Archives for category: Gates Foundation, Bill Gates

Valerie Strauss reviews the flap-flap over Bill Gates’ conclusion that poor people should raise chickens. She wonders what teachers would say to Gates if they had the chance, having suffered through his disastrous education theories and experiments for nearly 15 years.

The best line in her post is this one:

Some critics said the program was a publicity stunt and wouldn’t solve the underlying problems of poverty in Africa. “Our father, Who art Uncle Bill, Hallowed be thy whims …” Nigerian satirist and author Elnathan John wrote on Twitter.

Gene V. Glass, distinguished education researcher, gives Bill Gates a short lesson about chickens and generational poverty.

Bill Gates recently advised poor people to raise chickens to improve their lives.

He had Africa in mind, but he also offered chickens to Bolivia.

The Bolivian government was offended by Gates’ offer. Bolivia raises millions of chickens and exports them to the world.

“How can he think we are living 500 years ago, in the middle of the jungle not knowing how to produce?” Bolivian Development Minister Cesar Cocarico told journalists. “Respectfully, he should stop talking about Bolivia.”

Wouldn’t it be great if public schools and superintendents could respond like that to Bill Gates? Something like this: “We are professional educators and we know what we are doing. Please don’t offer money to try out your experiments on our children. Please take your advice and your money elsewhere.”

Yesterday our friendly reader Raj reacted with outrage to the post about Bill Gates telling poor people around the world to improve their lot in life by raising chickens. Raj said the source was a disreputable British rag, and I should be ashamed for referring to such “sensational” claims.


To satisfy Raj’s curiosity (and my own), I did a wee bit of Internet research, and in four seconds, I found the original source of the story: it was an article written by Bill Gates.


The guy with $70 billion says if he were poor, he would raise chickens.


Now don’t get get me wrong. Raising chickens is a swell thing to do, and I donate to the Heifer Fund to help buy animals for people in poverty. Of course, I can’t raise chickens myself because I live in an apartment building, and it is probably against the house rules to raise chickens in an apartment. Also, I am not poor, so he wasn’t talking to me.


Bill Gates is different from me. He has about $70 billion. World leaders listen to him. I would expect him to have more fully developed ideas about how to reduce poverty. There is a big difference between abject poverty and subsistence. Maybe raising chickens would help large numbers of people live at a subsistence level.


But with Gates’ billions and his huge staff, I expected deep thinking about the structural nature of poverty. Not chickens.



Bill Gates knows everything. He even knows how poor people can raise themselves out of poverty. With all his billions, he has become an expert on everything there is to know.

He advises poor people everywhere to keep chickens if they want a better life.

That’s better than VAMming their teachers.

Poor Bill Gates. He doesn’t have anyone near him or on his payroll to tell him when to be quiet.

2010 was the high watermark of the corporate reform movement.

In spring 2010, the entire staff at Central Falls, Rhode Island, was fired because of low test scores, which created a national sensation. Arne Duncan and President Obama hailed the courage of Deborah Gist, the state superintendent, and Frances Gallo, the city superintendent, who ordered and confirmed the strategy. Duncan said the firings showed that the administrators were “doing the right things for kids.”

Thus began the reformers’ war against teachers.

In September 2010, “Waiting for Superman,” debuted with a multimillion dollar campaign to promote it: the cover of TIME, appearances by the “stars” on Oprah (Michelle Rhee, Geoffrey Canada, Bill Gates, etc.), and NBC’s Education Nation, focused on promoting the film and its advocacy for charters. “Superman” was a hit job on unions, teachers, and public schools. Its data were skewed, and some of its scenes were staged. It was denied an Academy Award. But Bill Gates put up at least $2 million for public relations.

Thus launched the reformers’ fraudulent fight for privatization as a “civil rights” issue.

Into this fray came the Los Angeles Times, with its own evaluation of thousands of teachers in Los Angeles, created by an economist who employed the methods approved by the Gates Foundation. Teachers were rated on a scale from least effective to most effective. One of those teachers, a dedicated fifth grade teacher named Rigoberto Ruelas, jumped off a bridge and committed suicide after he was publicly labeled as one of the least effective teachers in math and average in reading. Who knew that becoming a teacher would be a hazardous profession?

Anthony Cody delves into the journalistic responsibility of the Los Angeles Times in this important post. The LA Times hired an economist who created VAM ratings and used test scores to rank teachers. Its reporters, Jason Felch and Jason Song, warned against using test scores as the only measure to rank teachers, then proceeded to use test scores as the only measure to rank teachers. The two Jasons, as they were known, hoped to win a Pulitzer Prize. They didn’t. They did come in second in the Education Writers Association choice of the best reporting of the year. Felch was subsequently fired for an ethical breach that involved inappropriate relations with a source.

Cody is concerned about the ethics of journalists who cloak their advocacy and partisanship behind the charade of journalistic independence.

Now, it turns out that the Hechinger Institute at Teachers College, Columbia University, funded the LA Times’ rating scheme. And who do you think funded the Hechinger Report: the Gates Foundation.

We know more about VAM now. We know that it has been rejected by numerous scholars and scholarly associations as invalid, unstable, and unreliable.

Who killed Rigoberto Ruelas?

In her annual report, the CEO of the Gates Foundation admitted that mistakes had been made in the implementation of the Common Core. ” She promised to “double down” in the future and to listen to teachers. 
Laura Chapman describes how the Gates Foundation is listening to teachers: 

“The Gates Foundation offers up a lot of sweet talk about listening to teachers.
“The “listening” pitch is an excuse to get teachers’ emails. These provide teachers who cooperate in this deception with edited and hyped feedback designed to ensure any voices heard will be Gates-compliant. 
“Here is the link to one of the most recent “invitations.” It is one of many others that creates the illusion that “nobody knows teaching more than teachers.” 
“There are other initiatives to extract information from teachers and tell them what they should do and think. 
“In December 2015, the Gates Foundation solicited application for new positions. One was “an opportunity for a multi-talented strategist and communicator who will be responsible for managing and developing programming, partnerships and campaigns to support Teacher2Teacher including face-to-face experiences, integration of social media channels and other digital platforms, identification and management of key partnerships, and ongoing analysis to ensure that all efforts are meeting the needs of teachers. This Program Officer should be a team player, an experienced project manager, and have significant experience managing and integrating cross-channel campaigns and partnerships. Experience working across multiple teams in complex environments is preferable, as is demonstrated commitment to education and the values of the Foundation. This individual will work closely with the Teacher to Teacher working group, which spans different teams at the Foundation, and will provide the expertise and creativity to fuel community growth and engagement.”
“At about the same time, the Gates Foundation had a job opening for “program manager” of Teacher2Teacher. Teacher2Teacher was described as a portfolio of “Teacher2Teacher managed platforms.“ “The aim is to “grow” the portfolio through an annual marketing campaign to increase the engagement and connections among traditional and nontraditional “partners” and participants in Teacher2Teacher managed platforms. The manager will negotiate then oversee all contracts, communications, budgeting, and reporting. This position also requires monitoring the efficiency and effectiveness of all aspects of the program, internal and external. It includes a duty to work with Foundation staff on expanding the portfolio based on research and evaluation of marketing trends and other strategies to ensure the program is ‘cutting edge,’ especially in social media and digital activity.”
“The Foundation spawns initiatives and markets these as if the interests of teachers are a major concern. No so, by a long shot. The Gates Foundation pretends to listen while building a cadre of teachers who will comply with the Gates Foundation efforts to remove all remnants of independent professional thinking among teachers. 
“Gates-loyal teachers are being cultivated in ways that distract attention from the longstanding role of teacher renewal, education, and advocacy offered by professional associations of teachers in specific subjects (e.g., National Council of Teachers of English) or grade levels (e.g., The National Association for the Education of Young Children).
“Here is an example of the Gates strategy of endless mission-creep.”

Reactions to the mea culpa of Sue Desmond-Hellman, the CEO of the Gates Foundation, continue to roll in. Sue D-H admitted that “mistakes had been made” in the education arena and promised to listen to teachers. Many who have read the memo think that the foundation still doesn’t understand why its promotion of test-based teacher evaluation is failing or why the Common Core is meeting so much resistance.

Susan Ochshorn hopes that the Gates Foundation will listen to early childhood education professionals.

At the bottom of the totem pole of influence are early childhood teachers. None of these stewards of America’s human capital weighed in on the design of the Common Core standards. They were back-mapped, reaching new heights of absurdity, including history, economic concepts, and civics and government as foundations for two-year-olds’ emergent knowledge.

Most importantly, the standards make a mockery of early childhood’s robust evidence base. Young children learn through exploration, inquiry, hypothesis, and collaboration. Play, the primary engine of human development, has vanished from kindergarten and first-grade classrooms, replaced by worksheets, didactic learning, and increasingly narrow curricula, in keeping with standards’ focus on literacy and math. Policymakers are talking about bringing rigor and the Common Core down to four-year-olds.

If all lives have equal value, the core belief of the Gates Foundation, then our most vulnerable kids must have access to the kind of education enjoyed by those with greater resources: teaching and learning that nurtures creativity and innovation, attuned to the whole child. Too often, they’re subject to rote, passive, and joyless assimilation of knowledge. Collateral damage of your initiative—all in the name of higher test scores.

What if the Gates Foundation undertook a course correction, and put education back in the wheelhouse of educators?

Ochshorn points out that poverty is an enormous barrier to school participation and engagement. She briefly reviews the research base that establishes the harmful effects of poverty (an idea that Gates has derided in the past).

It’s hard, indeed, to be deeply engaged when you’re hungry or homeless—or traumatized by the growing number of adverse childhood experiences that plague our little ones. (As an oncologist, you have a deep understanding of physiological damage.) Moreover, it’s challenging for educators to do their job, no matter how well they’re prepared. The schools in communities of concentrated poverty are segregated institutions starved of investment, places fit for neither children nor teachers.

The results of a recent survey of teachers of the year, conducted by the Council of Chief State School Officers, are illuminating. When asked about the barriers that most affect their students’ academic success, family stress, poverty, and learning and psychological problems topped the list. Anti-poverty initiatives, early learning, and reducing barriers to learning were the teachers’ top picks for investment.

The Gates Foundation has done remarkable work across the globe. How about taking some of your formidable resources and bringing them on home to America’s children and communities?

Here are letters to the editor printed in the Los Angeles Times in reaction to its editorial criticizing the Gates Foundation and other wealthy philanthropists for trying to control the nation’s education agenda.

The theme of the letters is: why don’t people listen to teachers? If Gates had, he would have spent his $3 billion wisely and well. But instead, he squandered it on his own faulty ideas.

As readers know, the Los Angeles a Times published a scathing indictment of Bill Gates and his ill-fated forays into education policymaking. The Times noted Gates’ serial failures, one of which was his naive belief that teachers should be evaluated by the test scores of their students. This idea appealed to his technocratic, data-driven mindset.

Some cheered the Times’ about-face, but Anthony Cody did not. He argues that Los Angeles Times was complicit in some of Gates’ worst ideas, despite the absence of evidence for their likely success. It gave full-throated support to John Deasey when he ran the city’s public schools with a heavy hand and spent profligately on ed technology. While wiser heads were skeptical about Gates’plan to evaluate teachers by test scores, the Times decided to create its own test-based rating system and published the results.

Cody calls for accountability. The line between advocacy and reporting is thin, and he believes the Times’ reporters crossed it. They should have investigated the Gates’ theory, but instead they acted on it, assuming its validity.

Cody writes:

“I have a question related to journalistic integrity. How can the LA Times chastise the Gates Foundation – and their disciple John Deasy, without acknowledging their own embrace of Gatesian reforms? The LA Times did not just report on the issue – they created their very own VAM system, and criticized Los Angeles Unified for not using such a system to weed out “bad teachers” and reward those identified as “effective.” They were active advocates, instrumental in the war on teachers that has been so devastating to morale over the past decade.”


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