Archives for category: Gates Foundation, Bill Gates

Leonie Haimson can always be counted on to look beneath the surface of the news. In this post, she describes a forum that will be held tomorrow in New York City, where the Center for American Progress will unveil its latest attempt to persuade New Yorkers that standardized tests and the Common Core are swell. CAP is Gates-funded, of course, and so are most of the other participants in the forum. No opt out representatives were invited to participate. So the forum will not learn why 250,000 children did not take the state tests this past spring. And we learn too that New York City will soon have its very own outpost of Education Trust, the Gates-funded advocacy group for standards and testing. If you open the blog, you will get to see a short pro-Common Core video that was ridiculed by many for its condescension towards parents and quickly withdrawn.

The afternoon session of the day’s event features a discussion of technology, and one of the participants comes from a company that contracts with the Department of Education and has been at the center of various scandals.

Leonie writes:

Emerging Trends in Education: City and State moderates a panel of officials, experts and academics on improving tech access in and out of classrooms, STEM learning in NY schools, and how to make NY more competitive across the globe! The session will connect educators, administrators, and other staff to new ideas, best practices, and each other.

The panel includes Josh Wallack of DOE, CM Danny Dromm, chair of the NYC Council Education Committee, a dean from Berkeley College, and two corporate reps, one of them named Vlada Lotkina, Co-founder and CEO of a company called Class Tag, which has a particularly awful privacy policy. The other member of the panel is Cynthia Getz, descried as the NYC Account Team Senior Manager at Custom Computer Specialists.

Custom Computer Specialists is infamous for having participated in a multi-million dollar kick-back scheme with a DOE consultant named Ross Lanham, who was indicted by Preet Bharara in 2011 and sent to jail in 2012. CCS had not only gotten inflated payments through the scheme, but the President, Greg Galdi (who is still the CEO) had started a Long Island real estate company with Lanham called “G & R Scuttlehole.”

In February 2015, I noted in the PEP contract listing that CCS was due to get a huge $1.1 billion contract from DOE for internet wiring Reporters for the Daily News , NYPost and Chalkbeat wrote about this egregious deal, and overnight the DOE cut back the contract to $635 million, without changing any of the terms, showing how egregiously inflated it was in the first place. The Panel for Education Policy rubber-stamped it anyway. Later, City Hall decided to reject the contract, probably because of all the bad publicity, and it was rebid at a savings of between $125M and $627M – the latter compared to the original contract price of $1.1 billion.

I think the cancellation of the CCS contract actually saved the city up to $727 million, because if the DOE had signed up with CCS, they would have lost any chance to get $100 million in E-rate reimbursement funds from the feds, since the FCC had cut NYC off from all E-rate funds because of the Lanham scandal since 2011.

Subsequently, we discovered that DOE signed a consent decree with the FCC on December 31, 2015 in which the city was ordered to pay $3 million in fines, and relinquish claims to all E-rate funding requests between 2011-2013, which were frozen after the Lanham indictment in June 2011. The DOE also had to withdraw claims to any E-rate funding from 2002-2010. Juan Gonzalez speculated that this meant the potential loss of $123 million, based on a letter sent to the DOE by the Comptroller office in 2014.

Melinda Gates, like her husband Bill, believes that the Gates Foundation has the answers for the problems of American education.

She has never taught. She never attended a public school. Neither did Bill. Their children do not attend public schools.

What is the source of their certainty? They are very rich, probably the richest people in the world (Carlos Slim of Mexico might be richer). They are so rich that they think they know what is best for everyone’s children.

Here are some questions that the Gates Foundation should answer:

Does the Lakeside Academy in Seattle use the Gates-funded Common Core standards?

Does it test all students every year with standardized tests?

Does it use either PARCC or SBAC?

Does it evaluate its teachers by the test scores of their students?

Just wondering.

Melinda Gates told the National Conference of State Legislatures that the Gates Foundation has no intention of backing away from their agenda of Common Core, teacher evaluations that include test scores, charter schools, and digital learning.

No matter how controversial, no matter how much public pushback, they are determined to stay the course. For some reason, she thinks that the foundation is a “neutral broker,” when in fact it is an advocate for policies that many teachers and parents reject. She also assumes that the Gates Foundation has “the real facts,” when in fact it has a strong point of view reflecting the will of Bill & Melinda. There was no reference to evidence or research in this account of her position. Her point was that, no matter what the public or teachers may say, no matter how they damage the profession and public education, the multi-billion dollar foundation will not back down from its priorities. The only things that can stop them are informed voters and courts, such as the vote against charter schools in Nashville and the court decision in Washington State declaring that charter schools are not public schools.

The question that will be resolved over the next decade is whether the public will fight for democratic control of public schools or whether the world’s richest man can buy public education.

Melinda Gates said she and her husband, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, learned an important lesson from the fierce pushback against the Common Core State Standards in recent years. Not that they made the wrong bet when they poured hundreds of millions of dollars into supporting the education standards, but that such a massive initiative will not be successful unless teachers and parents believe in it.

“Community buy-in is huge,” Melinda Gates said in an interview here on Wednesday, adding that cultivating such support for big cultural shifts in education takes time. “It means that in some ways, you have to go more slowly.”

That does not mean the foundation has any plans to back off the Common Core or its other priorities, including its long-held belief that improving teacher quality is the key to transforming public education. “I would say stay the course. We’re not even close to finished,” Gates said.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has helped shape the nation’s education policies during the past decade with philanthropic donations that have supported digital learning and charter schools and helped accelerate shifts not only to the new, common academic standards, but to new teacher evaluations that incorporate student test scores.

The Obama administration shared and promoted many of the foundation’s priorities, arguing that they were necessary to push the nation’s schools forward and close yawning achievement gaps. Now that a new federal education law has returned authority over public education to the states, the foundation is following suit, seeking to become involved in the debates about the direction of public schools that are heating up in state capitals across the country.

Speaking here at a meeting of the National Conference of State Legislatures, Melinda Gates told lawmakers on Wednesday that the new federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act, gives them a chance to grapple with whether “we are doing everything in our power to ensure that students are truly graduating ready to go on to meaningful work or to college.”

“I want the foundation to be the neutral broker that’s able to bring up the real data of what is working and what’s not working,” Gates said in an interview afterward.

She went on to say that the foundation would continue to pursue its priorities.

“I think we know what the big elements are in education reform. It’s how do you support the things that you know work and how do you get the whole system aligned behind it,” Gates said. “I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy. There are now 50 states that have to do it, and there isn’t this federal carrot or the stick, the push or pull, to help them along.”

The agenda she described is not one that everyone considers neutral. It includes supporting the Common Core standards and developing lesson-planning materials to help teachers teach to those standards; promoting personalized learning, or digital programs meant to target students’ individual needs; and, above all, improving the quality of teachers in the nation’s classrooms, from boosting teacher preparation to rethinking on-the-job professional development.

Since I posted this without the link yesterday, I am re-posting so readers have the opportunity to read Tom’s post in full.

Tom Ultican, a teacher of high school math and physics in San Diego, accepted an invitation to attend a Gates-funded conference for teachers last week. Having attended the bare-bones Network for Public Education, Ultican immediately spotted the differences in meals, facilities, staff, and other provisions.

He writes:

“On Friday, July 29, National University hosted the San Diego “Better Together California Teacher’s Summit.” I like National University and have nothing but praise for the wonderful job Dr. Judy Mantel and her excellent staff did. However, the conference underwriter was the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation. That gave the proceedings a darker hue.

“During the 2016 NPE conference in Raleigh, North Carolina, Diane Ravitch mentioned how much easier it would be if we got a deep pocket sponsor for our movement, but she jokingly lamented that Anthony Cody would not stand for it. When I arrived at the Town and Country Convention Center in San Diego’s hotel circle, I saw what she meant. They had breakfast prepared for all 700 of us. The ballroom was plushly appointed and there appeared to be hotel staff everywhere. Twenty event staff were already on duty when I arrived.”

“Unfortunately, I had not read the agenda closely enough and had already eaten. I was only hoping for free coffee.”

Actually, I would be very happy to find a non-conformist billionaire or two to help NPE fight for public education and the public interest. Where Anthony and I disagreed publicly was on the wisdom of accepting corporate sponsorship. I would gladly take money from corporations to help us out and sponsor our conference. Anthony would not. Since we operate by consensus, NPE has no corporate sponsors and a tiny budget.

Not so with the conference, Tom Ultican attended. Common Core and testing were mentioned often and positively.

“Better TogetherVideo link connected us with a simultaneous event being held at California State University, Fullerton. Three massive screens projected keynote speaker, Ernie Hudson who was in Fullerton. Besides being a popular actor, Hudson is a wonderful speaker. His speech was moving and entertaining.

“However, I wondered if an accomplished professional educator speaking would have been more appropriate. For example, I will never forget the address Professor Yong Zhao gave at NPE Chicago but then he didn’t blame teachers for his son’s problems and he doesn’t support standards based testing. Hard to imagine Gates’ money being spent on a speaker that does not support Gates’ ideology.

“The Sponsors

“The money came mainly from the Gates Foundation, however, the official sponsors were AICCU, the California State University and the New Teacher Center. The sponsors page of the Better Together California web presence lists many corporate supports including: TFA, The S.D. Bechtel Foundation, the David and Lucille Packard Foundation, the California Charter Schools Association, Chevron….

“The New Teachers Center seemed to be the key organization overall in charge. Their funders page lists the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation as $10,000,000 plus patrons. Thirty listed entities are credited with donating between $1,000,000 and $9,999,999 including: Carnegie Corporation of New York; The Joyce Foundation; The David and Lucile Packard Foundation; SeaChange Capital Partners; The Goldman Sachs Foundation; Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust; National Education Association; and NewSchools Venture Fund.

“In addition to New Teacher’s Foundation, Edcamp was another major force present at the summit. Started by the George Lucas Foundation Edcamp has a small presence in communities across the country. There are two Edcamp groups in San Diego County according to the Edcamp representative from Baltimore.

“On his Edutopia internet page Lucas is quoted, “When I was in high school, I felt like I was in a vacuum, biding time. I was curious, but bored. It was not an atmosphere conducive to learning. Once I had the means to effect change in this arena, it became my passion to do so.” Sounds like another rich guy education “expert” with no training or experience, but he has a boat load of money so his opinion is important.

“On the good side, Edutopia and George Lucas do not appear to have a pecuniary interests in privatizing public education.

“I realize many people may wonder why I am not pleased that all of these rich people love kids so much. There is an insidious side. For example, instead of questioning the idea of adding engineering standards to basic science education, the conversation is shaped so all we discuss is how to best implement engineering principles into science education.

“Before students reach approximately their junior year in college, they are not ready to study engineering. I am for shop class, cooking and pottery projects, but these are not engineering. There is no useful purpose in confusing teachers and students by larding a bunch of inappropriate engineering standers onto seventh graders. Unfortunately, there appears to be no room for dialog that does not support the philosophy of the wealthy CEO that demanded engineering standards.”

You will enjoy Tom’s reflections on this high-powered gathering. I would love to know what the budget was.

Yesterday we learned that billionaires have assembled a fund of $725,000 (so far) to defeat Washington state Supreme Court justice Barbara Madsen. The money is being funneled mostly through a group called “Stand for Children.”

Why are the billionaires eager to oust Judge Madsen? She wrote the 6-3 decision in 2015 that declared that charter schools are not public schools under the Washington state constitution and are not eligible to receive public funding devoted solely to democratically governed public schools. For daring to thwart their insistence on charter schools, the billionaires decided that Judge Madsen had to go.

But what is this group “Stand for Children” that is a willing handmaiden to the whims of billionaires who hate public schools?

Peter Greene explains its origins as a social justice organization some 20 years ago, founded by Jonah Edelman, the son of civil rights icon Marian Wright Edelman and equity advocate Peter Edelman. Josh’s pedigree was impeccable, and Stand for Children started as a new and promising civil rights organization.

But somewhere along the way, SFC took a radical change of course. It began receiving buckets of money from the Gates Foundation and the Walton Foundation. By 2010, Oregon SFC was advocating charters, cybercharters, and a reduction in the capital gains tax. Flush with reformer cash, it became active in many states, opposing unions, supporting charters, removing teacher job security.


The apple has fallen very far from the tree.

SFC endorsed the anti-public school, anti-union propaganda film “Waiting for Superman.”

SFC crowed about pushing legislation in Illinois that would cripple the Chicago Teachers Union. It opened a campaign in Massachusetts to reduce teacher tenure and seniority rules, threatening a referendum unless the unions gave concessions. Jonah Edelman boasted at the Aspen Ideas Festival in 2011 about his role in spending millions, hiring the best lobbyists, and defeating the unions.

Be sure to read the 2011 article by Ken Libby and Adam Sanchez called “For or Against Children? The Problematic History of Stand for Children.” They captured the beginning of the transition of the organization to a full-fledged partner of the billionaire reformers.

Old friends, now disillusioned, call Stand for Children “Stand ON Children.”

Greene lists the members of the current board. All corporate reformers and corporatists, not a single educator.

Greed is the root of a lot of evil. It turns good people bad if they can’t resist its lure.

We now know that the national convention of the NAACP endorsed a strong resolution opposing the expansion of charter schools, saying that they foster segregation, target communities of color, remove community and parent voice, and impose harsh discipline.

But what do civil rights groups think about testing?

Our reader Laura Chapman wrote about this question.

She wrote:

Before ESSA was passed, about 30 members of the 200 member of the “Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights” lobbied Congress and USDE to continue the use of use of disaggregated test scores as if this was the only “objective” way to identify disparities in education. NAACP, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., participated in this effort.

Of course, the charter industry exploits these disaggregated measures to justify their test-centric schools and to promise they can do better than public schools in providing ”high quality seats” in struggling urban districts.

In April of 2016, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights sent a letter to John King requesting that these features of ESSA not be compromised in the guidance letters he might issue to states.

Also in April, the “Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights” published a survey of African American and Latino parents on what they want from schools. The survey promotion had this headline and lead-in:

“Parents: Schools Not Preparing Students of Color for Future.”

The survey was conducted by Anzalone, Liszt, Grove Research “a public opinion research firm specializing in message development and strategic consulting. For nearly 20 years, we have helped clients ranging from President Obama, to EMILY’S List, to Microsoft achieve their goals.”

The Survey promotion continued “From lack of funding to low expectations, a new survey finds that Black and Latino parents don’t trust public schools to help their kids succeed.”

Given this lead-in, I thought the survey might deal with “trust in public schools.” Not so. In fact we do not know much about the survey other than the published methodology does not meet minimal standards for research: For example, we do not know if the parents who participated in the survey by landline or mobile phone had children in public, charter, or parochial schools. We do know that the 400 African American and 400 Latino participants lived in Chicago or in Philadelphia. Perhaps Julian can discern the messaging function of the survey get the full survey not just the survey, and discern why the headlines were framed around “trust in public schools.” Education Majority poll summary.pdf?dl=0

My impression is that this is a push poll created to support a messaging campaign. I note, for example, that the “Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights” received $878,338 in October 2015 from the Gates Foundation ”to make the national education policy conversation more reflective and inclusive of a civil rights framework of equity and access by including more diverse voices and perspectives.” That is Gates-speak for promoting access to charter schools.

The Gates Foundation has a sure-fire method of winning hearts and minds.

Edushyster interviewed Joanne Barkan, one of our most perceptive writers about the farce/hoax called “education reform.”

Barkan has written a series of important articles about the reformers, they of high stature, who want to run the nation’s public schools that they do not patronize. “Got Dough?” is a classic. She quickly understood that the billionaires don’t trust democracy. And that is a theme of her work on education.

In response to one of EduShyster’s questions, Barkan replies:

Some of the wealthiest people in the United States have had an easy go of it. They started with wealth, likely went to private schools, and have no sense of what public education is and why it’s necessary. And, of course, there are also those who started with nothing and made their own fortunes. It seems that by the time they’ve made a lot of money, they’ve lost touch with the role of public education. The vast majority of the super wealthy send their own kids to private schools, which they do for a variety of reasons, including prestige. What’s interesting to me is that there are some states that have written into their constitutions that the primary obligation of state government is public education. When those constitutions were being written in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, government was much more limited. We have a situation today where so many states are under tremendous financial pressure, and the first place they go when they have to cut is public education, as if public education were somehow an extra, as opposed to being a fundamental responsibility.

EduShyster: I was smitten by the subtitle of your article: *Bill Gates, Washington State and the Nuisance of Democracy.* What is it about democracy that plutocrats find so irksome?

Barkan: The plutocrats—people like Bill and Melinda Gates, Michael Bloomberg, John Arnold, or Eli Broad—have very set ideas about what they want to do. It doesn’t matter to them, or perhaps they just don’t understand, that their ideas may not be based on sound research or principles. They know what they want, and they come out of professional experiences where they’ve had complete authority. When they get to public education, they expect to be in control and to make things happen as quickly as if they were still running their companies. But as everyone should know, democracy is slow, and it’s messy, and that turns out to be a great nuisance for plutocrats.

The rest of the interview is fascinating and enlightening.

Mitchell Robinson, professor of music education at Michigan State University, writes here about the frightening new direction that is on the horizon for evaluating student teachers.

Here comes NOTE (National Observational Teaching Examination), created by ETS, in which student teachers are judged by their ability to instruct cartoon characters (“avatars”).

Robinson minces no words in chastising educators who have decided to join forces with the corporatization of teacher education-evaluation.

He writes:

Now, even some of these education experts, tempted by the prospect of previously unimaginable wealth and power, have sold out their profession for a shot at cashing in on the corporate reform gravy train. Witness Dr. Deborah Ball’s stepping down as Dean of the School of Education at the University of Michigan to concentrate on her work on NOTE: National Observational Teaching Examination for ETS, the Educational Testing Service.

As I’ve written about previously here, and here, and others have written about here, NOTE is a high-stakes student teacher evaluation test that requires pre-service teachers to “instruct” avatars–yes, avatars! And if their “teaching” of these cartoon characters isn’t deemed adequate, the student teacher is denied their certification or teaching license, in spite of the fact that the student teacher in question has just completed an accredited, rigorous 4 or 5 year teacher preparation program, regardless of the student teacher’s earned GPA or demonstrated capability to teach real, live children in hundreds of hours of field experiences in local school classrooms, or the intern’s exhibited knowledge, understanding or competence in their subject area.

(And, just to rub a little salt in the wound: the persons who are remotely-operating the avatars are not teachers themselves–they are unemployed actors who have been trained to manipulate the joy sticks and computer simulations that control the avatars’ voices and movements. The designers of the avatar system found that teachers thought too much about their responses to the interns’ teaching “moves”–the actors didn’t concern themselves with matters like content correctness or developmentally-appropriate responses; they just followed the provided script, and efficiently completed the task at hand.)

Schools Matter reported on this alarming new methodology here and here, and clarifies that the new technology-driven program is funded by….(no surprise)…the Gates Foundation, which gave $7 million to “remake teacher education in a corporate high tech image, one that can be turned into deep and fast-running revenue streams by the increasingly rapacious Silicon Valley data miners and dystopian isolationists who view democratic community as a threat to unbridled corporate greed.” It seems that Bill Gates will never abandon his goal of standardizing American education.

Our reader Jack Covey supplied this video.

Do you suppose that future teachers might master teaching cartoon avatars yet lack the skills and knowledge of a well-prepared teacher?

Jon Parker, a teacher in Pittsburgh, warns that the corporate reformers are trying to reverse the results of the school board election that they lost by attacking the board’s choice of a pro-public education superintendent. The reformers (Gates-funded and called “A+ Schools”) are abetted by the pro-privatization Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Reformers don’t like democracy unless they can buy it. The pro-public education board ended the Gates’ experiment with test-based evaluation and canceled a contract with Teach for America. That sort of thing makes reformers really angry. How dare they assert a vision different from the great Bill Gates! How dare they end his experiment in evaluating teachers! How dare they say no to TFA!

Parker outlines the scenario:

Chapter 1: Pittsburgh has a democratically elected school board.

Chapter 2: Pittsburgh’s citizens vote for pro-public education candidates.

Chapter 3: A+ Schools’ (a.k.a. Bill Gates’ employee) candidates lose.

Chapter 4: A+ Schools doesn’t know what it feels like to lose and becomes upset.

Chapter 5: Pittsburgh’s democratically elected school board selects a pro-public schools superintendent without allowing A+ Schools to railroad the process.

Chapter 6: A+ Schools becomes more upset and elicits the support of local media in a witch hunt against the new superintendent.

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.