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April 05, 2013

Accountability for Mr. Gates: The Billionaire Philanthropist Evaluation

But let's imagine we could turn the tables on Mr. Gates and evaluate his performance as a philanthropist. Might we establish some goals to which we could hold our billionaires accountable? We do not have any measurable indicators such as test scores to use, but since I do not find these to be of great value in any case, I will offer a more qualitative metric, based on my knowledge of the subject's work. Since he has spoken glowingly of the salutary effect of feedback on teachers, surely he will welcome this feedback, even though it is unsolicited.

April 04, 2013

Bill Gates Dances Around the Teacher Evaluation Disaster He Sponsored

This amounts to an attempt to distance the Gates Foundation from the asinine consequences of the policies they have sponsored, while accepting no responsibility for them whatsoever. This is a non-starter, as far as I am concerned. When Bill Gates states he is all for accountability, perhaps he might start with himself. Until then, I really do not value his views on what good accountability systems for others ought to consist of.

April 01, 2013

Gates and Murdoch "Personalize" Learning with Larger Classes and Big Data Systems

A personalized learning environment is driven by the relationships between learners and one another, and with their teacher. That is why class size is so important. That is why it is so important to honor the knowledge, skill and culture that our students bring to school - because a respectful relationship with each student is based on our acceptance of them, and our desire to help them achieve their goals, rather than force them to meet predetermined benchmarks.

March 29, 2013

Glenn Beck Takes on the Common Core: Is Big Data Big Brother?

I have to say that as someone who grew up learning about the snooping the FBI was doing on American citizens, I am disturbed by the pervasiveness of this data collection. If you think about all the ways data is being gathered from our children, from kindergarten onward, it is not comforting to imagine this information being made available to corporations. I do not even like the idea of all that data existing, because once it is there, it can be leaked or distributed. This is one thing I may have to agree on with Glenn Beck. I do not want the government, or Rupert Murdoch's Amplify, to have access to all this data. And the only way to prevent that may be not to collect the data in the first place.

March 27, 2013

What Has the Gates Foundation Brought to Memphis?

If there is evidence that the Gates Foundation is slowing the pace of merit pay and VAM-based evaluations, we need to hear it. In Memphis, class sizes are up, merit pay is on the way, and the public school system is in crisis. The Gates Foundation's role appears to be decidedly unhelpful.

March 26, 2013

Association with Gates Foundation Subtracts Value from Weingarten

The Gates Foundation has absolutely zero credibility on the subject of teacher evaluation due to the pervasive role they have played in promoting the terrible policies now sweeping the nation. I entered my dialogue with them last year hoping they were prepared to shift their views in meaningful ways. When it ended, they gave little reason to believe they had done so. To co-author anything with their representative means you are lending credibility and standing to them.

February 24, 2013

Yes, Virginia, There Really IS a Billionaire Boys Club

One does not need to be a "conspiracy theorist" to connect the dots here. We have a local school board race that has become the focus of a coordinated effort on the part of the wealthy advocates of corporate reform. This is no conspiracy. It is neither secret, nor is it illegal, thanks to rulings like Citizen's United. It is perfectly legal for billionaires to, in effect, buy up local school board races. And it is perfectly legal for them to hire "journalists" to write stories largely sympathetic to their point of view. Fortunately, it is also still legal for skeptics to point out all of the above, and suggest the voters of Los Angeles might want to think twice before they vote.

February 08, 2013

An Open Letter to Bill Gates: Why Not Measure This?

I will accept that the Gates Foundation may not be able to address all of these problems directly. But according to Bill Gates' annual letter, the sheer act of measuring things and setting goals around them has tremendous power. I believe his school reform project is failing in large part because of the error he identified. It has been measuring the wrong things. If the Gates Foundation is unwilling to tackle the scourge of poverty directly, could it at least begin to actively measure and set goals for some of the things identified here?

February 07, 2013

Bill Gates and the Cult of Measurement: Efficiency Without Excellence

We could choose to measure other things, of course. The idea of measurement is not useless. The trouble is that some of the things we truly value are harder to measure, and so we devolve back to the simplest metrics - test scores. This is defined as the "outcome" that we desire. But this is only one of a host of outcomes that we actually want for our students. Nothing makes this clearer than the personal decisions made by people with the MOST control over their own children's education. The schools attended by the very wealthy are not chosen for their test scores - in fact many of them do not give standardized tests at all. Neither do they use student test scores to evaluate their teachers.

February 05, 2013

Does the Battle in Seattle Foreshadow Trouble for the Common Core?

We are approaching a real crossroads. Educators, parents and students have come to loath NCLB and the tests that have become ever more intrusive in our schools. Secretary Duncan and well-paid functionaries from all sides have promised that the "next generation" of assessments will be so superior that we will no longer object to high stakes being attached to them. Unlike any large scale standardized tests ever devised before, they will measure and promote critical thinking. But we n longer need to suspend our judgment. Teachers in Seattle have seen the future. Their verdict is clear. The emperor has no clothes.

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