The Educator And The Oligarch: A Teacher Challenges The Gates Foundation by Anthony Cody

Part II: Dialogue With the Gates Foundation

10. How Do We Build the Teaching Profession?

  • Anthony believes that collaboration, peer-to-peer observations, autonomy, time, support, and smaller classes can improve teaching. Teachers need feedback and can get it this way rather than relying on high-stakes tests. Gates feels that teachers get no feedback other than test results. Turnover is a big problem and Teach for America (TFA), which is supported by Gates, makes things worse as most TFA teachers leave the profession in three years. Gates wants to get rid of bad teachers, but bad teachers generally leave the profession one way or another on their own.

11. How Do We Consider Evidence of Learning in Teacher Evaluations?

  • The big question is how do we measure learning? Unfortunately, the current tests are insensitive to learning as they are designed to rank students. This can disguise real learning and turn the school into a zero-sum game. The tests due to their competitive nature also undermine collaboration. Sixty percent of the variation in test scores is due to out-of-school factors and vary by only ten percent due to teachers. There is also a discussion of the harm done by merit pay and the fear caused by using VAM scores that vary wildly from one year to another for the same teachers.

12. Can Schools Defeat Poverty by Ignoring It?

  • Gates believes that every aspect of our educational system should be driven by data. He pushes for higher standards and using test scores to weed out ineffective teachers. Anthony points out that out-of-school factors account for at least three times as much achievement than teacher quality. Poor children are often exposed to a number of stresses that result in PTS, which seems like ADHD when they come to school. This can lead to a stream of disruptions that make it difficult for anyone to learn. They experience a language deficit compared to wealthier students whose parents are usually college-educated. He believes that in addition to funding poor schools equally, we should focus our resources on prenatal support and early childhood education. He also thinks ending the “War of Drugs” would decrease the number of poor parents who are incarcerated.

13. What Is the Purpose of K-12 Education?

  • Although Gates states that it’s up to teachers to design engaging curricula based on the Common Core, the fact is that he is pushing for canned curricula published at a profit by companies like Pearson. Anthony believes that teachers need autonomy so they can be creative as they put together lessons that engage their students. Open-ended projects and interacting with adults in the community are cited as ways to do this. Gates acknowledges the role of outside influences such as poverty yet has done nothing to address it.
  • In addition to transferring knowledge and developing talent, we need to make sure that every child gains full membership in our economic, cultural, and social community. Gates is big on expanding the number of college graduates, which is likely to lower their market value. Unlike other professions, teachers aren’t in charge of their own metrics of success. Studies show that children who play more at kindergarten age enjoy more academic success and are more creative. For this reason, German kindergartens have returned to being play-based.

14. What Happens When Profits Drive Reform?

  • Thanks to the ever-rising targets of NCLB, it’s easy for the reformers to show that public schools have failed. When they hear Anthony talk about the stresses that poverty brings to poor kids, they translate that as him not believing that poor children can learn, something he never said. Education is the second biggest market in the US and many companies want a piece of it for profit. Charter schools have performed no better than public schools even though they draw from a parent base seeking them out with the ability to collaborate. They also avoid students with the most severe disabilities and ELL students. In some cases companies wine and dine politicians who make policy and they even go so far as to write the law and regulations for them.
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