"The U.S. must improve its educational standing in the world by rewarding effective teaching and by developing better, universal measures of performance for students and teachers, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates said Tuesday.
Speaking at the National Conference of State Legislatures' annual legislative summit, Gates told hundreds of lawmakers how federal stimulus money should be used to spark educational innovation, spread best practices and improve accountability."
Sadly, I don't believe any stimulus money will be used for innovation but likely to backfill sagging budgets. Best practices? How come we know things that work and don't replicate them? "It's not possible." "They have a different district." Okay, so which best practices? That's what I wish the Gates Foundation would help with; not creating new things but spreading existing good ideas that work. Accountability? The million-dollar question but read on.
Also from the article:
"U.S. schools lag their international counterparts because of "old beliefs and bad habits," and it's not clear how to get them back on track without uniform achievement standards, he said.
"We don't know the answers because we're not even asking the right questions and making the right measurements," Gates said.
On Tuesday, he urged legislators to ask colleges and universities in their districts to publish their graduation rates. The institutions should be rewarded with funding based on the number of degrees granted, not just students enrolled, Gates said.
Teachers, too, should be rewarded for effectiveness and not just for seniority and master's degrees, he said."
Okay, I'll bite. What bad habits? Late bell times for elementary and early for high school? What old beliefs? That seat time equals learning?
As far as the funding of colleges and universities, well, you cannot fairly punish them for graduation rates that may be out of their control. There are a myriad of reasons why students may not finish college (or finish at that college or university). So private schools don't have to show their graduation rates and they get no fallout?
He couldn't leave out his own kids:
"In an interview later Tuesday with The Associated Press, Gates, 51, talked of the importance of improving the quality, quantity and searchability of online lectures, which he noted his own kids have used.
Community colleges and other financially strapped schools might find online lectures to be the most cost-effective way to teach introductory courses such as Physics 101, Gates said. The savings could then be spent on student-oriented discussion and lab sessions."
He may be right especially in more rural or poor areas of the country. But his kids aren't all that old so I'd love to know what online lectures they've used. (His kids are around 13 and 11.) It's interesting because I don't hear much about on-line lectures offered at the high school level (but my son is taking a Running Start on-line class). I think the district worries about losing students if they make more options like those available.
And then he explains some of his thinking:
"Last year, I went to Texas, walked into a classroom, sat down, and thought: “What’s going on here?” The energy was so high I thought, "I must be in a pep rally or something." The teacher was running around, scanning the classroom, pulling in every kid, putting things up on the board. It was a very exciting class.
I was at a KIPP School. KIPP stands for the “Knowledge is Power Program.” Eighty percent of KIPP students are low-income kids; 95% are Black or Hispanic. Among eighth graders who have gone to one of 30 KIPP middle schools for four years, average percentile scores jumped from 31 to 58 in reading; and 41 to 80 in math.
KIPP Schools are amazing, but they are not isolated examples. There are public schools and charter schools serving some of the most disadvantaged students in the country and getting astounding results.
In my experience, when you find a stunning success—you let it grow.
Unfortunately, states are putting caps on the number of these high-performing schools. Why do we want to put caps on the greatest success stories in American education?
Caps should be lifted for charter school operators who have a proven record of success—and charters should be offered the same per-pupil funding as other public schools. As you know, a relatively small percentage of schools are responsible for a high percentage of the dropouts. We can make dramatic advances by replacing the worst schools with high-performing charters —operated by organizations with a great track record"
Ah charters and KIPP. There you go. I'm not sure that replacing the worst schools with charters is the answer in total as he suggests. And Bill, we put caps on charters OVERALL to protect public education dollars. Not every charter is high-performing. And, define high performing, please.
Then he offers specifics:
"We need to take two enabling steps: we need longitudinal data systems that track student performance and are linked to the teacher; and we need fewer, clearer, higher standards that are common from state to state. The standards will tell the teachers what their students are supposed to learn, and the data will tell them whether they’re learning it. These two changes will open up options we’ve never had before."
Amen, fewer, clearer, higher standards. Sign me up.
"Fortunately, the state-led Common Core State Standards Initiative is developing clear, rigorous common standards that match the best in the world. Last month, 46 Governors and Chief State School Officers made a public commitment to embrace these common standards.
This is encouraging—but identifying common standards is not enough. We’ll know we’ve succeeded when the curriculum and the tests are aligned to these standards.
Secretary Arne Duncan recently announced that $350 million of the stimulus package will be used to create just these kinds of tests—next-generation assessments aligned to the common core. "
I haven't heard of the Common Core State Standards but again, sign me up. The core issue (and I hope Mr. Gates understands this) is that education has ALWAYS been a local control issue. Not even a state control issue. We may see this less here but it is very true throughout the country. Here's what he says:
"There are dozens of different data points a state could use to define aspects of student and teacher performance. That difference is compounded across 50 states and the federal government. And states use different products that manage that data in different ways – so states can’t compare their results to see what works best.
All states and districts should collect common data on teachers and students. We need to define the data in a standardized way, we need to collect all of it for all of our students, and we need to enter it in something cheap and simple that people can share. The stimulus bill includes competitive grant funding for these efforts. I hope you make use of it for the people in your state."
Great but NCLB didn't advocate one national test. Where was he then? Oh that's right, he was advocating small schools within schools. Where did that go?
I have said this for years - if we want to know how American students are doing, we do need one national test and national standards.
How to measure teachers?
"Last year the New York legislature passed a law that says you can’t consider student test scores when you make teacher tenure decisions. That was a strategic win for people who oppose reform – because no real reform will happen until we can evaluate teachers based on their students’ achievement.
I understand the legitimate concern of teachers who point out that, without the right design, teacher measurement systems based on student performance could seem arbitrary.
But without them, we won’t be able to identify our best teachers, reward them, help others learn from them, or deploy them where they’re most needed. We won’t be able to see what curriculum, instructional tools, and teacher training work best.
The solution is not to block teacher evaluations. The solution is to work with teachers who are eager to help build measurement systems that are transparent, that make sense, that lead teachers to say: “This works. It’s fair. It helps me become a better teacher.”
These systems would include test scores, but they would also involve classroom observation, parent and student surveys, and video taken in the classroom."
I have to say that I feel that this is one of the first real layouts for measuring teacher performance so good for Gates.
Here's a link to the speech.