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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Gates Coming Back for Round Two

So the Gates Foundation's education wing is back in the news; this article appeared in yesterday's Times. To wit:

"The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation today unveiled ambitious new directions for its education giving, which include working to double the number of low-income students who complete some kind of college or post-high school degree.

Efforts also would be made to identify and pay higher salaries for good teaching, help average teachers get better, devise better tests and create a national set of learning standards for high schools."

(What no cure for cancer?)

Sorry, but that's a lot of education reform for anyone's plate and to do it nationally? Good luck.

I do support all of it but it's a little unclear, because the goals are so broad, what it all means. Do they mean tests for NCLB? Define average for "average" teacher. I truly support national standards for high school (I support one national test for NCLB) but education is considered a local or state issue and I can see a lot of push-back from states especially more conservative ones.

How much money? They didn't say but,

"The foundation has spent $4 billion on education in the past eight years — half on scholarships and half on its work to improve high schools.

The leaders of the nation's two largest teachers unions were there, as well as superintendents of some of the biggest districts in the country, including New York, Chicago, and Washington D.C. Advisers to president-elect Barack Obama also were present, as were several people who are rumored to be in the running to be the next U.S. Secretary of Education."

Obama is very serious about including education in his top 5 on his to-do list. I just don't know how much time he'll have or how much his administration would be willing to work with Gates (not that they wouldn't want to but will there be time and effort made?)

I've likely said this before but while I believe Bill and Melinda Gates are changing the face of healthcare in the world (and bless them for it), I have been unimpressed with their education results. I know their foundation has felt humbled by how difficult it is to make progress in schools. It's not an easy thing and if it were, someone would have made more inroads by now. I appreciate their efforts, I hope we see progress but we're a big country with a lot of education issues. Not even the wealthiest man in the world can change that.

15 comments:

ParentofThree said...

The problem with Gates Education funding is that there are many strings attached. If you don't live up to "their expectations" they pull the funding - midstream. They did it in both Washington & Oregon.

However, they (the foundation) are actively seeking critical critiques from recipients.

The question is: would you be the organization who tells them what their shortfalls are?

Teachermom said...

"I appreciate their efforts, I hope we see progress but we're a big country with a lot of education issues. Not even the wealthiest man in the world can change that."

Exactly. I think that if they are going to help, they need to fund one good idea very well in one place, and stick with it. They don't have the answers to everything, nor the money to pay for it (no, not even Bill!).

anonymous said...

I think we, and districts around the country can use any help we can get. As soon as someone is wants to try something new we automatically become suspicious and back away. Sadly, we did this with TAF too, and look at RBHS now. Trish took her idea to Tacoma and now look at how successful the TAF Academy is doing there. Seattle lost out. Big time.

Didn't the Gates Foundation help reform Hale? Fund them for the small school within a school?

Let's say thanks and see how we can work together. Be optimistic. Instead of always being so guarded.

chula's boy said...

Anyone see this piece on KUOW?
"Why Parents Bail On Southeast Schools" - http://www.kuow.org/program.php?id=16298

Further, did anyone attend the meeting; cuz the district got some 'xplaining to do.

con paz

Dorothy Neville said...

If Gates helped make Hale into a wonderful school, how come so many prefer Roosevelt?

Anyone who is new to this issue can find lots of articles in the New York Times and elsewhere on the realities of Gates Education funding. I think the Seattle Weekly had a long piece as well. We've talked about it on this blog before.

I think the difference in outcomes has a simple cause. Gates people look to international health care experts for guidance, then give them the money to make it work. In education, the Gates folks have their own ideas, experiments and meddling, although there's not a lot of expert wisdom behind it.

SolvayGirl said...

I attended the meeting Chula's Boy refers to and will try and write up a comprehensive overview soon...but here's the shorthand:

Dr G-J came and genuinely listened, took lots of notes and made no lame excuses. We all agreed that lack of funding from the state is a contributing factor in general.

Parents ranged from those with pre-schoolers looking for kindergarten to those with high schoolers and everything in between. There was a mix of public/private families (few were exclusively private).

We didn't talk much about safety—though that is an issue on the HS level (we were tilted toward elementary school). The biggest topic was lack of rigor/high standards and the impact of large class sizes when there is a wide spread of needs in the classroom.

Inequity between schools was one of the other hot topics. One parent summed it up well when describing their touring efforts last year with, "McGilvra had everything and TT Minor had nothing."

From listening to Dr. G-J's responses I believe the biggest loser to come out of this may be Site Based Management—though I am not sure how easily that policy can/will be changed.

In general, I felt like she was really listening to everyone and recognizes that if changes are not made, the District will continue to bleed south of the ship canal (probably similar to the exodus from the north that followed forced integration in the 70s). Notably, there some people of color at the meeting as well, illustrating that the concerns are not just coming from Caucasian families.

I came away with some hope that things will get better—probably not in time for my daughter's freshman year (2009-10)—but soon.

anonymous said...

Hale students perform very well on standardized tests (WASL), SAT scores, and they have the highest percent of children who go on to a 4 year college. Hale is a strong, thriving, full program - despite the Roosevelt VS Hale debate.

People who want a very traditional school with strong drama program, jazz band, and tons of AP classes choose Roosevelt. They are stellar in these areas. But, not all kids need the strongest drama program in the state that only a few select kids can get into anyway, or a nationally competitive jazz band that again only 20 or so of the 1700 students at Roosevelt can get into. My son loves band and drama, but he is certainly not the best of the best. Where would that leave him at Roosevelt? My son will be happy playing in a small jazz ensemble at Hale, or taking a part in the school play at Hale (where every kid who wants a part gets one). As far as AP classes, he's to young for me to guess what he'll be able to do in 11th and 12th grade. If he is ready Hale does offer a few self contained classes, and many "on your own" AP classes. If he is motivated he will take them, if he is not he won't. Not all kids have to take college level courses. In fact in my opinion college level courses in HS should be the exception, not the norm.

People who want a smaller school, smaller class sizes, intimate learning environments, no cut sports program, diverse, inclusive student body, choose Hale. They are unique for these things.

It's a matter of personal choice really. And of course what suits your child best. I have a very bright child, and we are tired of worksheets, burned out teachers, and rote academics. We are hoping that Hale's approach to teaching will inspire him, engage him, and get him to use more critical and analytical thinking skills.

Please stop making references to Hale being unpopular. It is not. It is a full, thriving program. Roosevelt and Hale are rivals, and very different, but I truly do not believe one is superior to the other.

Charlie Mas said...

Let's be clear about the Hale/Roosevelt thing.

Each school offers something different. They don't pretend to offer the same thing.

Each school does a good job of fulfilling expectations for their program. Roosevelt delivers what people expect from Roosevelt and Hale delivers what people expect from Hale. So they are both quality programs.

Hale has plenty of space for the people who want the sort of program that Hale offers.

Here's the problem: there are more people looking for the sort of program that Roosevelt offers than Roosevelt can accomodate. Moreover, Ballard and Garfield - which have similar sorts of programs - are also full. Consequently, people who want something like Roosevelt are arriving at Hale and they are, naturally disappointed.

It is a capacity problem - not a quality problem.

Once again, the District has not been responsive in creating capacity to meet the demand. In this case the capacity isn't just seats, but seats in a certain style of program.

Let's not have this pointless Hale vs. Roosevelt squabble. Both schools are good.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Gates Foundation had little to do with how Hale is today. I know this because the teachers had been working on their plan before Gates money ever came. As far as I know from our experience at Hale, there is no school within a school.

I'm guarded just because the Gates money was so helpful and then they pulled the plug. I guarded because the first guy they had running the Gates Education part was a business guy who had been a superintendent for something like 2 years. He clearly did not have the background for such a huge undertaking and I think their first round of education efforts suffered because of it.

I agree with, Charlie, there doesn't need to be a disagreement about Hale and Roosevelt. They are different and both are good. I will say though that many students participate in music at Roosevelt and only a small number are in the jazz band. But we have regular band, marching band, and orchestra. Roosevelt also offers opportunities for drama for more students by sponsoring student-written one-act plays.

As for AP, Pollyanna, I'm thinking you may not have had a student graduate from high school yet. It is more competitive than ever to get into colleges and universities, even the second tier ones. The number one thing that they look at in terms of rigor is did your student attempt the highest level of rigor offered at his/her school? You could have all As in regular classes but if they see a school offered AP or Honors and that student didn't take it, they would take the student who did attempt them even if that student did not get all As. I wish it could be the exception to take these classes because of the pressure it involves but sadly that is not the case.

anonymous said...

Well, I wish I could prove you wrong about the necessity for AP classes Melissa, but I can't. I just called the UW admissions office and talked to one of their reps who verified that if a school offers honors and AP then a student should take at least a handful of them to stay competitive.

That is sad to me. It is sad to see kids that are not ready or prepared to take AP classes in HS forced to take them if they want into college. It is simply not the norm to expect all 11th graders to be able to handle college level course , rather it should be the exception. It puts a huge amount of pressure on kids. Do work you are not prepared to do, or never get into a decent college. Don't get me wrong, I love the idea of offering AP classes to the students who need and want them. I just find it heartbreaking that it is now a necessity for all college bound students to take them.

I just checked with Hale and they now have 4 stand alone AP classes. They also offer many more AP courses that a student can take on their own, but with before and after school instruction from the teachers. I guess we'll have to take AP a lot more seriously.

Michael Rice said...

Hello

While I would appreciate any assistance that the Gates Foundation could offer, I feel that their efforts are misguided.

I think they would get more and better results for the amount of time and money that they are willing to put out if they concentrated on early childhood education. Make sure all students know how to really be readers by the 2nd or 3rd grade at the latest. Invest in real professional development for elementary teachers so they can effectively teach mathematics and science. Do all they can to instill a love of learning at an early age, so those students that come from lower income backgrounds can make up for the deficit they face when they first walk through the school door as a kindergartner or 1st grader. If this happens, the job for us high school teachers will be much easier.

dan dempsey said...

I agree with Michael Rice. In addition it would be wonderful if Gates started pushing ideas that produce results. Nothing much was accomplished at Clover Park SD.

Get grades k-4 right if you hope to improve High School. Starting at grade 9 to develop quality high school students is 9 years too late.

When Singapore Math (written in English) is successful in a country where the majority of homes do not have English as the primary language, I have to think that the Gates Foundation needs to do a lot more curriculum work.

They could have a large impact on US Urban education by throughly investigating the possibility of using Singapore Math in Urban Schools.

Clearly the SPS did not do this.

MathTeacher42 said...

From the trenches -

I work at Franklin, this is my third year. Apparantly Gates money came in some years ago and did ... something.
I know what they did NOT do. They did NOT leave behind funding to fix the problems their ideas cost.
I have a hunch that another thing they did NOT do was figure out what their ideas cost in time --

how much time per student in each class and how many students per class, or

how much time for each class of students, AND

how many classes per day, AND

how many days per week.

This lack of costing deserves the labels of unfunded mandates or unfunded pixie dust 'solutions'.

It is the norm from what I've experienced in my 5+ years of teacher training and teaching.

This is my 4th year teaching, I do a lot of best practices, and there are lot of things I don't do because I am FRIED at the end of the day.

How much time do your ideas cost, and then we can decide which are the most effective to implement.

I need NO more unfunded mandates, and need NO more unfunded pixie dust solutions.

I definitely do NOT need mandates or pixie dust from over educated, over credentialed, over paid theoreticians who obviously don't know what I really do, and who obviously don't really know what they're doing, otherwise they'd figure out how much time their ideas cost before they attempted

YET ANOTHER

ha ha ha ha ha ha HA HA HA

education 'reform' which is just more unfunded mandates and more pixie dust.

Robert Murphy.

MathTeacher42 said...

To really understand management, and to really understand what this From-On-High consultant speak will probably devolve into(hopefully not, this time maybe ???)

we need to look at the following email exchange from the top execs at Microsoft --

notice the buck passing and the butt covering!

this is the Same Old Stuff management found everywhere in the private sector and in the public sector, and it is one of the key drivers of the consultant speak and pixie dust unfunded mandate nonsense passed off as management in the private and the public sector --

people passing the buck and people covering their butts.

http://blog.seattlepi.nwsource.com/microsoft/archives/154454.asp

I HOPE gates does something different ... YAWN.

dan dempsey said...

Mr. Murphy raises some interesting points. When the school district buys into something it appears they seldom fully investigate the complete ramifications and expenses.
------------------------
A difficulty with trying to fix education is that most of the studies are worthless. In the words of Dr. Chris Carlson, a PhD. Geneticist and Statistics expert who works at Fred Hutch and is on the State Math panel: there is an enormous difference between a scientifically sound medical study and almost everything that comes out of Ed Reseach...

The difference is that one is science and the other is not. The idea that the Gates foundation worked with Medicine and Education explains why they accomplished very little in education. They thought that University Education experts knew something relevant to improvement.

Mr. Murphy's comments would be a better starting place for the Gates Foundation than the UW.
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In the 1920s if you went to a hospital it was about 50-50 as to whether an improvement would result. In 2008 the sitation is much better. In 2008 the school situation resembles the medicine of the 1920s.
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The political "Club Ed" system and the Education Industry have severely crippled education as a service to children and families.
I hope the Gates Foundation can improve the current education malaise rather than solidify it.