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Money, Momentum, and the Gates Foundation


The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has already been lauded for making notable strides in the field of international health. Hindered by domestic politics and entrenched policies, however, the foundation's transformative impact on U.S. schools has been much less impressive, according to Paul T. Hill.

In a recent Education Week Commentary, Mr. Hill, director of the Center on Reinventing Public Education, recommends that the foundation use a strategy of research and development, mirroring the one used for international health and other sectors, in the field of education. He writes that such a strategy, although slow, will be more effective than current efforts, which include giving money directly to school districts and funding charter schools.

What do you think should be the educational focus of a new and larger Gates Foundation? How can Warren Buffett's gift be used most effectively to improve the U.S. education system?


I feel that the money should be given to teachers and students that have ideas for ways to implement it in their classrooms. A dream that the teacher has to get students excited using technology.

I think that money in the educational system should be spent in two areas. 1. smaller class size and 2. Professional Development.

1. The smaller the classroom, the more a teacher is able to focus on the needs of the students. Regarless of socio-econonmic status and other demographics, in order to succeed students, students will be in a place (for 5.5hrs) where they feel comfortable, secure, and wanted.

2. Professional Development, teachers need to be more nurturing and caring. I understand that some are veteran teachers and have seen it all and lost the passion (I know eyebrows are being raised). A Professional Development workshop can rekindle the spark and remind educators the reason they chose this profession. I have witnessed teachers who are excellent in their element but have lost their "spark". As soon as they go back to school, are involved in a focus group, or are given leadership roles; their "spark" goes back on. We as educators also need to refuel and recharge. This is why we have SUMMER VACATION. Besides resting, let's refuel our mind.

Results, we are a number driven society. After re-adjusting these two variables, the stats will follow. But, they are not immediate, give this process about 3years (and that's too soon). Even the BIG 10 give themselves 5year projections for results, why can't we do the same?

If Gates and Buffet were to invest in providing Reading Recovery for all youngsters that need it nationwide, that would have the universally greatest impact on educational outcomes in the USA

I think we are doing school completely wrong for the students we have today. It's more than professional development, reading, class size or the latest classroom fad. Using research on how kids of today learn and some careful examination of what "product" we want to have on graduation day, I believe we need pilot programs in high schools that completely throw out all the old assumptions, with measurement and assessment based on the "product" we're looking for - which would porbably look completely different from the standardized end-of-grade and end-of-course testing we're doing now. We need options that are truly different from one another - not just another flavor of the "traditional" eight-period-a-day high school - so that our kids with special gifts and special needs can find a place where they can fluorish. I have no clue what any of this would look like, unfortunately, but innovation and risk-taking are crucial at this point in our country's education.

I would like to see the Gates/Buffet money spent at the state and local level to transform the vision, management,and curriculum and instruction to focus on 2st Century Skills. Our kids are digital learners yet we teach them as if it were 1950. By the time kids get to school their brains have been trained to investigate, process, synthesize and apply information using a number of digital devices from TV, video games, cell phones, computers, simulation games etc. Yet when they come to school we provide them with large pencils and colors and picture books but little or know digital learning. This process continues throughout most of their years in school with the exception of unique teachers who have learned how to use and apply digital tools in a problem based learning environment that more closely aligns the resources and instuction to their digital learning style.

What we must focus our efforts on is what it will take to be a successful employee in the 21st century and the type of positive citizens that will move the country forward to remain competitive and yet provide a reasonable life style for everyone. This goal has major implications for how we run our schools:

1. Global literacy
2. Civic literacy
3. Financial, economic and business literacy
4. Learning skills: including information
communication skills
5. Learning skills: thinking and problem
6. Interpersonal and self-directional skills
7. Information communication and technology

To accomplish the above we will have to learn how to deliver instruction using a more problem based or project based approach that incorporates contemorary content and allows students to use the tools kids use everyday. This obviously dictates major retooling of teachers and administrators as well as reinventing the university training system. It also means that teachers will have to spend hundreds of ours restructuring their instructional units to not only include technology with inquiry base learning, but should also inlcude proper assessment. A longer school year anyone?

How can this be done? It will take billions of dollars over many years to accomplish. It will require some very unique, visionary leaders. It must start with the recognition that we must form critical partnerships between business, industry, local and state governments, community organizations to educate everyone, especially our political leaders that this Hurclean effort must be accomplished AND payed for if the US is to remain competitive in the Global economy and have communites that thrive and continue to raise children in positive environments. It will also require sacrifices in terms of how we will pay for the effort.

So, if we were to accomplish the above vision, it will take all of the Gates/Buffet money.


There's a ton - and I mean a ton - of research on the needs and identification of gifted kids. The research shows that the single most effective solution is also FREE (see http://nationdeceived.org/, among many, many others). So why is it not implemented? There are a million excuses, but my point is that the research is there, it's consistent, and it's ignored. So I ask for ALL kids: what will more research provide? The system is broken at a far more fundamental level. Although I do believe small gains can be made, and small gains are better than no gains, I don't believe money can fix the real problem.

BTW - if I can get money for it, my small contribution will be to develop a curriculum that teaches kids at a young age to *USE* the properties of real numbers as tools to make math problems easier to solve (as opposed to memorize, regurgitate, and forget). In my brief time teaching, I saw classrooms full of kids make problems *SO* much harder than they needed to be, which of course lead to mistakes. If I thought math was that hard, I'd hate it too. (I'd also outlaw calculators in the classrooms. Why should kids have to think if a machine can do it for them?)

Educators already have access to enough theory and research to generate substantial improvements in student learning. What is needed is help for teachers in implementing what we already know about what works. Today, technology provides resources and programs that can be readily accessible to teachers and students. Technology can go a long way toward solving the "time" issue for teachers because programs can do much of the work for preparation of materials for quickly and easily differentiating instruction. When a teacher can really tailor make an educational program for each student, including involvement in collaborative groups, learning will improve since each student can have more focus from the teacher. Increased monitoring and documentation of student progress can also be made easier and more effective through the use of available technology. Therefore, I think as much money as possible should go toward putting technology in the hands of every student and every teacher and providing technical assistance to develop teachers' techlnology knowledge and skills. I'm ready to do this. Send me a check. Please!

It is Maslow.
Staff nor students cannot achieve higher order goals until basic needs are met. It is Maslow.

Some Gates/Buffet money should follow an example made by Children's Scholarship Fund in Los Angeles and other cities. Grants are offered to families who agree to match the gifts with at least a $1000 co-payment. The money is taken by those famiies to the school of their CHOICE, often times parochial. The results have been spectacular but the funds are limited.

For the life of me I don't understand why a country that has benefited from the lessons of Western Civilization finds itself reinviting the wheel when successful education of young people is occuring all around us in models that are as old as time. Unfortunately, even at home it does take some money.

I think that MORE money should be spent on professional development for teachers which focuses not only on content-pedagogy but also on educational psychology and on understanding the impact of poverty. Until we acknowledge -and work to eradicate- the effects of a "mentality of poverty", we will always be stumbling and fumbling for a pancea!

D. Natalie Brown,

I recommend you look at SAXON Math series. Used by home educators and many schools for a great many years, it has amassed an alumni of knowledgeable math users - rich, poor and in between.

The fact of the matter is, as cited in the commentary we are commenting on, the institutional policies, entrenched interests and legions of lawyers lining up for the next lawsuit (anyone wonder about the implications of our society when 70% of the world's lawyers are here?)will not allow for any real change in public schooling. Advocating the need to "research" things, that will admittedly take a long time, in fact dooms those young people in the system now to remain trapped in a structure that obviously doesn't work to their benefit -- and it was never meant to. Our classrooms are more scientifically managed, researched based houses for lab rats than even the architects of the plan could have hoped. Yet, in 1993 the National Adult Literacy Survey conducted by the Educational Testing Service of Princeton found of the 190 million US adults over age 16 with an average school attendance of 12.4 years about 3.5 percent demonstrated literacy skills adequate to do traditional college study. The level of high school students surveyed in 1940 found 30% reached this mark. By 1993 they found that 96.5% of Americans have mediocre to illiterate skills where deciphering print is concerned. 140 million Americans were leveled down to 8th grade reading level and lower. 92 million much, much lower. Compare these statistics to the fact that in 1882 the fifth grade Appleton School Reader contained the following authors: William Shakespeare, Henry Thoreau, Mark Twain, Thomas Jefferson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, etc.

I'll give you my opinion of where we made the wrong turns. It is institutional mass schooling that now focuses on group learning instead of individual excellence when the reality staring us in the face is adults rise or fall on their own individual character, talents and intelligence. Preparing students to live in a global economy when all economies are local (except for multinational corporations that want our young people to work as cogs in their wheels). A hundred years of vain theorists' work being heaped upon itself and force fed to a trusting population -- and that population was designed to be so. Listen to this essay from 1912 from the Rockefeller's General Education Board, which underwrote the early stages of American mass compulsion schooling: "in our dream... people yield themselves with perfect docility to our molding hands. The present educational conventions of intellectual and character education fade from our minds, and unhampered by tradition we work our own good will upon a grateful and responsive folk. We shall not try to make these people or any of their children into philosophers or men of learning or men of science. We have not to raise up from among them authors, educators, poets or men of letters. We shall not search for embryo great artists, painters, musicians, nor lawyers, doctors, preachers, politicians, statesmen, of whom we have ample supply." How about Woodrow Wilson addressing the business community prior to the First World War, "We want one class to have a liberal education. We want another class, a very much larger class of necessity, to forgo the privilege of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks." How about William Torey Harris, US Commissioner of Education 1889-1996. "99 students out of a hundred are automata, careful to walk in prescribed paths, careful to follow the prescribed custom. This is not an accident but the result of substantial education, which, scientifically defined, is the subsumption of the individual." "The great purpose of school can be realized better in dark, airless, ugly places...It is to master the physical self, to transcend the beauty of nature. School should develop the power to withdraw from the external world."

What makes us think people high up in power today, invisible to us, have any other plans but to create the society they have dreams of by use of mass schooling? Bill Gates in 2005 called on government to underwrite college educations for every student in America. He dropped out his freshman year. As did his partner. As did the founders of Dell Computers, Apple, on and on. Does he tell people he has colleges set up in China and India now training people to his own specifications? Are these giant corporation benefactors going to continue to employ expensive American college graduates when they have ample supply of cheap labor, trained to their liking? Is it possible he has some utopian scheme in mind, as other architects of American education have had? Does he foresee us all staying in school so long that we can then become college teachers, like hampsters on a wheel, as there is nothing better, nothing else, for us to do anyway as all jobs have fled in this "global economy." Our people are rendered useless to themselves by our schools. After 12 years they can't grow food, change a tire, build a house, let alone read.

We should take his money and change the law in this country. Break the monopoly school's back. Let hundreds of visions for the future live at once. Trust people enough to know if they're learning useful things. We don't need paid experts to tell us how to do these things. It's killing us.

Dear Leah,
I said "The system is broken at a far more fundamental level. ... I don't believe money can fix the real problem.". You said "We should take his money and change the law in this country. Break the monopoly school's back". What you said is what I meant. You also pointed out that rather than being broken, the system is highly successful at doing exactly what it was designed and intended to do. To you and JTG, thank you.

It is all about promoting a system in which all public schools fail, so the rich can take local tax dollars and pay for a private education. If they cared about education they would close down these Charter schools that are poorly performing and admit to a great mistake - instead they add more to a failing system and subtract money from a system that is meeting the needs of a vast majority of learners. We are destroying the basis of our free society so the upper 10% can have their way.


Perhaps there should be a JTG society? Maybe we can have a secret symbol that allows us to quietly identify each other - like the early Christians did with their fish?

What does JTG stand for? As for the fish, Christians were fearful for their lives. With education one only faces bureaucrat's scoffing. It's annnoying but not life threatening. But let me know if decide on a symbol.

Reading others' comments, I agree with most, and would propose that service-learning (linking academic outcomes to community issues) is a highly effective strategy (though, of course, no "magic bullet")that addresses many of the concerns listed, and is supported by a growing field of research -- much of it building off of what we know about adolescent brain development. Because it is a form of experiential education, most students stay motivated. Because it is "real" the "So what?" question reasonably asked by most students gets addressed. Because it is designed to address local needs, school/community walls get eroded. Because it is a great adventure, most teachers stay hooked. Because it is also considered "project-based learning" it is naturally differentiated. I'll stop here, and hope you won't mind a plug for learning more at www.nylc.org.


You're right. Not life threatening, but threatening nonetheless; as not life but livelihood hangs in the balance. Very effective at stopping discussion and critical thinking, which are given an awful lot of lip service around here.

JTG stands for John Taylor Gatto. He was a teacher in New York City for 30 years. He was named New York City teacher of the year three times and New York State teacher of the year in 1991, when he quit. He's published several books and lectured in I believe every state in the Union and many foreign countries.

Thomas Moore calls him the "Socrates of the educational world."

There is tons of stuff on the internet. I give you here a link to a speech he gave on the floor of the New York Senate while accepting the teacher of the year award


And here another

And this is the link to his site:

My personal advice, start with the shorter pieces, the books of essays like Dumbing us Down and A Different Kind of Teacher before you move to his immense tome "The Underground History of American Education." It is from that book that I took the quotes that I posted earlier. Adam Robinson of The Princeton Review says, "A breathtaking work of scholarship and encyclopedic scope... history accompanied by an incisive and illuminating narrative. Gatto delivers for our consideration an astonishing cast of cranks while revealing the nest of special interests which profit from schools just as they are. This marvelous book should be required reading for anyone interested in the frightening truth about the enterprise we call 'education'." It is long and at times dense, though. Better to get hooked on his shorter pieces so you won't give up part way through this masterpiece and miss out.

Enjoy. Help us think of an appropriate symbol.

I think the role of the classroom teacher has to change to one of a facilitator, rather than an all knowing specialist fo a specific grade or subject area. I would like to see the development of an educational model that integrates technology and hard copy curriculum content materials to provide a flexible learning environment that accomodates multi-cultural diversity and alternative learning styles. The key is "flexibility" and "adaptability" to educate all students successfully. This is not as lofty akn ideal as it sounds. As great deal is known about how to model this kind of envirnoment. It requires an investment of funds, and a good reasource team.

John Taylor Gatto was a 30-year veteran teacher in New York City. Three times named New York City teacher of the year and once named New York State teacher of the year. He has written several books and lectured in every state in the Union and many foreign countries. There are tons of things on the internet and he has his own website. I suggest starting with his books of short essays before delving into his immense tome, the Underground History of American Education. Thomas Moore calls him the Socrates of the educational world.

My mom tried to post this information, along with links to his speeches from the Senate floor in New York State, but for some reason her post was intercepted and a message was given to her that her material was being screened for malicious content. Not lethal, but you see why secret symobls may be called for?

1984, anyone?

"With education one only faces bureaucrat's scoffing"
In my opinion it's our (and our children's) MINDS that are at stake where education is concerned.

Leah's first post is a good introduction to the writings of JTG.

The article talks about aiding disadvanyaged students and asks what is the best way to help these poor, miserable, undereducated minds. Let's look at the subject of the article. It is about how best to use a huge donation, millions or billions of dollars. How about using the money to advantage students. Maybe a decent minimum wage that allows all Americans to realise the American Dream, live in a house, have three meals a day and wear clean clothes. Does anyone see the incredible inequity in someone being able to make such a huge donation at all? Why is one man making so much that he can give so much away? Why are states wrestling with ways to help teachers to afford to live in the neighborhoods in which they teach? What kind of a school sysytem does not pay a teacher enough to live in the same area/city in which they teach?
As far as technology is concerned, that is great. We should aid our students in using technology, but we also need to teach them adequate problem solving and thinking skills that they are not dependant on technology.
Most of the technology that has enetered our world in the last fifty years has increased the work hours. The more we can do, the more we are expected to do. We must process words and crunch numbers more quickly then ever because we can. We need to teach what we have yearned to teach, how to think. There was a popular poster in the late fifties/early sixties that read simply THINK. I had a French teacher who had one declaring"PENSE".
Perhaps, if we had a better educated society, one that could think, we would not be burdened with fools for leaders and bigger fools for lawmakers.
I think the Gates Foundation should give all of that money to me. I will dole it out to the most deserving.

I do not disagree with the "our minds" concern but think one must keep "in mind" that we have the freedom to ignore public schooling and even the institutional approach of a religious denomination and diligently pursue the education of our children via the family - the primary educators of the children. Conservative estimates indicate over 2 million children in K-12 grades are being educated at home. It is from that perspective that I refer to bureaucrats and certainly not with a blindless to their potentially destructive influence.

The call is for more confidence from parents in their ability to do the job themselves.

Thanks for the clues on J. T. Gatto.

What is the essential ingredient of real family that's missing in schooling? What if we were all teaching all of our children? Give the money to Martin Buber. (That is, to programs that hold open the possibility of meeting on solid common ground, ground that is solid because of the meeting.)

Bob F:
Right now in America one percent of our population owns 35% of all the national wealth; the next 9% own another 35. The bottom 40% of our population owns absolutely nothing, and live check to check. The remaining 50% of us scramble for the remaining 30% of the wealth. What has caused this? Could our education system be complicit in it? In 1872 the US Bureau of Education's Circular of Information discussed what it called the "problem of educational schooling." According to the document "inculcating knowledge" teaches workers to be able to "perceive and calculate their grievances," thus making them "more redoubtable foes" in labor struggles..."Such an enabling is bound to retard the growth of industry." 16 years later the Report of the Senate Committee on Education said "we believe that education is one of the principal causes of discontent of late years manifesting itself among the laboring classes."

The US Bureau of Statistics has predicted that in 10 years the most abundant jobs in our economy will be these, in this order:
1. retail sales person
2. registered nurse
3. cashier
4. general office clerk
5. truck driver
6. managers
7. janitors, cleaners and domestic workers
8. nurse's aides
9. food counter and related workers
10. waiters/waitresses.

China and India will graduate 10 million engineers above what their domestic markets can absorb in the next 10 years. I have to ask myself what all this talk of technology training is about? Which of the jobs listed above call for it? Nurses need to know how to use the tools of their crafts but what has that to do with powerpoint? When I read people saying we need to focus in school on cell phones and text messaging and video games as a method to inculcate knowledge, I fear. It's true our kids face a crisis. They need to be able to THINK, as you say, to be self reliant, to build communities back up, to go into business for themselves. I believe they can't think because the curriculum has been watered down to a boring broth that dulls the taste for books; they are censored in what they can say and think in the name of social management.

Great quote:

Is it not ironical that in a planned society of controlled workers given compulsory assignments, where religious expression is suppressed, the press controlled, and all media of communication censored, where a puppet government is encouraged but denied any real authority, where great attention is given to efficiency and character reports, and attendance at cultural assemblies is mandatory, where it is avowed that all will be administered to each according to his needs and performance required from each according to his abilities, and where those who flee are tracked down, returned, and punished for trying to escape - in short in the milieu of the typical large American secondary school - we attempt to teach 'the democratic system'? – Royce Van Norman, "School administration: Thoughts on Organization and Purpose," Phi Delta Kappan 47 (1966):315-16

Before I share my comments, I'd like to extend my gratitude to Bill & Melinda Gates and Warren E. Buffett. Their awe-inspiring generosity serves to remind us of the extraordinary good of which human beings are capable. As an educator, I am deeply appreciative of their efforts to improve education for American children. I have no doubt that they will succeed in a really big way.

I strongly disagree with Paul Hill's assertion that "The Gates Foundation's venture-capital approach hasn't worked very well in education because the solutions really aren't there." This is not true. Most educated adults are keenly aware of how to ensure a good education for all children and the research for the past fifty years has supported the folk wisdom. We haven't succeeded in closing the gap because many people believe it cannot be done due to the tremendous cost and impracticability. During my many years as a teacher I have heard inmumerable people say (regarding the factors that are critical to a good education,) "Well, we have no control over that so let's just concentrate on what we can control." (short version: No Excuses). Actually, we CAN control these critical factors to a great extent if we are willing to spend the money and the time.

What are these factors? Ask any fairly well-educated person this question: "How can I make sure that my (as yet unborn) child gets a good education?" and you are likely to get an answer that goes something like this: "Make sure you get prenatal care as soon as you know you are pregnant. Don't drink, do drugs or take any kind of medication without a doctor's approval. Eat the right foods and get enough rest. When the baby is born, his education starts immediately. Breastfeed him. Talk to him, sing songs and read stories. Yes, start the reading immediately. Take your child to well-baby checks to watch for developmental milestones. Correct problems with vision, hearing, and speech as soon as they are detected as early intervention is critical. As your baby develops, encourage his curiosity and talk and read to him as often as possible. THESE ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT YEARS IN YOUR CHILD'S COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT. These first few years might be the most critical in your child's educational life. Once your child goes to school, be involved. Find the best school you can. Try to request the teachers that you believe will be most beneficial to your child's progress. Be aware of what the school is doing. Is your child engaged? Is he excited to attend each day? During these school years, respond to the emerging interests of your child. Is he interested in rocks? Take him to the library and get books on geology. Sign him up for classes at the Museum of Science and Industry. Continue to read to him and model a love of learning yourself." (The list has no end.)

So, having said this, now I'd like to answer the question, "What do you think should be the educational focus of a new and larger Gates Foundation?" I'd like to see the Foundation attempt to give each child an equal chance at an excellent education by affecting those socio-economic variables that we know are so critical to a person's education. Specifically this is what I'd like to see:

Ideally the Gates Foundation would go into a "typical" American community where there is a spread of racial, ethnic and economic groups,and where the state and local communities would agree to be partners in an endeavor to give each child an equal opportunity for a quality education. With this goal in mind, the Foundation would establish clinics for pregnant women and all children. Education for all children would begin at birth with nurses visiting homes to support the parents and model good parenting techniques. To encourage new mothers to participate in this program, they would be offered free toys,books, food and/or equipment for their infants. Babies with developmental lags would be offered infant stimulation classes where their mothers (caregivers) would be taught how to help them. Toddlers would be offered very high quality preschools with a strong parent education component. Perhaps parents could receive associate degrees or high school diplomas by attending classes at the preschool. At any rate, they would be offered stipends to attend.

And now, hopefully, the child is READY for formal education. I'd like to see schools staffed by highly qualified teachers (especially in math, science and technology) who would be offered high salaries and autonomy to do the job they were hired to do. Like college professors, these teachers would be provided with the materials needed to do the job. They'd also be given time each day to confer with colleagues and plan lessons. In order to attract children from all social strata, these schools would have to offer something beyond what regular schools can offer middle class children. The school would offer many of the after-school activities that high-achieving children often get at home: computers, soccer, music lessons, trips to museums, conversation with adults, board games, etc.

So basically, if we want to narrow the gap between rich and poor, we have to address those inequities that exist outside of school. We can't continue to say, as we do now, "I know he doesn't wear his hearing aids, but we can't control that."

For a scholarly treatment of my ideas, see "Class and Schools" by Richard Rothstein.

Gates must stop financing educational schemes that no empirical validity. He donated several million dollars to the San Diego city school district as support for its Whole Language reading instruction program. None of the novel principles nor unique practices of WL teaching is verified by reputable experimental studies.

Patrick Groff
Professor of Education Emeritus
San Diego State University

How about a competition between colleges to see which of them can come up with honest science and math teaching degrees that require a full major in a classical subject matter area(ie, Math, biology, chemistry, etc. and two minors:one in education and the other in math, if the major is a science and science if the major is math? colleges developing such programs and placing a certain number of graduates to teach their majors would recieve awards in two stages: (a)Planning/committing resources and (b)implementation. Indirect costs, approaching or surpassing direct costs would NOT be allowed, regardless of the institution's "approved" indirect cost rate.

School districts which hire and retain such graduates would recieve awards as well.

A special supplementary award would be available to colleges which phased out their "Middle School" and "High School" majors while phasing in the new ones.

Imagine what seventh graders might learn from a true science major/math and ed minor that the child might not even hear about from the "middle school" major.

I think that what Gates money should be spent on is school resources. Currently, our government is trying to phase out public education with No child Left Behind and High stakes testing. Both of these reqiure huge sums of money to be spent on small percentages of students, or small parts of the school curriculum.

Gates is already trying to support schools by providing money for technology and curriculum. The resource that really needs to be helped is the teacher. How many Rhodes scholars, or Ivy league students are going into teaching these days? There is no incentive for people to go into teaching. THey can make thre, four, or five times as much money and go to school for two or three fewer years if they go into a technical field.

Gates could offer to pay off teacher loans, or put his money into some sort of fund that pays off teachers who stay in the profession. This would be huge. But, it is also unrealistic. I f Gates want to put money into education, he needs to put his money into developing educational legislation, and be public about the benefits of public education, and get our current administration out of office.

I would suggest studying the educational models employed by successful private schools and try to apply them to the public system. What I've noticed in the American public education system is that, by fear of using any discipline that would - even if remotely - resemble rote learning, the teachers teach in the midst of a chaotic environment. And it's definitely a challenge to both teach and learn under those conditions. People seem to think that the solution to the public schools problems can be solved by simply infusing a large amount of money. I disagree. If we would have larger schools, K through 12 instead of many little schools, the economies of scales benefit would pay off and so would the long-term feeling of connectedness students and parents would nurture towards those school-communities. Testing should be present: as a placement assessment of the level of the child entering the school and at each grade level, to evaluate if the student is ready to move forward. Such testing should be relevant to the curriculum the student is being taught. I was very surprised to find out that here in America (I come from a foreign country); education parameters are not dictated by a centralized education public body (in my country the Ministry of Education). There should be clear guidance and expectations being known to the students - as well as opportunities to make up when they are not succeeding. The result is that here, not only each city, but each school, decides what and how it will teach! That would be a hard issue to be addressed, but in my view a pressing one.

M. Pedersen
I agree with you completley. Funding need to go to Math teacher salary because people are going to the places where they see dollar signs. Math majors can make a lot more money doing other things. If we are not creating good math teachers then the math teacher profession will become extinct.

I think that the money should go to individual teachers who have proven success with alternative programs for our underachieving Special Education students. If you don’t have them invested in the school by the way of community service, clubs, or sports… then guess what they’ll leave and 80% will end up in prison. If you expect that they cannot learn Geometry, Algebra 2, Chemistry, and Forensics… then guess what, they won’t and end up in minimum wage jobs. However, if you teach them these subjects in a small classroom environment they feel success for the first time and their attendance and deviant behaviors improve with their newly found self-esteem.

Regardless of reform initiatives and all the reinventions and modifications of the wheel, the quality of public education is most dependent on excellence in teaching. Everything we do in terms of public education distills down into the classroom; poor teaching will never trump any reform effort. Therefore, I recommend that foundation dollars be allocated three ways exclusively, and in this order:
1. Rigorous professional schools designed to license teachers, analogous to law and medicine. These schools must emphasize content knowledge equally with process and delivery, and should be taught by practitioners in the field who have demonstrated results and excellence in their profession at the grade level they teach.
2. Significantly higher wages to attract talented people into the field of education.
3. Significant funding to reduce class sizes to a maximum of 20 students per class.

The above three are a package; any one of them standing alone is necessary but not sufficient. Beyond that, funding should go toward promoting a Constitutional Amendment that guarantees every child in the United States an equal opportunity for a free and a high quality public education until college. The Constitution is silent on this issue, and we can no longer afford the silence.

Universal pre-k in every community to level the playing field before kids ever get to school! It's a win-win situation for everyone - parents, students, teachers, society in general.

Money is helpful, but it is not the cure-all. People need to learn to think, to read, and to make decisions based on accurate information. Education is dangerous to those that would control society and have all citizens fit into a predetermined place. No Child Left Behind is an example of the latest effort to categorize and sort students to better educate them for their individual station in life. Frederick Douglas, as a slave began learning to read from his mistress. The man of the house, the master, if you will, put a stop to this telling his wife that teaching a slave to read would lead to that slave becoming "uppity". Douglas went on to educate himself in secret and to become a leading force in emancipation. While ignorance may be bliss, knowledge is power. Oh, by the way the cashiers, clerks and nurses, to mention a few, will need to be able to use computers as that is where all information is stored and manipulated. Even the cash register at the grocery store is a computer, tracking what and when I buy along with adding up my costs. Students today are not illiterate, but they are really having problems with the thinking part.

I think using the money to fund increasing teacher salary is not the solution. I agree that all teachers salaries are not what they should be but paying people more does not a better education system make. We need tools and administrative support. We all know the research, we need the money to implement the new and innovative programs in the classroom. Especially, gifted children are lost in the number crunching. Schools must provide for the low end learners but they are not required to provide for the high end. Even schools with supposed gifted programs do not live up to their potential.

Please give the contact for William Buffet&Bill Gates Foundations.Every summer over 10,000youths who are at risk can benefit from Enrichment actitivities in Jobs,career preparation,college preparation&Business Etiquette.It would be nice for the foundations to fund non-profits throughout the country with the specific objective to provide these services to our nation's youths.

Many of our educational programs in Washington,D.C.and other educational cities throughout the country can benefit from grants to enhance learning through increased technological programs in the classrooms in Math,English,Science, Social Studies and other subjects such as projects.Set up a system whereby teachers can write for grants for educational projects.

Until we as a society truly value children -- all children -- this conversation is moot. Just look at what we allow to happen in our country. Corporations don't value children. Parents don't value children. It's all just cultural lip service.

First, I surmise that the educational system in America is being over-analyzed using suspect measures which foster unrealized expectations. There are a number of school entities that underperform but taken as a whole public education warrants a passing grade.

I would opine that the educational focus of a new and expanded Gates Foundation should be on equipping the lower tiers of public education with the resources to negate socio-economic isolation and transform mental attitudes.

These resources could provide incentives to attract qualified teachers and administrators, fund school safety measures, invest in school infastructure and curriculum, and fund campaigns to foster community awareness and acceptance. The lower tiers of public education suffer from a lack of funding concerns and ultimately deflate the overall numbers for the state of education in America.

Warren Buffet's money could be used most effectively by addressing the aforementioned; which would have an astronomical impact on education as a whole. Anything less than addressing the lower tiers of public education would constitute infinitesimal gains at best for education as a whole.

A systemic approach to solving the problems of poor student performance needs to be addressed. When one only works on a part of the problem, the other (connected) parts go unattended. Such is the case in schools. One cannot just work on the high school and not attend to the issues in the middle/junior high and elementary. Taking a look at the district as a system is only the beginning of solving. The issues that exist at high school are an accumulation from previous years.

I think we need to think more openly about the ways in which we assess "achievement." State standards tests alone will never show the increases in achievement funders demand as a return. Students come to higher ed reform initiatives several grade levels behind in content, with undeveloped study skills, and little understanding of learning as a process requiring practice vs a worksheet to be completed. We need to deconstruct the "learning" product into its underlying processes and measure those! Some possible constructs to consider: capacity to persist, sense of efficacy, sense of academic ability, school engagement, etc. I believe that we would see some change there and that we need to view progress along a developmental trajectory.

Given that health is a basic need (the Maslow part), and that many academic struggles have health connections, I suggest they invest in quality, comprehensive health education. Students cannot learn if they are not healthy and cannot be healthy unless they are adequately educated about health issues and choices.
THings that induce stress (which impedes learning and memory functions) like obesity, substance abuse, premature sexual involvement, bullying, etc. can be addressed when teachers teach health education. Not the old kind, where you read a text and answer questions at the end of a chapter but QUALITY, Health education that is REAL, RELEVANT, taught by qualified health teachers.

I believe that there is a need for action research on a much larger scale than has been possible in the past. Funding provided to practicing educators who submit viable and relevant problem statements should be considered for support. Action research grants can be awarded based on the merits of project scope,design and evaluation procedures.

This is a powerful way to validate and change educational practice based on on dta received through on site investigations. This can also be a powerful professional development experience for teachers.

I think there should be a five year developed for high schools. I think there should be a plan developed over a one year time period then implementation of 9th grade academies. Within the next four years learning clusters, career centers, career clusters, career modules or whatever an appropriate name would be to call them should be developed and implemented to guide 10-12 grade students toward their career choice or choices with the correct subjects for their goals. Not everyone goes to college. The Gates Foundation toward education for our young people could be directed this way.

Gates funding does not fund an entire school; it acts as seed money to stimulate districts to renew how we structure our schools. It does not pay salaries, buy books or most equipment. It does support professional development and other change-oriented items. I just spent the day with thirteen Black inner city high school kids working on business plans and visiting colleges and places like the Small Business Administration. All attend small public high schools. I doubt something like this would have taken place without the stimulus provided by the Gates Foundation. We are being challenged to provide something new and I see evidence of change. Kids feel safer in small schools, if they feel safer they can concentrate. Kids talk about college and futures. I think the expanded Gates Foundation should continue direct funding and conduct broad based research. Let's not underestimate what it means to have kids in school who are safer and feel safer. We have something solid to build upon.

Many of those who have shared responses have made very good points. I think what I would add is that our "all or nothing" vision that the same education is equally valuable for all, which has been a campaign issue for too many politicians, needs serious re-examination.

While certainly I believe the plumber or electrician I call on needs to know math and reading, I particularly wish he or she had a clearer understanding of science and technology than is probably needed for my role in society. He or she ought to be able to read Scientific American or Discover magazine with enjoyment and understanding, as well as making where I live a safer, healthier, greener environment. And I would hope she or he would be able to enjoy and appreciate fine literature, art, music, museums and all the other benefits of a developed society.

How is this going to occur while our teachers are fully focused on testing for minimal literacy and multiple choice math. What electrician, plumber, nurse, teacher or truck driver is given that format at work? We have to come up with answers, not select from deliberately obfuscated solutions presented by test item writers seeking the appropriate balance of failing and passing scores. I train my students with the skills to interpret these competency tests we use, but their final examinations are always essay tests which cause them to summarize, interpret and provide a personal perspective on how to solve real problems or how to respond to current issues---and they don't have to come up with what I would have said to score well; they just have to answer the question with a reasonably complete, coherent, consistent, meaningful response.

We have valid, reliable research on the benefits of a number of non-exotic innovations and approaches which fail in implementation because those implementing them respond to their tasks politically rather than professionally.

More good research will not solve poor implementation, nor will professional development, if leadership at all levels does not really believe in or desire equality of opportunity.

I have seen far too many instances of idealistic teachers stymied by the attitudes of administrators protecting a better income and personal status in an excessively top-down system where complaints or suggestions from the front lines are not heard and those who have the audacity to state a point of view which differs from that of the boss are typically re-assigned, transferred or not rehired for the subsequent year.

Because education affects everyone, and because the voting majority are not typically the most enlightened of our citizens, our quasi-democratic system reproduces mediocrity at all levels and promotes minimally principaled individuals willing to propose, legislate and administer in the interests of effectively lobbied publishers, testing corporations, suppliers and other economic beneficiaries of the extensive market that public education presents.

The level of reprisals against those who fail to go with the system is really quite extensive and extraordinary. For fans of Star Trek, it is perhaps appropriate to comment that "the Borg" is here and we are all accomplices when we fail to run for office, fail to vote and fail to do what we believe is truly in the best interests of students rather than limiting ourselves to doing what we feel we must do to assist them in surviving the system as it is being carried out.

Actually, I think Bill Gates is pretty well qualified to recall what wasn't working in our educational system when he was part of it and I expect that he has noticed that we have a whole generation of young people now who have begun opting to opt out in one way or another. He can almost certainly see that what our legislating and mass testing of competence has produced is a mass of generally idealistic but often disappointed young people.

What I notice in many minimum competency-tested young people is that they passed the tests; but since they learned the material for the test (not for life), as soon as that test is over, something in their minds says "Delete, delete, delete, no further need for this information." so that two years later when you ask them to use the skills they proved they have, they have to ask you how to convert raw data into percentages (for example).

As for the impact of globalization, my observation is that our increasingly rigid instructional system with a heavy focus on tested results, does not prepare students to continue to seek to learn because they WANT to learn, because nothing is more exciting than learning and because change is invigorating. However, our consumer-oriented life style prepares them to expect the best of everything for minimal effort. Thus our twenty-somethings emerge from the cocoon of parent-funding to seek employment, hoping there will be a job out there that will be "good enough for me", to satisfy my refined economic needs for the latest electronics and entertainment options. I suspect that the comparable twenty-something in Bangalore or Beijing, heads to the comparable multi-national employment interview, with the concern of "I hope that I will be good enough for the job" and able to learn new job skills that will be needed to keep pace. Thomas Friedman is an optimist, the World is not Flat; it is tilting away from the dog in the manger.

I found the following two resources useful in understanding the perspectives and experiences of some of the students I have taught and am currently teaching, perhaps others will also find them interesting.

With regard to the first article, we have our Hikikomori here too; I am personally acquainted with a few---kids we all thought were the gifted ones who would become doctors, engineers, lawyers, pastors, whatever other profession for which they evidenced natural abilities, who are struggling to become minimum wage earning members of society.


This second resource has helped me understand why some things seem to work in teaching now and others do not.


What neither has really prepared me for is that as we tout the benefits of cooperative learning and the "guide on the side", I find many students seeking the "sage on the stage", the security of the one best answer and reassurance that if they follow the formula, everything will turn out for the best.

Voltaire's Candide is very much alive and also very confused! It is difficult to find a safe place to retreat to in order to "cultivate one's garden".

I agree with those that support the current educational system as still a top notch system, even when compared to other systems throughout the world.
Too much focus has been placed on standardized trivia contests, and too little focus is on assessing students achievement and needs.
If a students struggles with English, translate tests.
If a student struggles with one format, i.e. standardized, multiple-quess assessments try other forms, like skills, portfolios, projects.
I see a lot of rhetoric on challenging students to achieve, but little challenge. Is school too easy? Yes, for some. Is school boring? Yes, for many. We could eliminate a lot of the formality that is in place merely as conditioning. Most of our students will not be exposed to the close quarters of a school in any other aspect of their lives. They cannot run free, but they need not be micromanaged either. Let's give our kids some credit and allow them to establish some of the rules as well as take responsibility for keeping their schools and clasrooms clean and orderly. We, the teachers, work there, but the students must attend as well and be engaged to learn.

Bill Gates's international fame, together with Warren Buffet's gift to education, could be a powerful force in altering the way Americans and American government view education. I would like to see the Gates Foundation use Buffet's gift to education to make policy changes at the state and federal level, which would make funding education completely a priority.

I would like to see major strides in technology available to students, teachers, and administration. Most of our students are still learning in an old-fashioned classroom, which no longer reflects the global market in which we expect them to be successful. Technology can level any playing field, including socio-economic level of a school. If every school had the appropriate technology to foster global competition in its students and teachers, the line between good schools and bad schools could not be drawn along socio-economic lines.

I would also like to see the school year extended to four terms that span the calendar year so that we can finally realistically compete with other nations, instead of spending the first month of school reteaching the previous year's material. This means that the American public has to be educated about the importance of education to continuing our economic status in the global economy. Legislators have trouble demanding more funding for schools because about 75% of the population do not have school-age children, and therefore resent the amount of tax dollars spent on education.

Anyone getting their hands into the education pot needs to make instruction -- how teachers teach --a priority. It's the cornerstone of schooling. If teachers aren't instructing in a way that is beneficial for all students, then class size, curriculum, uniforms, school size and type -- none of those other factors are going to matter. Districts and schools by and large do not focus on instruction by way of assessing and then implementing best instructional practices and establishing quality, continuing professional development that helps teachers teach effectively. In my four years of teaching in Chicago charter schools, no one seemed concerned about this. And one of those schools boasted that its teachers were the best in the city, which was complete lip service considering that none of us was observed more than once a year, and often not until the end of the school year. The administration had no idea HOW we were teaching, let alone whether we were covering the curriculum. Richard Elmore of Harvard has done a ton of research on this issue, and Meyer and Rowan also have written about why instruction is neglected -- essentially because schools and districts need to keep the public convinced that we all know what we're doing -- and the sad truth is that most new teachers have no idea how to plan an effective lesson or execute it. You're left to figure all that out on your own. Focusing on this issue would likely help schools tackle another problem: teacher retention.

A Potential Direction for the GATES Foundation
Frank B. Withrow

There are adaptive technologies that have demonstrated effective learning models that need to be applied in long-term new models of public education. Such experiments should have several characteristics. First they should be large enough and second of sufficient length to justify experimentation that may eventually change the agrarian model of education now in use.

We have documentation of the virtual high school especially those developed by Bob Tinker, the Florida virtual school and almost twenty years of Star School distant learning programs that have given us a pattern of what technology can do for learning and teaching.

These new models enable learners to learn at any time and place and for teachers to be available 24/7 365 days a year. These new models have the potential to revolutionize the nature of school facilities. It does not eliminate them but makes demands of them that keep them open more hours per day and all year round. School facilities can become community resources that include digital libraries, learning laboratories, theaters, and other community services facilities.

The adaptive learning theories of Alfred Bork that envision a Socratic technology teacher that interacts with learners in a verbal dialogue in their own spoken language is potentially possible. Research has shown us ideal interaction times. Sam Postelwaite thirty years ago demonstrated the need for close proximity of learning information and laboratory applications.

We have not as yet changed the school structure to take full advantage of modern technology and communications resources. Andrew Carnegie understood the importance of a free public library system. Any man who could read and had access to free libraries could become self-educated. In the Carnegie library you had to come to the physical place and the book had to be on shelf. In the digital world you only need access to the electronic digital library.

We need to create schools at all levels that allow for individual learners that can learn independently at their own pace, participate in small group learning experiences and work in team leaning experiences and that have the real laboratory resources to conduct the needed experience that learning requires.

We must create new an authentic means of assessment. One of the most challenging aspects of education today is how to certify that a learner has achieved the information, knowledge and skills required in a given content area. The frenzy for state content standards and standardized assessments has both helped and hindered the learning process. It is good that we have established criteria for learning content and that we have attempted to create authentic assessment of a learner’s achievement towards meeting standard goals. But under many circumstances we have inappropriately developed the standards and failed to adequately create assessment systems capable of evaluating what is learned.

The Gates Foundation fund ten school projects for ten to fifteen years that are of sufficient size and scope to demonstrate the full impact of a learning system that operates 365 days a year 24/7 in modern facilities that provide for the te3chnology and learning laboratories needed. Central to the school system would be a digital library that is accessible from all parts of the community, i.e. the home, the classroom, and the community at large. Every student would have an Individual Educational Plan that is closely monitored by school authorities. Such plans would be develop by learners their parent and a third party community advocate in addition to the school personnel. The third party community advocate could advise both the student and the parents of the appropriateness of the Learning Plan.

These new school systems would also have corporate partners. For large corporations the schools might even become part of the corporation plant and children of the employees would attend the school.

We seriously need to consider alternatives for modern schools in a digital age. Children spend considerable time on school busses. Busses can be turned into learning experiences. We know how to provide entertainment on airplanes. Can’t we provide education on school busses?

In the big box industries, i.e. Wal Mart, Home Depot, Lowes, Shopper’s Warehouse and others we have learned to operate 24 hours per day 365 days a year. Why do we allow schools to remain vacant three months a year? Why not a school day from 7 AM to 7 PM that parallels the parent’s work schedule? Let the parent drop and pick up their children. We have the management tools that can provide each child with an individual learning plan that assigns both humane and digital learning resources on an as needed basis. There is no longer a need for lock step classroom sameness. We can have large classroom learning, individual learning stations, and small group learning experiences. In fact, we can mix home learning with formal school learning. There are computer management systems that can track progress based upon an agreed upon individual learning plan for each child.

Family vacations can be coordinated with the school system. In fact, learning packages can be built into the family vacation.

It is time for a new American learning system that reforms our schools, but is also exportable to the rest of the world. We should be leaders in the UN’s worldwide program of Education for ALL.

The federal government is not likely to fund large-scale dramatically new forms of education. The Gates Foundation could fund innovative new models that break the mold and jump start education research and reform. My first college class in education in post WWII the professor said, “We are no longer an agrarian society the 6 hour school day and the 180 school year are obsolete.” It is now almost sixty years later and we still have an antiquated lock step 6 hour per day 180-day school system. Why? .

Gates and Buffet could do a lot more good by giving their money to the promotion of truly life-affirmaing values such as chastity, traditional marriage, and the Golden Rule.

Sadly, they seem to prefer the likes of Planned Parenthood, which makes no money off of healthy, chaste children.

Given Mr. Gates granular understanding of technology I have been astounded by his foundations lack of interest or support of proven online programs (www.headsprout.com, www.kurzweiledu.com are a couple of good examples for reading). The foundation ignores the efforts made by world math powerhouses India and Singapore to launch their new www.heymath.com site to keep their high school students ahead of the rest of the world. If Mr. Gates is so worried about not being able to hire US graduates competent in math why not provide heymath free to any US student who wants to use it. I suspect the Gates foundation could buy the online rights to the Singapore math and science curriculum and provide it free (www.singaporemath.com). They could buy the rights to the English language version of the Japanese curriculum and teacher’s guides used at Katoh elementary in Japan and put them online for free. The Gates foundation could help the APREMAT/USA program launch their new website that enables any online user free access to the APREMAT audio math program used effectively by over 1 million first second and third graders in four Latin American countries. But instead they send money thru the regular system to be squandered on the same old tried and failed or theoretical and unproven. If the Gates foundation used the same strategy to solve our countries energy crisis they would hire Exxon and bring back Enron to do the work. Sad situation with so much upside. Maybe someone at the Gates foundation will get a clue.

Building on what K. Hardy said, I agree that we need to re-think (or think for the first time?) about the goals we're looking to achieve with our educational system. What kind of adults are we hoping our children will become, and how can our school system help them get there? Then we need to be open to the idea of schools that look very different from what we have today.

If, say, we're hoping our children grow up to be self-motivated learners who can successfully navigate and even improve our world, perhaps we should take a closer look at the system that Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page credit at least in part for their success. (In an interview with Barbara Walters for "The 10 Most Fascinating People of 2004," the two mentioned their Montessori educations as contributing to their self-motivation and openness to doing things differently.)

I also agree that money should go toward well-researched methods. Angeline Stoll Lillard, a developmental psychologist at UVA, published a book last year entitled "Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius." She started out to write a balanced book cataloging where the Montessori method lined up and didn't line up with current research into how children learn. She ended up with a different book when she found the Montessori system to be almost perfectly in line with psychology's most up-to-date learnings. This from a method that has been tried and tested for a century in countries around the world and with children in all kinds of economic conditions.

If the Gates Foundation is looking for a place to put money quickly to radically improve education in this country, they should take a close look at the Montessori method.

I think the Gates Foundation could make a huge impact on public education if they could start a program that focused on explicit instruction of study skills, getting parents/guardians more involved in schools, and increasing hands-on learning opportunities. In addition, they could address the problems that many students (for example, those with learning disabilities--diagnosed or not-- and English Language Learners) have in fully accessing the curriculum and present concrete, replicable solutions. We need to recognize that there should be many different school options, as not all kids flourish in traditional programs. I also wish we would focus more on character education; this is not about prayer in schools, but about helping students grow into responsible members of the community by, for example, providing service opportunities.

I wanted to apologize for my potentially misleading misspelling. I meant that often those who rise to positions of power in education as in other professions are not fully endowed with PRINCIPLES; they are inevitably well-aware of who the "principals" are who oversee their opportunities to move up.

With regard to positive projects our nation desperately needs, as appears to be the case with most of those who have posted comments, I have my pet concerns based on what I have experienced in the three roles listed with my name.

1. There is quite a desperate need to find out what has caused the enormous increase in diagnosed cases of autism related disabilities. If drug companies and other powerful entities with vested interests have perpetuated harmful practices, it needs to be uncovered and STOPPED. Twenty years ago if you said you had a child or a pupil who was autistic, people would ask, "Oh, does he paint or sculpt?" No one makes that mistake now; everyone has a nephew, cousin, neighbor or grandchild with the diagnosis and no one has calculated the social, emotional and economic costs to society of caring for this population as they reach adulthood, often lacking the ability to contribute economically but often possessing undeveloped talents and skills.

Any teacher willing to undertake thorough, high quality preparation at the undergraduate or graduate level to achieve better outcomes for such students should have a loan/grant which would fund their education fully so they could do practicum work in schools and institutions as well as community and home visits to become fully aware of all the parameters of this group of disabilities.
The grants should cover tuition, fees, books, child care, transportation costs and a living supplement which are a loan with no interest due until one year after graduation. For each year the person teaches in a setting that is demonstrably appropriate for the training received, one fifth of the loan should become a grant and no longer be due. If graduates remain continuously employed in appropriate roles, no interest would be charged for five years. Interest would become due for those who voluntarily choose not to use their training to meet an appropriate need for the populations intended during whatever periods when they choose not to use the preparation, and pay-back of the loan would begin to be required at the end of the second year following graduation if the teacher opted for a different assignment or profession.

2. Funding is needed for Teaching Chairs in universities that seriously attempt to prepare teachers to teach throughout their undergraduate and graduate degree work. These positions would be Lectureships with secure tenure for five years or more. Unlike the "tenure-track" positions in universities which focus far more on publications and committee service, as well as external professional activities such as presentations at conferences and grantsmanship, a Teaching Chair would require that the professor possess credentials as a teacher as well as a scholar, be actively involved in working directly with his/her students in practica and internships in schools and remain current in developing syllabi which incorporate recent scholarly research and practical applications thereof.

Institutions using these Teaching Chair endowments would have to commit to structuring degrees which are aimed at producing
well-educated, well-rounded, professional teachers with sufficient depth in the subject matter they will teach to both comprehend different explanations of the content and devise ways of making the learning accessible and meaningful for their pupils. Students attending such institutions should be provided with scholarships and grants similar to those described above, particularly in "hard to staff" areas such as bilingual education, math and science education and various types of special education (including education for gifted and talented students). Teachers who are not bilingual but who wish to teach students who are learning through English as their second language, should also be funded for a six-month immersion experience in a language which is relevant to the teacher's projected teaching assignment; however, no teacher should receive funding for training as an ESL teacher if that teacher is unwilling to make a serious attempt to learn a second language and ESL teacher training should include significant in-depth coursework in applied linguistics and cultural anthropology/cross-cultural studies.

I recently had the thoroughly delightful experience of teaching undergraduates in a private, church-related institution which, unlike the public universities in our state is still able to offer degrees in teaching. It was incredibly refreshing and encouraging to work with students who are fully committed to teaching as their profession and who eagerly participate in practica, teacher aide roles and internship experiences.

I have worked for several years with the preparation of teachers for "hard to staff" fields in different types of post-baccalaureate and alternative certification programs and have felt we produced many fine teachers by those routes. Nevertheless, I have increasingly noted that some candidates who come through that route are dedicated to finding employment first and preparing to teach only after they fail our children for a semester or two.

Often they come from business settings and see no reason why they should spend long hours at home preparing lesson plans and thinking in depth about the best ways to present concepts and materials. Since no at-home effort was required in other positions they have held, they assume none is needed and that someone will just tell them anything they need to know. A middle-aged economist approached me a few years ago to ask if I thought he might apply to the alternative teacher certification program where I was employed. After telling me about all his professional accomplishments and desire for retirement income, I asked what experience he had working with children; to which he replied, "None, but how hard can it be?"

That attitude is reflected in many legislative and funding situations which have greatly hampered the ability of universities that wish to do so to produce highly competent and highly professional educators. For far too many of our institutions, the degree is in arts and sciences and the courses and professors only deliver content, with no attempt to address alternative ways of understanding the material or ways of conveying the content knowledge learned to others.

Teacher certification courses are "tacked on" as an "extra" but the treatment is cursory and often not respectful of the profession or the extensive body of knowledge that exists about teaching. We hand them Harry Wong's The First Days of School and pronounce them teachers with all the rights and privileges of failing the children/youths and themselves for a couple of years until they figure out the job on their own with the help of mentors who are not always willing to mentor and supervision which is often unsupportive of their struggles. This is not the way a great nation should prepare the custodians, pedagogues and mentors of the youth we hope will continue to support us as we age.

Professor Hill is putting forward a foundation-specific (Gates) argument that a few of us have been making on a generic basis for a decade or more. The generic argument goes something like this: 1) Education is a sector with a very limited empirically-grounded knowledgebase for improving academic outcomes in any area; 2) as long as this is the case, there will be a tendency to shift from "solution to solution" when desired results do not come quickly (and there also will be continuing difficulty getting widespread agreement to use the few "proven" strategies that are available; 3) worse yet, there will be a tendency to set very ambitious goals that reflect preferences rather than what people know how to do, which will lead people to be even more disappointed when desired results don't materialize; 4) a major obstacle to generating more empirically-grounded strategies in any area in education is the limited amount of R&D money available to pursue long-term strategy development work; 5) a related problem is that most of the R&D money that is available comes from the federal government via a few departments and agencies, which means that there is too little diversity of views on what issues should be addressed, and how, via R&D and too many political constraints on what can be considered, both in terms of instability of goals introduced by the election cycle and by the political sensitivity of many issues; 6) the shortage of R&D money and concentration of the available funds in the federal government reflects the reality that the private sector in education doesn't require large R&D investments for what it does--produce text books, generate achievement tests, etc., thus, there is a structural obstacle to solving the R&D problem; 7) grantmaking foundations have the potential to offer at least a partial solution to this problem, because they have the potential to engage in systematic, long-term education R&D; 8) despite this potential, few foundations have gone down this road, possibly because the R&D problem has not been seen as a major issue and possibly owing to the all too human inclination for those who create and run foundations to want to see results fairly quickly; 9) this suggests that an effort should be made to develop a new class of foundations that could offer a substantial, diverse source of long-term R&D funding that would address a number of important areas in need of improvement; 10) one existing foundation could spend a few million dollars per year for 10-15 years in an attempt to create several specialized education R&D foundations by making the case to wealthy individuals who might see this as an important area, by developing prospectuses for several new education R&D foundations, and by supporting fundraising efforts focused not only on getting a few new foundations created that would be endowed by single donors, but also by using the community foundation model to raise endowments from multiple sources.

Those of us who embrace this generic line of analysis end up with a slightly different recommendation to the Gates Foundation than suggested by Professor Hill. Specifically, we would recommend that Gates establish three medium sized R&D foundations (say, with endowments of $500 million) that would be independent of it and also establish an internal program focused on promoting the creation of another 5-10 R&D foundations over the next 10-15 years.

In the best case, 20 years from now there might 10 or more specialized education R&D foundations up and running--and the three created by Gates would have been in business for a generation. Collectively, those foundations might be investing the current equivalent of $150 million to $300 million or more per year on true education R&D. In 30-50 years, that might produce a fairly substantial set of empirically grounded approaches for improving educational outcomes for a lot of students at all levels of the education system.

Obviously, there would be many opinions on what the new foundations should focus their R&D efforts on. Fortunately, there are a number of ways in which Gates could ensure that their effort was not limited only to specific areas that the current leadership of Gates would be inclined to pursue. The point is to finally begin to build an education R&D funding sector that could take the long view and pursue a number of important areas with some pluralism.

Also in the best case, this new foundation sector (of specialized education R&D foundations) would take on at least a few issues that are not only important but politically difficult. I will offer two of those issues here, because 10-15 years ago they stimulated a few of us to begin to think about the structural R&D problem described here: 1) the large achievement gaps that have long existed between Whites and African Americans who are from middle class and high SES circumstances; and 2) the continuing underrepresentation of African Americans among the nation's top students at all levels of the system. Because these particular challenges first manifest themselves in the early childhood years (0-8), that is where I would recommend that any new R&D foundations focused on those issues begin their work.

In any case, I hope that the Gates Foundation will think about the need to develop a structural solution to the education R&D problem, and consider the possibility that one promising approach might be to help create a set of new specialized education R&D foundations. Scott Miller

Gates Foundation monies could best be spent in several areas:

(1)All urban districts should have full-day kindergarten and half day preschools. They are our neediest, at-risk youngsters. The more we can do for this designated group, early, the better. This could go a long way toward addressing/solving the achievement gap in our public schools. As many politicians and educators have noted, closing the achievement gap is the civil rights issue of our time.

(2) Develop educational software that employs programmed instruction. As much as teacher unions will protest this idea, it's almost like putting an extra teacher or two (or three, or four) in every classroom, depending on the number of state-of-the art computers in each room. Those students who need more time on task will be able to get it. Those students identified as gifted could go as far as they wanted within the confines of a normal academic term/semester. No one need be overwhelmed because the pace is too fast or bored because it's too slow.

(3) Professional development needs to be provided that show teachers how to individualize instruction. No teacher should be teaching the same lesson to an entire class at the same time. In every class there are kids who already know what the teacher is introducing/teaching. In that same class there are a number of students who didn't understand what was taught last week, last month, or last year, and should therefore not be forced to move on to the next concept.

If medical doctors or attorneys ran their offices this way (one lesson/cure/adjudication for all, regardles of their individual circumstances or needs) they'd be out of business by the end of the week.

I don't claim to know why, despite a huge education infrastructure that includes not only school districts, private schools, government agencies, etc. but also a large number of research shops -- in Southern California these include WestEd, Rand, and the research arm of the LAUSD-- American kids are not learning enough. However, I do know that there is PLENTY of educational research out there, there are plenty of schools with innovative programs, and plenty of people with good ideas. This board is a perfect example. Fifty entries, fifty different ideas, all with some empirical support, I'm sure. It seems to me that when we say kids aren't learning enough, we don't agree on what "enough" means. Education for what purpose? Education on behalf of which group? Business owners? The students themselves? Parents of students? Our education system seems muddled to me -- we cannot agree what it is for. Some of the entries here seem to imply that the purpose of education is to teach critical thinking. Others believe that schools should help us become good workers. Some of you are focused on technology; others on teachers; others on school systems. Isn't the problem that everybody wants something different from the schools? How can the Gates Foundation address the problem of education if it doesn't know what it is trying to accomplish? Just some thoughts.

The history of American education is an example of a very successful social program. In the early days education was designed to teach children to read so that they could be certified as moral beings through reading the Bible. Communities got together and hired school teachers and supported them by providing them living spaces. Many of our schools and especially our universities were church related institutions. With the American Revolution and the creation of a new form of government Jeffersonian democracy we thought of education as a specific requirement for democratic government. In fact one of Thomas Jefferson’s disappointments in life was that he did not create in the Commonwealth of Virginia at least four years of education for every child in the state. He did of course create the University of Virginia. As the industrial revolution took over we realized that we had to have a basic education for workers. In the middle 1800 Horace Mann established the concept that schools benefited society and that all citizens had to share in the costs of universal education for all. Morrill created the land grant colleges designed to give all who qualified an education that enabled them to be all they could be. From the late 1800s to the early 1900s we open a new high school in the USA almost every day of the year. Since we are a nation of immigrants’ schools were and are the doorway to social mobility. Schools combined with Andrew Carnegie’s idea of free public libraries opened the USA to an unlimited opportunity for all who came to our shores. The GI Bill of Rights after WWII created a new wave of scientific and technically literate human resources. The middle 1900s continued the fight to open the schoolhouse doors to all children, i.e. the disabled, the poor, the immigrant, the non-English speakers and all children in the USA on an equal basis. The last part of the 1900s required learners to become literate in science and technology.

The stages of American educational purposes can be summarized as:

1. Certification of learners to be moral and ethical members of society.
2. Certification of learners to be enlightened citizens capable of participating in a democratic government.
3. Certification of learners to enter the workforce as effective participants.
4. Certification of learners as scientifically and technically literate members of the world society.
5. Certification of learners as technically competent in a digital age.

Unfortunately, as Paul Hill describes we are trying to achieve all of these goals in an antiquated and obsolete infrastructure of plants, institutions and personnel.

The UN’s goal since 1990 for education for all has been to create bricks and mortar and teachers. This model of education will not achieve universal education for all. Worldwide and nationally the model of the little red schoolhouse and the kindly old teacher will no longer work. There is not the money or the time to build the buildings or train the teachers. Children no longer are required to slop the hogs and plant the crops and harvest them in many parts of the world especially the USA. The Gates Foundation can assist us in rethinking models for learning for every child in the world. The American model of education has been a model adopted by many countries around the world and universal education has succeeded. But we can’t retain the old model any longer just because it has worked in the past or because we are not willing to pay the high cost of radical changes. Even through radical changes may be more cost effective in the long run. We must throw off the bonds that make us prisoners of time and rethink learning. The Gates Foundation can be a shining Lighthouse for the Future if it moves towards new infrastructures for learning.

In the previous post:
"In the middle 1800 Horace Mann established the concept that schools benefited society and that all citizens had to share in the costs of universal education for all."

Mr. Mann's basic thesis was that the children of immigrants had to be assimilated and socialized into his view of "American" culture. The use of "public education" arguments to compel immigrant children to adopt Protestant worldviews was repellant to their parents. Mr. Mann believed these children would be better off the sooner the state could get them out of the home, and replace their family's values with those of the state. I doubt that this was anything that Mr. Jefferson had intended. Parochial education was created in response to prejudice and hostility for Catholics at government schools. The state of Oregon even passed a law outlawing religious schools. Government attempts to close down religious and parochial schools abated briefly after the US Supreme Court decision defending parent's rights to educate their children (1925.) However, today we see the basic tendency of the "state" via "public" education to force upon children a worldview that is neither Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, or really ant "religion"-- except that of non-belief.

I believe that every parent should be able to freely choose the best educational avenue for their child. I also believe that arguments concerning "public" education are inherently flawed and really are arguments for "education" by union members.

"Private" or non-unionized schools produce better-educated graduates. It is only Mr. Mann's friends at the NEA that would argue differently. I would add that homeschooled students are probably some of the best educated students in the country. Were it not for the US Supreme Court, mr. mann's successors at NEA would have had homeschooling outlawed as well.

I believe that the money should be put directly into the hands of educators. Many of us have a budget that isn't even sufficient to buy a decent cup of coffee at today's prices. Teachers are often held back by someone else's "dreams or visions". We know our students better than anyone else. We know what resources (teaching tools) would be beneficial to our students.

Administrators should have to go back to the classroom as part of their duties. Maybe they would have a better perspective on the true needs of the children under their supervision.

On a different note, I've read some of the other commentaries. I have to agree with much of what Leah and Mary had to say. Why not help homeschool families with the cost of education (although I teach in the public school system, one of my children homeschooled). Homeschooled children are some of the best educated children in the country. They aren't hampered by a "set" curriculum. If you look at history, some of the most creative people worked alone--individuals usually make the difference.

Children are a captive audience in the public education system, and some of the messages should not be delivered via the educational system. It isn't our job.

I would suggest that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation make monies available to anyone who wants a decent education for their children--especially if it is a viable alternative to public schools. The monies should be monitored to make sure they're being used for education; unlike our taxpayer dollars that are wasted.

P.S. College isn't for everyone---how about assisting people who want to go into a trade or start their own business when they graduate from H.S.?! We could use more apprenticeship programs.

I think that we too often lose sight of the fact that the majority of students entering first grade in the US do actually graduate from high school twelve years later. Some take an extra year or two and others earn certificates that despite the rhetoric of the Education Department are an equivalency measure to high school graduation. Successful certification, for instance, on the G.E.D. in my state will earn a diploma issued by the state deparment of education and is accepted at many, not all four year institutions.
US public and private schools are graduating many well qualified students to enter the workforce and to attend colleges and universities. We are competitive. We are progressing. Put money wherever seems helpful, but don't lose sight of the achievements that have already been made.
First year teachers often struggle, as do first year anyones. Part of most jobs is a learning faze. Some school districts have mentoring systems that are helpful. Perhaps this is a worthy research concept. Assessments are another apparent problem. There seems to be a tend toward trusting the anonymous standardized test over the teacher created and scored assessment process. The old grading system is under fire. Some would trade A, B, C, D, and F for Advanced, Proficient, Below Proficient and Basic. There is a lot of research on assessments that does not seem to gain light.
Some of the rhetoric of late leads me to wonder how any of us managed to get into college. Then again, it's a wonder we survived childhood without bicycle helmets and seat belts in cars or on busses. Don't get me wrong, I am not opposed to seat belts or to helmets. They are simply not the panacea of safety problems they were supposed to be. Neither is the standardized testing craze revived by No Child Left Behind. We can always do better, but we are not doing all that poorly as we are.

I applaud the support for education as both a short term and long term initiative. I believe Gates should continue to support a range of projects, and remember that he too adopted a non-traditional approach to pursue his passion and eventual success. There are many in education, with and without credentials, with a passion that will benefit many.

I personally favor supporting collaboration at all levels - students with students, teachers with parents, administrators and teachers, students with all the stakeholders, parents with all the stakeholders. I believe research should be supported in all regions of the country, including the U.S. possessions and territories. "No one cares what you know until they know that you care." (I don't recall the source but I think it is from a program operated by Larry Comer -SDP).

There is great merit in the all comments that have been offered. Any initiative will require development of trust, collaboration, and reflection. We don't want a fiasco like the billions of dollars in oil profits and the war in Iraq. Who benefits is always on the mind of the many.

I hope that the Gates Foundation, especially with the Buffet money, will duplicate the kind of support for education as it has done abroad. My best wishes.

The fabric of American society is woven from diverse human threads of various cultural and ethnic groups. The diversity which characterizes this country encompasses not only ethnic and racial differences but also includes differences in religion, language, sex, age, socioeconomic status and, physical and mental capabilitites. Such differences are vitally important in education as they sould be used to develop educational curriculum, design school furnishing used in classrooms such as desks and tables, etc. But in too many instances cultural and ethnic differences , especially as these impact on learning styles, are not granted the legitimacy enjoyed by those often times associated with age, physical, or mental differences.
I believe the money should provide grants to:

Urban schools that give comprehensive staff training in the concepts, ideas and issues associated with learning styles, especially the sociocultural aspects of style preferences.

Teacher education programs that fully integrate learning style models into the theoretical and actual day-to-day instruction of pre-service teachers so that they prepare them to use these ideas and concepts.

Teachers,after-school programs, tutoring organizations, and students that use experimental teachng and team coaching to accomodate preferred learning styles.

Learning styles should no longer be thought of as educational fads, but used to improve the quality of instruction for learners, especially for learners whose preferred learning modes may be incongruent with what is usually recognized and valued in schools.

A new call for educational equity must come forth. One that does not accept the premise that same is equal, the premise that by providing similar educational experiences or opportunities equity can be achieved. All learners must be afforded differenct educational entitlements based on their educational needs. The Gates Foundation must acknowledge and provide funding if this country is to move forward.

Regarding teacher salaries:

I lost my job after 9 years as a technical researcher. I was able to get a teaching license by taking a test and a night class, and student teaching while receiving severence pay. After the severence pay ran out, I was on unemployment for a few months until I got a job as a high school math teacher. My NET teacher salary was about the same as I received on unemployment, only as a teacher I had to pay for daycare out of that amount. Financially I was better off on unemployment.

I had a good start as a math teacher because of my approach of trying to make math easy for the kids, and keeping math connected to the world. I had a lot to learn about pedagogy, and a FANTASTIC set of colleagues to learn it from. Had I stayed in the field, I'd have become a great teacher. But an offer came along that I couldn't refuse - by returning to engineering, I more than doubled my gross salary, and things like pension are added OVER my salary as a benefit, rather than being taken from my salary.

Not all great teachers are great mathemeticians, and not all great mathematicians are great teachers. But there are many who could and probably would be both if they could support a family - I work with them in a field that pays a living wage.

Regarding parental influence:

Look at my name/title, and tack PARENT onto it.
I read this list for two reasons: My two young children. As far as my local school administrators are concerned, I care *TOO* much about my kids' education, because I try to advocate for them. But the administrators refused to meet with me and my husband for almost a year, and then only met with us because the state told them to. Having finally met with us, they blew off our concerns with the greatest efficiency I have EVER witnessed! This is the environment my kids have to live in for the next 12 years of their lives. I chose to break the bank and put my kids in private school (it's hard even on my good salary, it would be impossible on a teachers salary), because they at least *pretend* to care about our concerns while dismissing them.

In my travels around public schools as an educational consultant, former primary teacher, substitute teacher and parent I find that for a number of reasons teachers do not understand the value of technology. I believe that "Technology Centers" that showcase and demonstrate the applications of technoloy, and offer classes and instruction in its uses to parents and teachers would go a long way reducing the "digital divide" in communities that have missed the "age of information" altogether as evidenced by poor schools and low reading scores.

Many believe money is needed, lots of it, to fix our school problems. Some say we need longer school days and years, with compulsion beginning younger and younger. Please note the following:

1. In 1984 a federal judge in Kansas, Russell G. Clark, took over the Kansas City school district after adjudicating a case in which the NAACP acted for plaintiffs in a suit against the school system. He unilaterally ordered the doubling of city property tax and made the state raise the rest of the money he said was necessary. This ended up in a 150% increase in tax rates. What was the result of the revenue influx? Gary Orfield of Harvard investigated and reports, "they had as much money as any school district will ever get." There was money for TV studios, swimming pools, planetariums, zoos, computers, squadrons of teachers and specialists. Gary said "It didn't do very much." He was wrong. It did a lot. It provided these results: average daily attendance went down, dropout rate went up, black/white achievement gap remained stationary, and the district was as segregated after 10 years of well-funded reform as it was at the beginning. With more money the school was really only able to improve on what it is good at, which is sorting our young into winners and losers.

2. We talk of being able to compete with other countries' kids. Keep in mind the fact that the competition in great part is not academic and one that can't be won by our people. What we are talking about is competing with people working for $.16 on our dollar. Nothing we can do to raise our test scores will compensate for that calculus. Even if we test as high internationally as China's and India's and Korea's kids, any time business can use the less expensive alternative it will.

However, looking at our standing internationally and how the top performing schools compare to ours is enlightening. On the Third International Mathematics & Science Study, Grade 12 students ranked for math found the Netherlands first, Sweden second and the U.S. 19th. Ranked for science found Sweden first, the Netherlands second and the U.S. 16th. Jean McLaughlin, president of Barry University, reports, "the public schools [in the US] lack focus; instead of concentrating on education, they dabble in social re-engineering."

The Netherlands has publicly-funded choice in schooling. They even finance religious schools for people who want their children to attend them. They don't try to re-engineer their population to think in certain ways or hold certain belief systems. We confuse talking about diversity with diversity. Diversity is letting all different peoples develop their own culture to its end. We talk of diversity in our schools, but NO culture is allowed to grow or express itself or examine itself. Kids coming from Christian backgrounds are forbidden to read the bible silently to themselves. Muslims are forbidden to form prayer groups even before or after school. How is that honoring diversity? It is the opposite of it. You can't "study" diversity like we teach science, everything separate from everything else, everything to be plotted and graphed, and expect that's going to create people who like and respect each other.

Sweden's 40-week school year does not begin for children UNTIL THEY ARE 7 YEARS OLD. Parents can opt for putting them in at 6, if they want. There is publicly funded school choice. They go to compulstion school from the ages of 7-16. These schools do not filter out inquiry into big questions. Theology and history are not off limits. They have a State-sponsored religion, in fact. History off limits? What do I mean? My daughter's 10th grade class was not allowed to read the Declaration of Independence because the school board decided it may "offend" people. How in the world can we understand our democracy if we can't investigate the reasoning underlying it? How can we expect people to become citizens if they're forbidden access to their own documents?

If the Gates Foundation wants to do only three "simple" things that are guaranteed to significantly improve education for all children, I would recommend these three interventions:

1. Open child development centers in communities that have many underachieving children. These centers,which would employ early childhood specialists, would offer a very enriched learning environment to children from birth to five years. Parent involvement and health services would be included.

2. Provide highly qualified teachers for all low-income schools. Perhaps the Foundation could augment the regular teacher salaries in order to entice talented teachers into low-income areas. These teachers would exhibit expertise in math, science, technology or language acquisition.

3. Help low-achieving children to find places in high-achieving school districts. The Foundation could provide transportation and "incentives" to the receiving schools or establish low-income housing in upscale communities (OK, this would not be easy.).

We CAN improve education for our poor children, but we must address the needs that are unique to them.

I'm always amazed that people don't suggest (often) the one thing that I think would solve a lot of problems...
It's not smaller class size, it's less contact time with students.

I could implement all of these wonderfully new ways of doing things if someone would give me planning time equal to my contact time with students. Hmmm...

Please don't spend one more penny on research. Really. We already know what we need to do. We just need "the system" to let us do it - and we need some time to create the new and better way.

Schools can be made better by spending more money appropriately. However, given that Gates and others provide what is really only seed money, how can it best be spent? Trying this or that in isolated classrooms is likely to help students - but only a few. Wonderful for those students!

Experiment, measurement and objective analysis can (and will, if done right) lead to more bang per buck for the entire education budget.

A previous writer penned "we already know what we need to do". If the behavior of teachers in my local classrooms is any indicator, this knowledge, if we truly possess it, is not being applied consistently in the classroom. In these schools, making teaching better through training and facilitation is desperately needed.

My recommendations:

1) Train teachers to use the knowledge we have about how best to teach and establish learning environments in which high quality teaching and learning occurs;

2) Where we don't have all the answers about teaching, find out by performing objective research.

So... I agree with the previous author somewhat - in that research without application of the results of that research doesn't help our children.


If the Gates Foundation only wants to provide "seed money," I would recommend a few comprehensive schools (birth to high school) in select cities. These schools would have strong healthcare and parent education components along with highly qualifed teachers.

I need your help, Iam a student in ethiopia
i belong to poor family , unable to attend
class .I am going to hoom

I just saw an ad that plays every Sunday in my area. It is for some childrens' fund that claims to aid children in poor parts of the world. Striking is that the main thrust of the ad is that for $8.00 a week I can feed, clothe and educate a child such as one that is shown.
This is interesting because, in the US, I cannot feed that one child for one day on $8.00, let alone clothe and educate him/her.
Okay, yes they do have a different standard of living there (wherever there is). The question is, what is the standard that we want to meet? Are we going to continue to base school funding on the income levels, property values of the areas in which the schools are located?
If I can do so much for a kid in Africa, why can I do so little for a kid in my own country with the same dollars?

Part of the educational focus of the new Gates Foundation should be on challenging the core assumptions/structures of the current k-12 system of education that are not supportive of promoting academic success for all students.

A sample of these include: the utility of failig grades compared to a grading system that communicates and expects proficient performance from every student like an A,B,C "Not Yet"; studies that identify the amount and type of spending per pupil that drive high performance school buildings and districts; studies that explore the impact of teacher peer groups on the school reform/change process; and the structure and impact of school calendars, professional development and teacher contracts on student academic achievement.

Many of these ideas can be found in the field in medium to small school districts like the Freedom Area School District, located 25 miles northwest of Pittsburgh, PA.

We would be happy to share our initial successes and lessons learned with Education Week and the Gates Foundation.

I've just looked at some enrollments in courses that lead to teaching degrees or credentials and the news is not good.

In today's economy, a student whose parents aren't wealthy can't afford to borrow enough to get a college degree with the additional costs associated with teaching credentials.

Even though starting salaries for teachers are better (a little), costs of what is considered minimal--housing, heating/electricity, internet access, personal computer, cellular phone, etc. eats through that and leaves nothing to pay interest and principal on educational loans. On top of that, common citizens can't even take bankruptcy any more!

The only programs to prepare teachers that have healthy enrollments are those where all students are fully funded by scholarships, mainly through competitive grants to institutions, which are awarded for grantsmanship---not necessarily for preparing excellent teachers in an appropriate manner. This is destructive to well-designed programs since colleges and universities must staff with adjuncts and non-tenured faculty to avoid getting "stuck" with too many tenured full-time professors when the funding cycle runs out or skips that institution. These conditions also exacerbate the tendency to hire those who publish in quantity or in certain journals, whether or not the publications "counted" contribute to significant improvements or advances, and regardless of the scholar's interest in or success in teaching undergraduate students.

That is why funding for scholarships/grants/loans should go to the student, who then needs to be able to select the institution that seems most likely to prepare him/her for teaching in the best way. Those institutions that provide the best experience and long term success for their students, would then enjoy the best enrollments; and because student needs and interests are diverse, the institutions that would have an opportunity to develop sound programs would also be diverse.

The Gates Foundation's support for entrepreneurial small schools was right from day one and may prove to be the most significant top down reform we have seen, in part because it met on the way up the only grassroots reform we have known: the school choice movement. Professor Hill is a music man who has never seen a band. How tiresome to find trotted out again the four old nags of Great Society reform: social engineering, social science research, faith in technique, and lots of technology.

Social engineering, social science research, pedagogic techniques and lots of technology are usually not needed for students who go to private academies. These children often have responsible parents, good medical care, excellent schools (public or private) home tutoring by Mom and Dad, and home computers. The problem we have in education is mainly with the students who are not blessed with these advantages that are so critical to their education. It is to everyone's benefit to find ways to facilitate learning for our nation's poorest children.

Here's another idea -
How about revamping school cafeterias (often Sodexho) and food services so that kids can only
choose from healthy foods? This will improve, among other things, their alertness and energy levels. I'm not a nutritionist, but there is a profound link between nutrition and cognitive function.

Jim Collins, In his book "Good to Great" suggests that all great organizations have (among other things) a "hedgehog concept (HHC)" -- a very clearly defined central focus for continuous improvement. I would suggest the following HHC for schools and school districts: "Improving classroom teaching effectiveness to engage students in substantive learning". Where the rubber hits the road is in individual classrooms. If the Gates Foundation helped districts focus on this HHC, it could fund research in areas such as improving teacher education preparation, finding best practices in effectively engaging student interest in various subject areas and grade levels and better defining "effective learning".

I have actually designed schools, built them and trained the staff in years past. This dialogue has made me think again of what I might do today if given the task. The following is what a digital school of the future might look like. I strongly believe new schools require intensive staff development as well as ne bricks.

What Might A Digital Age School look like?

An environmentally friendly school facility should be shaped like an H. The center or cross bar of the H would be open to the public and include a theater/auditorium, gym, swimming pool, eating facility and most importantly the digital library. One leg of the H would contain a range of learning classrooms that could house small and large groups of learners. The other leg would include a wide range of learning laboratories that enabled learners to work individually and in teams to conduct experiments and develop a wide range of learning projects.

The building would meet the highest environmental standards for clean and recyclable buildings. The grounds of the facility would be a part of the learning process for the learners, that is, they would be able to experiment with plant life and be responsible for maintaining the grounds. There would be recreational fields that are open to students and the community.

The school would offer a range of learning resources that include both human and technical services. Each learner will have an individual learning plan and a learning counselor that is consistent throughout the learner’s enrollment in the school. Parents would be part of the development of the individual learner’s plan and program. In addition, to the school personnel and parent each learner would have a public mentor. The public mentor may interact in person or electronically. For example, if a student was interested in aerospace they might have a public advocate from the aerospace industry or NASA that works with them electronically and is located perhaps thousands of miles from the learner.

Each learner as long as they are meeting their goals and objectives as set forth in their plan may combine home schooling, traditional class work or independent study. Each learner’s plan shall include authentic assessment markers that evaluate their achievements and progress. If a learner falls behind his or her goals and objectives. Parents, teachers and or the student may request a meeting to resolve the problem and if needed assign individual tutors to work with the learner. Learners shall not be left to flounder in a dead-end learning environment. Parents, teachers and or learners can ask for an assessment and change in the learner's plan whenever they consider it approprite..

Every learner shall have an electronic portfolio that contains examples of the learner’s work and progress towards meeting their educational goals.

To understand how a modern digital based school might work I will describe a family of three children and their school activities. The Nsiah’s have a 14-year-old son named Jonathon, a 10-year-old daughter named Rachel and a 7-year-old son Kofi. Dr. Nsiah has his own practice and his wife works in the emergency room on the night shift at the local hospital. She often works the 4 to midnight shift and sometimes the midnight until 8 in the morning shift. Dr. Nsiah does not need to be in his office until 9 in the morning but often especially if there is an emergency does not get home until after 8 in the evening. The school system has worked with the family to ensure that the children’s school schedule meshes with the parents work needs. Rachel has a hearing problem and the Nsiah’s decided when she was 2 years old to have a cochlear implant placed in her right ear. It works fine and Rachel has developed more or less normal speech and language. She does require some special speech and language instruction to ensure that she is developing her language skills normally. They also need to check the implant and adjust it from time to time. Rachel seems to thrive on a traditional classroom program with special speech and language tutoring. Jonathon is mostly home schooled through virtual classes on the computer. He is a self-starter and appreciates working independently. However, in his science class he is enrolled at the school because he has much greater access to the laboratories and is working on several team projects.. He has also become very interested in Global Warming and works with a team that has members around the world that collect data on water and climate. He also works on a Space Explorers online team that is developing a project that is designing a Mars voyage. Each member of the team has selected a given area of interest and his happens to be hydroponics growth of the food supply. He has access to NASA study files and has his own experiments in growing wheat. Kofi was in preschool and did well but the Nsiah’s have decided to home school Kofi for the first few years of elementary school. The school system has agreed to help them with recommendations and they have access to the educational software in the school system's digital library. Kofi began reading when he was three years old and he has also been fascinated with mathematical computation therefore, all interested parties have agreed that he will do well in home schooling. He may at the third grade and upper elementary school levels need some integration into social situations and therefore may transfer to a classroom setting. The school systems provides the Nsiah’s with a home school consultant teacher who visits the home twice a month and assesses Kofi’s progress and provides Mrs. Nsiah with support and counseling with respect to meeting Kofi’s education goals. Actually Dr. Nsiah on his days off does some of the home teaching and often plans field trips for Kofi. The educational consult helps the home school parents form support groups. Frequently, field trips often include other home scholars.

The school system operates a comprehensive management plan that aligns all learners with their Individual Learning Plans and tracks their progress. Learners are not given grades but are evaluated on their completed projects. It is assumed that all learners will reach high levels of achievements.

The school system operates year round. When families schedule vacations or when the family must travel for other reasons the school system works such trips into the child’s learning program whether they are home schooled, in traditional classrooms or other non-traditional school programs.

No child is left behind. We can not as a nation afford to waste a single mind.

The fact that so many comments have been posted suggests that a lot of educators have moved, at least somewhat, into the computer age. I have found that students are even more involved in the digital world, chatting and texting and learning from the internet. There is, of course, some question as to the effects of so much information available in one place. These days we have a virtual library avilable, nearly on demand. The information is not always accurate, or even useful. It is necessary to guide students in the process of becoming careful consumers of information.
While deciding how best to spend education dollars, it should be considered that most U.S. children do attend school and nearly 70% graduate from high school on time. Currently, in Iraq and Lebanon, due to military activities, most students are unable to attend classes anywhere. Some parts of the world have no schools at all. In nations that lead the U.S. on international tests, like TIMMS, there are many children that are not educated at all. Literacy is not a universal concept and one of the things that makes us a nation of free citizens is education.
Maybe we should buy more books and a few less guns and missles.
If we want to enable people to be free, we need to educate them.

In 1990 in Jomtiem, Thailand 161 nations agreed to provide at least 6 years of education for all children including girls by the year 2000. Unfortunately, this goal of education for all has had to be revised time and time again and now the date is 2015. Some children in the world know more about rifles and grenades than they know about reading. The last report by Kofi Anon on indicated that there were still 125 million children without classrooms and or teachers. Unfortunately, the world powers including the USA have been more interested in providing military assistance to other countries than they have in providing worldwide literacy and education.

Solutions by the UN and others are to build traditional classrooms and train more teachers. Unfortunately, we are not likely to provide the funds for bricks and mortar or for preparing enough teachers.

Every uneducated person in the world becomes a liability for mankind. With the world population moving rapidly towards ten billion people over populaation is a stark and real problem. In developed nations life spans are increasing causing a serious graying of society. Spaceship Earth is traveling through the universe with limited resources; therefore it behooves us to conserve all of our resources, especially human resources. A startling population fact is that we have more people alive on Earth today than have died in the history of mankind. It is not uncommon for people to have five generations alive in their family. I am the patriarch of four generations whereas my parents did not get to know all of their grandchildren.

China’s one child per family policy changes a wide range of priorities. For example, that means in China every child potentially has six adults that are supporting his or her education. Even with a much lower per capita income China devotes proportionally more public and private monies for education.

In countries without established school systems radio, television, computers, cell phones and even Ipods often take on a new and different role. For example, inexpensive radios can often reach very remote areas of the country. In one very poor country that I worked in educational radio jingles were popular with all parts of the society. Cab drivers would play and sing the Sesame Street type of letter and number songs.

We must rethink schools in a digital age. It is correct to think in terms of critical reading skills, critical television viewing skills and critical Internet skills. Learners must develop skills that enable them to validate the sources of their information. This is perhaps the most challenging role education can play in the world today.

Education for All is a noble dream. We should support it in our own self -interest. Ignorance and uneducated and undereducated populations are a serious threat to the stability of a world capable of self-destruction.

If our goal is to nurture the development of whole, creative, positive thinking, well-balanced, independent young people who have formed the capacities they need to bring into the world that which they imagine, there will be no single answer to the question of what education should look like. Some children will need healing before they can learn and a place that supports or substitutes for their whole family; others will need only a system that empowers them to learn in the way best suited for them. All of them will need a multi-faceted approach. No one school can be all things to all students. There are many successful existing models that can replace or inform the transformation of existing struggling systems (note that experience shows that "transforming" is the more difficult path, but there is a place for all talented people from the old systems in new endeavors). These models exist in both the public and private sectors.
A program that directs Warren Buffet's money to empower individual groups (rather than government)to seek solutions for their own problems might be the best use. The Gates Foundation could invest in creating a single resource that showcases replicable models that states/cities/entrepreneurs/philanthropists, as well as teachers and parents could explore with the intent that regions would work in partnership to build and fully fund each model relevant to the locale's needs. Foundation money could help build a new, or support to full maturity an already exisiting, prototype of each model; further monies could provide start up funds to duplicate these models and train people needed to apply them when there are pioneers motivated to start/transform schools or other types of learning centers based upon them. Let the motivation to build these programs come from groups of citizens, teachers or parents who are inspired by a model for their community - they know what they need and what they will invest their time and energy in bringing to life. It is school choice come to life by empowering people to repeat patterns they can already see at work and saving resources by not reinventing the wheel.
Even if public education worked for everyone now, wouldn't we ultimately want to be striving toward a system in which citizens choose how to best meet their own needs. Isn't that what independence is all about? Isn't that how we're going to rid ourselves of a victim mentality?

There are outdated attitudes that need to be shed: that change threatens our livelihoods; that we're failing if current definitions of schooling aren't the only way we prepare children for adult life; that only children in public schools are "our children"; that private and parachial schools only want to serve the affluent or gifted; that more money and more technology is the answer to all woes; that successful schools should aim at sending all students to college rather than at preparing self-empowered human beings free to make a variety of choices; that poverty's imprint doesn't demand we heal kids as we educate them and that we can fairly expect educators alone to accomplish that; that learning is best scheduled from K-12, 8am-3pm, September-June; that the most efficient use of tax dollars is to run schools; but most of all, that philanthropic dollars are best spent chasing any single idea rather than empowering individual groups of people who have a vision and a plan.

Wow! Nearly 90 responses, mostly, looking the "gift horses" in the mouth. Teachers and other "Educators" sure know how to spend other people's money. How about, everybody calming down, wiping off the lather, and saying a simple "Thank you" to the Gates and Buffet families. People can set up their tax shelter foundations anyway they wish. Such people ALWAYS have "advice" from chattering "ankle-biters" to favor this or that cause. I'm just going to say, "Thank you!"

Quite frankly, the Gates Foundation has been focused, while admirably, in the wrong direction. Certainly, global health issues are important but without an emphasis on literacy, so what? And, further, the lack of attention to basic health issues AND literacy in THIS country is deplorable. I challenge the Gates to make things better at home FIRST by, as one earlier writer suggested, to helping schools across the country become positive places of learning and literacy!

Bill and Melinda Gates are on a noble mission which is to help schools achieve. Those changes will never ever take place until state legislators are required to substitute teach four days a year. One day in the Elemetary School, one day in the middle school, one day in the high school and finally on the fourth day they must ride a school bus to and from school.
This would be a giant step in improving the quality of public schools. I believe it is time for all voters to adopt a constitutional amendment that will require them to be held accountable by becoming an active community worker/substitude and not as a legislator. There is a famous chinese saying that I used as a school administrator and as a teacher in the classroom 1. If they only hear it they will forget. 2. If the see it then they will remember. 3. If they do it then they will understand. This is just common sense, why would you not want to be part of our educational system by becoming a substitude for only four school days. This will allow you to see and remember as you are funding and writing new legislation that will hinder school districts from doing their job such as the NO CHILD LEFT BEHING LEGISLATION.
If you are reading this message, please get others involved in order to make this happen.

My name is Phyllis and I am trying to open a home for young pregnant woman and their babies. Do you help non for profit people like me? This is a very special need and I do need help to do this. If you can find it in your heart to help or guide me to someone who could, I would be so greatful. Thank You and God Bless Phyllis

As a kindergarten teacher and college professor involved in publiic education for three decades I would ask The Gates Foundation to include input from classroom teachers at every early childhood grade level. The current standardized testing agenda is a disaster for early childhood educators on so many levels. The idea that young children's learning can be standardized ignores decades of research on learning styles, language acquisition, gender sensitive education, and multiple intelligences. Standardized learning practice actually lowers expectation according to respected educational researchers like Good and Brophy not to mention taking the joy out of young children’s school experience.

The current trend of returning to expensive, prepackaged, basil-like, reading series represents turning back the clock thirty years. Low wages are not the only reason the best and the brightest are ignoring teaching as a career path. For our best and brightest college students the lack of professional respect and autonomy given to public school teachers are certainly factors in their career decisions.

A teacher I had the pleasure of meeting recently in my district who graduated from Brown University told me that I was one of the few people who did not question or make fun of his decision to take a job-teaching public school. I told him we were lucky to have him.

We know that many public school teachers graduate with the lower ranking portion their college classes with less than outstanding SAT and GRE scores. No amount of standardized testing will make up for a profession that routinely fails to attract our brightest and most able citizens to it, as many of our politicians would have the public believe.

Politicians currently exert too much influence over public education while university research is often ignored and derided by them. Educators need to stand up and take a leadership role in public education once again.

The current system of education needs to be totally scrapped. This unionized worker system is neither cost effective nor teaching effective.

Teaching should be done by professional master teachers who prepare all lessons.

These lessons should be presented on the internet to students nationwide in such a way that they can EACH progress at their own individual rate.

The grade system, school year and centralized schools need to be eliminated as a waste of money.

Teaching job employment should be decimated to eliminate the useless, uninterested, ineffectual, computer illiterate, pension awaiting and less that world class lesson preparers.

They can become aides for students meeting in public libraries, business computer learning centers or local day care computer centers.

Students could recuperate, travel or vacation at anytime and pickup where they left off with their personal lesson progress.

Welfare, unemployment and any other social service should be unavailable to anyone judged capable of completing a high school diploma program that drops out.

Gates and his foundation have wasted their money. I'm in a Gates sponsored small school in Indianapolis. When I asked our CELL (Center for Excellence in Leadership of Learning, LOL) advisor about a procedural question about how we were running our school she said to me "Its like we're building the boat after we set sail, we're not really sure how that will work". Sounds like a plan for drowning, only we’re taking 1400 kids with us. Of course CELL reports schools are going along really well, they lie. They have a vested financial interest in reporting success, so they fabricate information.

Gates wants to curb the drop out rate, and believes what most of the students report, they are leaving school because school lacks relevance, they aren’t interested, well the truth of the matter is that the majority of student who find school boring and irrelevant lack basic skills, if you can’t read above the fourth grade level the text books are too hard, the work is too hard, and after topping out on the level of frustration they give up. Last month I had a sixteen year old freshman, who is also a mother, and who was struggling with geometry, I spoke to a math teacher who confirmed she was incorrectly placed, having not passed algebra one. After I got her moved to the correct level of class she confided in me she didn’t even know how she had gotten to high school, she didn’t know how to divide.

The concept of small schools is not without merit, the sixth grade test scores have risen as we moved sixth graders back to elementary schools, and out highest scoring elementary school (not a magnet) is also one of the smallest. In an age where one of the most significant problem we face is kids trying to grow up to soon our system has decided to move to 7-12 grade schools, insanity. No girl will leave the seventh grade without a baby. I find this whole thing terrifying...apparently our board, like the Gates Foundation, and CELL haven’t actually seen a real student in the past twenty years.

Gates could have done a number of researched based strategies proven to work, the Tennessee Class Size Study points out the need for small classes in grades one through three. They could have encouraged the use of Reading Recovery, Saxon Math, any number of proven successes. Instead we spent the money as we were instructed to, we sent wealthy administrators on vacations, and golf outings, disguised as professional development. No money could be spent on reducing class sizes,
Instead they tried to reinvent the wheel, and let me tell you I’m sick of the ride we’re on, this triangular wheel just isn’t working.

Denver Public Schools had a policy in place at the time of the Manual High School Small School Redesign which required that the parents/guardians of the students currently enrolled in the school be polled on any new programs or design. Results of such a poll were not binding, but did give the Board of Eduction an indication of parental support. During the process, parents had an opportunity to raise questions about the proposed design and have their concerns addressed. Generally speaking, the Board of Education liked to have about 80% approval before going ahead with a school specific change. Most of the time, such program changes had to do with school schedules, themes, even dress codes. The policy had initially been created to help counter the Charter School movement which gave parents such power.

The School Board chose to disregard this policy when the small school redesign was introduced at Manual. Time restraints were, as I recall, the reason given. I believe this was wrong. I believe that parents of children/students currently enrolled in a school should have the ability to vote on a change; even if that vote is not binding. The disregard of parents and students at both the beginning and the end of the Small School experiment is chilling. A school is not a petri dish.

I never heard of such a thing before: having to avoid certain foods if you're allergic to latex. I wonder if people who suffer from chemical sensitivities need to avoid certain foods as well. WBR LeoP

I never heard of such a thing before: having to avoid certain foods if you're allergic to latex. I wonder if people who suffer from chemical sensitivities need to avoid certain foods as well. WBR LeoP

"The Gates Foundation could spend the next decade betting on superintendents and urging schools to innovate despite the regulatory and contractual pressures that hold them tightly in place."

Over the past several years I have been been personally involved in the creation and delivery of intensive remediation programs in both elementary and middle school levels. Having degrees in early childhood education,elementary education, reading special education, supervision and LABOR relations, Iam a bit unusual. However, it was my diverse background, I believe, that prompted the District to encourage me to forge the way, and provided a loose reign while I worked with teachers and administrators to develop an "n house" approach to direct and intensive remediation that was solidly based in research based methods and materials.

My personal experiences have been overwhelmingly positive, and several of my collegues and I have learned firsthand that researchers such as Joe Torgeson and Reid Lyon not exaggerating when they told us that far too many kids are being identified for special education, then left to wallow in inadequate instruction,never coming close to closing the achievment gap.

Many, many students who are either already identified for special education, or are 'at risk' for academic failure can successfully be brought up to grade level in rather short order when there is someone in the wings who is knowledgable about educational research and is willing to invest the time necessary to train and support teachers, including the time needed to create the remedial materials that are needed.

It is absolutely true that when proper assessment in implemented, and direct and intensive remedial instruction is delivered consistently and intensively and results are monitored continually, most students can be successfully remediated to appropriate grade levels in both reading and math in a relatively short amount of time. Perhaps most surprisingly our District has illustrated that although more personnel makes the job easier, an army of personnel isn't really required, and a Brinks truck full of gold bouillion won't help a bit when the materials with the 'best fit' aren't really available for purchase.

What IS required is tough, well educated administrators who are willing to gain insight into how kids learn and then engage in the development of a high intensity plan of action that will produce measurable results in short order. This of course requires ongoing training and support of teachers who must then be held directly ACCOUNTABLE for the implementation of THE plan.

Sadly, it has become clear to me that much of ills of education stem from a few primary sources. First, many administrators do not know the first thing about teaching reading, and they aren't all that interested in engaging in the study of reading, nor are they willing to invest the time required to monitor individual student data and classroom results.

Second, though many are willing, there are still many teachers are unwilling to invest the time and effort required to learn all that they weren't taught in college. That includes reading current research, even when the documents are handed to them. Additionally, many teachers are often unwilling to invest the time needed to CREATE the supplemental materials, even when time is set aside and others are willing to assist.

The amount of time required to TEACH teachers is staggering. Universities should be mandated to ensure that recent graduates of "Schools of Education" are in fact educated. It is also disappointing when time spent inservicing teachers who unwillingly participate is wasted when those same teachers quietly return to the status quo as soon as the classroom door is closed. Fortunately, an active adminstration who consistently collects and monitors student progress monitoring data can prevent alot of instructional backsliding, and can promptly intervene when student progress is insufficient.

A creative administrator can structure ongoing, short intense bursts of teacher inserving that spirals toward the overall goals of the District. For example, using those often contractually permitted 20-30 minutes at 7:20-7:45 AM to provide inservice rather than simply "meeting and discussing the latest gripes" can be very effective.

Third, the resistance of labor unions to school reform is disheartening. Historically, the excellent teachers are those who rarely need a grievance process. These excellent teachers continually shoulder the loads of those who choose to do as little as possible and then hide beneath the contractual umbrella. Fortunately, when excellent teachers, though often few in numbers make significant measureable gains in the classroom, the shade of the umbrella does not offer much protection from the glare of the public spotlight. School administrators who are leary of negative public relations often shy away from implementation of reforms, knowing that teacher accountabilty may result in grievances and arbitration. Courage and tenacity are necessary charater traits.

"Or, it could spend the same amount of time and money creating the building blocks for much more effective methods of teaching and learning."

With ingenuity and effort, substantial amounts of researched based curriculum enhancing can be accomplished with little or no financial expenditure. If YOU build it, THEY will learn.

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