gates Foundation’s statement that Mercedes includes in her post. You will see that the foundation acknowledges no failures, no errors, no miscalculations. It doesn’t even own its almost total responsibility for CC, nor for its disastrous reception by teachers and the public.

The legacy of Bill Gates: Teachers and principals who were fired based on a phony measure of their “effectiveness.” Schools in black and brown communities closed because of their test scores. A demoralization of teachers, and a dramatic decline in the number of people entering the profession. A national teacher shortage. The elevation of standardized testing as both the means and the ends of all education (tests that were never used in the schools he and his own children attended).

Here are a few things that Bill Gates NEVER funded or fought for: class size reduction; higher salaries for teachers; a nurse and social worker and librarian in every school; higher taxes to support public schools.

Mercedes concludes:

It may be too much to expect Bill Gates to completely exit K12 education. After all, we have been his hobby for years.

But the fewer Gates dollars, the smaller the petri dish.

Unfortunately the lingering effects of his failed experiments continue to ruin schools, such as the value-added measurement of teachers by test scores, still written into law in many states; the Common Core persists, often under a different name to disguise it; and of course charter schools continue to drain students and resources from underfunded public schools.