Ed News from the Times

Two items of interest from the Times.

One is an editorial pushing for the district to fulfill its Special Education obligations to students.  One key paragraph:

The School Board must demand a more informed, inclusive tone around special education.  Board discussions about special education services are frequently framed in terms of costs.  But board members must take care not to make special education a scapegoat for broader budget woes.

Correct on all points but the district needs a clear assessment of the issue before them before they make any changes/corrections.  What is working, what isn't and how do principals/teachers feel? 

I introduced myself to the new executive director of special education, Zakiyyah McWilliams, at the Board retreat, and she could not have been warmer.  I think an ability to make people feel welcome to come to her is a big step.

But if the State does not even get close to meeting McCleary AND now OSPI is threatening to bring the hammer down on the district if it doesn't get its Special Ed eggs in a row, something may have to give.  If the district does not make this a priority, the state may do it for them and that may mean shifting money around in the budget.  That outcome could affect ALL students.

The other item was an article about (belated) outreach by the Gates Foundation to teachers.  I read it and had to smile.

Honestly, does Gates & Company really think teachers are that dumb?  I'm sure the teachers went right for it. 

"Look, Bill Gates gave a bunch of teachers a fancy trip to a luxury resort in Arizona."

"It's the first time in a long time that Gates has paid more than lip service attention to teachers; he must really care."

“We’re trying to start a movement,” Scott told the teachers in Scottsdale. “A movement started by you. A movement you’re leading.”

Sure and I have a bridge up north to sell you.

One of the handlers, Irvin Scott, didn't talk about the past.

He didn’t talk much about any of the foundation’s initiatives. He didn’t even mention the one that’s alienated teachers the most — the test-score measures of teacher performance the foundation has pushed in the second phase of its richly financed mission to overhaul America’s public schools.

What has the Foundation been doing and saying about teachers?

It pushed for policies that would make it easier to fire teachers, to base pay and layoffs on performance rather than seniority and — most controversially — to use student test scores to help judge teacher performance.

Perhaps most galling to many teachers, the foundation spent $2 million to promote the movie “Waiting for Superman,” a film in which Gates himself made an appearance, and which placed the blame for the woes of American public education squarely on teachers unions and, by extension, teachers.

Months after the Scottsdale conference, Allan Golston, president of the foundation’s U.S. programs, acknowledged the foundation had, early in its education work, erred by dreaming up ideas with so-called education reformers and not including teachers in those discussions.

The conference, he said, was a manifestation of that lesson, and the beginning of much more to come.

So why the full-court press now?

And just the day before, Gates, in an opinion piece in The New York Times, sided with New York teachers in a bitter battle over whether that city’s school district should publicly share teachers’ ratings based on their students’ test performance.

Gates followed that piece with a second one in The Washington Post last month in which he said some of the new ways that states and districts are measuring teacher performance make no sense — a view also held by many teachers.

Critics look skeptically even at Gates’ newspaper pieces, calling them disingenuous.

The opinion articles “are a garden hose trying to put out a fire he helped start,” said Jack Jennings, who has been involved in education policy for more than four decades in Congress and with the nonprofit Center on Education Policy, which he founded.

“It’s a belated acknowledgment that they were going down the wrong path.” 

Ah, the famous Gates pride.  You'll never hear the Gates Foundation publicly say they made a mistake and you certainly won't hear it from Gates himself.  Kinda like the Pope in that way.

But the foundation has not moved nearly enough for critics such as Jennings and Anthony Cody, a former California teacher and blogger for Education Week, a newsweekly.

Cody sees Gates’ softer stances toward teachers as a P.R. effort in response to “a tremendous backlash to his unfortunate ideas.” He’ll believe the foundation is changing, he said, when Gates apologizes for setting in motion some of the very policies the foundation is now criticizing.

Gates “is posing as the good cop here, but he’s responsible for the bad cops,” he said.

He’ll believe the foundation is listening to teachers when there’s evidence it is working with a wide range of teachers, not just those involved in Gates-funded projects.

Cody doesn’t want to accuse such teachers of cowing to the foundation, but talking to them, he said, “is not the same as going and really listening to unfiltered teacher viewpoints.”

Mr. Irwin had this to say:
 Though widely viewed as a critic of teachers and their unions, the world’s largest foundation has begun reaching out to them in new ways, sending the message it wants to be their friend — and their champion.

He knows some believe the foundation is out to co-opt teachers, and he acknowledges that part of the new initiative is aimed at supporting teachers who embrace the foundation’s ideas.

“We’re definitely trying to empower teachers who we feel are going in the right direction,” he said.
But he also says the foundation is sincere in its desire to work with teachers.

OH, why didn't you just say so in the first place? 

Again, that pesky issue of the Gates Foundation having an allergy to being truthful and candid.   Teachers and communities and parents are NOT buying into what you are feeding them, no matter how many astro-turf, faux groups you create.

In Scottsdale, he made teachers promise to be candid.

“Honest feedback,” he asked them to chant.
“Honest feedback,” they echoed. “Honest feedback.”

He had teachers chanting?  Personally, I would have found that weird coming from someone who I didn't know or consider a friend to my profession.

Beware of Trojans bearing gifts. 


mirmac1 said…
“We’re definitely trying to empower teachers who we feel are going in the right direction,” he said.

Uh, let me guess Teachers United and somesuch?
Unknown said…
I would be interested in having a discussion about what is the history of Gates' educational theories. Having not spent a whole lot of time on this, I am sure that the theory of hiring business manager types a la Tom Vander Ark is not new, but I think it is at the heart of the problem. In the case of the Gates Foundation, this type of influence has caused so much damage both to the profession of teaching, public education as an institution, and most of all to the education of students. Why would a foundation such as the Gates Foundation look to business people as experts on education? They don't look to business people to answer questions about malaria or AIDS.
mirmac1 said…
Well, Mary, that's because educating children from diverse and/or stressful homes, is really all about managing Human Capital and automation, after all!
Mary, I'm not so interested in the discussion simply because the answer is that Gates believes he knows best, silos himself with people who rebound back what he wants to hear and applies business principles to something that, while it needs to be well run and managed, is not a business.

Of course, he started with Van der Ark who, when he was superintendent in Federal Way, didn't even know how big his daughter's graduating class was. He has made quite a business for himself as an "education expert." So have so many business types and TFA types who dip their toe in the education world and voila! instant cred.

That Gates can't see that physical health and learning need credible experts (on his medical side and on his ed side of his foundation) is troubling.

But the fact remains that despite having thrown billions at education, it's a harder nut to crack.

And, he didn't start from a place of asking teachers and administrators key questions. He thought he knew all the questions and has all the answers.

He doesn't (and if I ever get him in a room, I'll tell him that).
seattle citizen said…
And then there are these two op-ed pieces in the New York Times today, describing the ridiculousness of Common Core:

Who's Minding the Schools?

No Learning Without Feeling
Anonymous said…
Too many of those lackeys around Gate$ ARE better than you because they have better degrees than you have, they ARE better than you because they have fancier jobs than you have, they ARE better than you because they live in better neighborhoods that you do, they ARE better than you because their friends are more powerful than your friends (see the degree, the job, the house, the 'hood?).

Gate$ and his head toadies said blame & vilify teachers, and lie about it, and the lackeys did. Or, they're so absorbed in their doublethink that they didn't actually lie that directly, and the results were the same.

In the play Timon of Athens, Timon is rich and gives great presents and great parties and then suffers setbacks and is scorned by his old social class. Timon goes into exile and lives in a cave and finds a treasure! His old 'friends' want to find him.

Most teachers have broken their butts to be scorned by a social class similar to the social class who were around Timon. We haven't found a treasure, but, the scorn isn't working, and the paymaster of that social set decides to make friends with those he scorned. Bill and his lackeys are messed up 16 year olds who need ANOTHER chance - they're adults who lied about trying to harm us, and they're adults who should NEVER be trusted.

Timon says:

tell my friends,
Tell Athens, in the sequence of degree
From high to low throughout, that whoso please
To stop affliction, let him take his haste,
Come hither, ere my tree hath felt the axe,
And hang himself. I pray you, do my greeting.
Maureen said…
Can we agree to call 9:45 Anonymous on 6/9 "Timon" so they don't get deleted?!
Anonymous said…
To me, the Gates Foundation's efforts to date mirror those of his company's stock, which hasn't budged a nickel in 13 years.

Lots of shiny new geek stuff - think Surface commercials - Gag - but where's the "there" there in all the GF's work in Education to date?

If they listened to actual professionals, instead of trying to *virtually* leverage their efforts toward ultimately replacing them with computers and robots - we all know this is where they're going, right(?) - maybe they'd have something to show for the money they've spent trying to corner the market on Ed Reform for the past 12 years.

Used to be that a fool and his money would soon part. But not anymore. Not with "too big to fail" and "to rich to give a sh!!."

Anonymous said…
Is it just me or does this article show clearly that Gates would be a TERRIBLE teacher!? If it weren't so important of an issue in education, I would laugh at his shinanigans in trying to improve it. Talk about working below his payscale. He is so out of his element that it's comical. Kinda feeling sorry for the guy...money has always spoken for him but on education, it just doesn't fly.
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