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

Part IV: Accountability for Bill Gates

22. Bill Gates and the Cult of Measurement: Efficiency Without Excellence

  • If the focus on measurement using test scores and conformity in delivering lessons was good, why doesn’t it happen at the schools people like Gates send their kids too? These schools have smaller classes where relationships are the central focus. They foster curiosity and allow the students to pursue their passions. The cult of measurement seems best suited to preserve poverty for the students exposed to it.

23. Bill Gates: Why Not Measure This?

  • Gates believes that the act of measuring things and setting goals around them has tremendous power. Why then isn’t he interested in measuring the host of environmental factors such as unwanted pregnancies, access to preschool, the concentration of underprivileged students, the availability of prenatal care, and access to the Internet at home? Attacking these issues would do more than using test scores to evaluate teachers.

24. Bill Gates Dances Around the Teacher Evaluation Disaster He Sponsored.

  • When the Obama administration allowed states to apply for waivers to NCLB most jumped through the hoops that were placed before them. This leads to student evaluation systems for all teachers and leads to some pretty crazy unintended consequences. If Gates is all about accountability he should start with himself.

25. What Will It Take to Educate the Gates Foundation?

  • The big ideas Gates uses to impact federal polity are using VAM formulas to evaluate teachers so you can weed out the bad ones, allowing for unlimited charter schools, and requiring the Common Core and related tests. Charters provide market competition, but they are no better than public schools and don’t appear to have made public schools better. Gates also believes that high expectations can overcome the stresses imposed by poverty. The reform was touted as an experiment with no permission or involvement of parents, students, or teachers. Charters increase segregation and leave some of the neediest behind. Market aspects have attracted people looking for profits. There is no evidence these reforms have had a positive impact and a case can be made for the idea that their impact has been negative.

26. Accountability for Gates: The Billionaire Philanthropist Evaluation

  • Accountability should not be a one-way street, but it is for billionaires like Gates. Here Anthony rates Gates as below standard on the four standards of 1: Awareness of the social conditions targeted by philanthropy, 2. Understanding of how learning is measured, 3. Understanding how teaching is evaluated, 4. Understanding of Effective Instruction. He recommends that Gates take a year and teach in an urban high school and that he has one class with 15 students and another with 38 students. He should be required to work with other teachers to design projects that can help students demonstrate what they know and what they can do. He should also shadow children in elite schools like the one his children went to.

27. On Motives and Markets: Breaking the Big Taboo

  • Here Gates is questioned as to whether his push for more technology doesn’t have the ulterior motive of increasing profits for Microsoft. He acts offended. While he may not be in it for further profit many others are and Gates states that the drive for profit must be unleashed to meet the needs of the poor. Anthony believes that when profit is used as the motivator, the neediest students are not served well. He also chides the media who are unwilling to incur the wrath of the billionaires least they stop buying their ads. (Doug: EducationWeek is an example. Gates is a major funder of this journal and the only article of mine they turned down was one that was critical of Gates.)

Epilogue

  • Gates blames a lack of student motivation on the failure of technology, but he demands that teachers motivate all students so they can be successful. It’s very difficult to motivate people whose future is bleak. Common Core testing adds to this problem as the people scoring the tests determine how many students pass. As of the writing of this book that percentage was about thirty. Rather than focusing on reshaping our economy to give all students a place to succeed, Gates sees a future where technology will take the place of low-skilled jobs and we will have an increased number of people who simply need the government to take care of all of their needs. Now it’s your job to share this information so that more people will see that King Gates’s new clothes are really invisible. Thanks, Anthony.

Anthony Cody

  • Anthony is a retired science teacher and administrator. He has worked to help struggling teachers and has headed district-wide mentoring programs. His blog Living In Dialog has won numerous awards including first prize from the Education Writers Association in 2013. He created the Facebook community Teachers” Letters to Obama and is devoted to delivering strong messages to the White House regarding educational policy. In 2013, he joined with Diane Ravitch to found the Network for Public Education. He lives in Mendocino, CA, and tweets @LivingnDialogue.
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