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Bill Gates' Annual Letter: A Focus on Teaching

Bill Gates' third annual letter is out today, and the education section reflects the foundation's current focus on improving teaching.

The bulk of the letter is devoted to the foundation's work to eradicate polio. But in the short education section, Gates reflects on what the foundation is learning from its ongoing study of teaching, including the role students can play in shaping instruction. (My colleague Stephen Sawchuk wrote about this ongoing work here.)

He also suggests that, especially in lean fiscal times, it's a good idea to rethink how money is spent to reward teaching, a shift that's growing increasingly popular in the states as the idea of performance pay gains converts. Gates notes that in a recent speech to the Council of Chief State School Officers, he said that they "might need to find money to reward excellent teaching by shifting some away from things like payment for seniority or advanced degrees that do not correlate with improved teaching."

Gates also mentions the foundation's commitment to investing in technological tools that will improve learning. But he doesn't mention the philanthropy's support of common academic standards, or of folks developing instructional materials for them. The foundation also is playing a role in soliciting expert input on the assessments being designed for the new standards by two big state consortia (but he doesn't mention that in the letter, either).

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