Tag Archives: Gates Foundation

WHEN #EDUCATION #UNIONS BETRAY MEMBERS

This is a guest post by Karen Schroeder of Advocates for Academic Freedom.

Embracing corporate influence and policies of greed, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers betray teachers and their students. Unions and their affiliates overcharged teachers for health insurance and accepted corporate money to wield political influence. Now they accept money to support the unpopular Common Core Standards.

Governor Walker’s ACT 10 exposed the Wisconsin Education Association Council for negotiating contracts which made Wisconsin Education Association Trust the sole provider of health care for many Wisconsin school districts.

Once given protected access to health care premiums, WEA Trust gained tax dollars by overcharging for those health benefits. Those districts which enacted ACT 10 could reinstate free-market principles to balance their budgets, hire additional teachers, and decrease class sizes while providing quality health insurance for teachers.

Unions once had value when they improved working conditions for teachers and set professional standards. When their focus changed, making them complicit in the destruction of America’s educational system, it was time to leave the union.

Teachers of the Kenosha Education Association did just that. They voted against re-certifying the union as a bargaining entity. Yet, 37% of the Kenosha teachers voted to remain with the union. Did pressure from the Gates Foundation influence these teachers?

AFT President Randi Weingarten admits to the Huffington Post that pressure from having accepted Gates’ dollars may soon force rejection of additional dollars.

NEA and AFT’s acceptance of millions of dollars from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to support implementation of Common Core Standards and to support the controversial teacher assessment programs is proving detrimental to the integrity of the profession.

NEA members indicate that many had NOT been surveyed, that many did NOT like Common Core Standards, and that many believe their union is NOT representing teachers or the best practices for their profession. Yet, an NEA Today article titled “10 Things You Should Know about the Common Core claimed that 75% of NEA members supported Common Core.   Gates sure bought a lot of influence for his seven-million-dollar donation while creating a chasm between union leaders and their members.

A National Public Radio article quotes AFT President Weingarten as supporting Common Core but calling for a pause in using the results of the testing because “teachers have not had enough time or help understanding the new standards and how to change how they teach.” Could this tacit support occur because AFT received more than eleven million dollars from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation?

As a teacher, I am appalled that a union leader would blame teachers for the shortcomings of Common Core Standards. What retraining is needed? My teacher-preparation education made me competent in my subject(s). The substance of math, science, and the English language has not changed significantly for centuries.

Basically, teaching methods available today were used by Plato and Socrates. Yes, technology has made those methods easier and often more fun, but little additional training should be necessary.

Apparently, teachers can no longer rely on their unions to place the best interests of children, teachers, and the profession above an appetite for greed, power, and influence. Preserving the integrity of the educational profession rests with teachers who must continue resisting obligations to those unions which fail to serve their members.

http://www.eauclairejournal.com/news/story.phtml/5B88F64C/news/walker_exposes_misuse_of_education_funds/archive/

http://www.weac.org/member_benefits/WEA_Trust.aspx

https://www.nationalreview.com/sites/default/files/nrdpdf/20131014%20_0.pdf

http://www.greenbaypressgazette.com/article/20110216/GPG0101/110216041/

http://www.wiseye.org/videoplayer/vp.html?sid=10781 hearing testimony at 29:48-30:44

http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/living-in-dialogue/2013/03/this_week_aft_president_randi.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mercedes-schneider/nea-aft-common-core-and-v_b_4252679.html?utm_hp_ref=politics&ir=Politics

http://www.gatesfoundation.org/How-We-Work/Quick-Links/Grants-Database#q/k=NEA grant amounts

http://stateimpact.npr.org/ohio/2013/05/13/aft-president-randi-weingarten-explains-how-she-would-teach-the-common-core/

http://www.gatesfoundation.org/How-We-Work/Quick-Links/Grants-Database#q/k=AFT AFT grant amounts

http://schools.nyc.gov/documents/d75/math/Workshop%20model.pdf

http://www.knewton.com/flipped-classroom/

Karen Schroeder is President of Advocates for Academic Freedom, a member of the Wisconsin Educational Communications Board, an experienced public school teacher, and an educational consultant. Karen can be reached at kpfschroeder@centurylink.net or by calling715-234-5072.

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Filed under AFT, Guest Post, NEA, Teacher Unions

Database in #CommonCore Explained. Segregation Revisited?

by Gretchen Logue of Missouri Education Watchdog

We shared Mark Garrison’s written testimony yesterday supporting MO SB 210 and HB 616 which calls for the halting of Common Core implementation.

Garrison writes in An Irrational $170 Million Database We Most Certainly Don’t Need about the data to be gathered on students via databases and Common Core standards:

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While some folks have been warning the public about this for over a year, a recent Reuters article has renewed popular outrage over a privately controlled centralized database that will house an unprecedented amount of individual level data without the consent or even the knowledge of parents, and apparently, state or federal legislatures. My comments are throughout, as I can’t resist. The article reads, in part:

An education technology conference this week in Austin, Texas, will clang with bells and whistles as startups eagerly show off their latest wares. But the most influential new product may be the least flashy: a $100 million database built to chart the academic paths of public school students from kindergarten through high school. In operation just three months, the database already holds files on millions of children identified by name, address and sometimes social security number. Learning disabilities are documented, test scores recorded, attendance noted. In some cases, the database tracks student hobbies, career goals, attitudes toward school — even homework completion.

Brushing off real concerns about this development, readers are reassured with this declaration: “Federal law allows [schools] to share files in their portion of the database with private companies selling educational products and services.”
Further on readers are informed:

Federal officials say the database project complies with privacy laws. Schools do not need parental consent to share student records with any “school official” who has a “legitimate educational interest,” according to the Department of Education. The department defines “school official” to include private companies hired by the school, so long as they use the data only for the purposes spelled out in their contracts.

This raises a host of questions, ones that I’ll deal with in a future post. But, for now, let’s follow the “logic” outlined in the rest of the article and what it reveals about the “Career and College Ready” agenda that is driving this initiative.

“This is going to be a huge win for us,” said Jeffrey Olen, a product manager at CompassLearning, which sells education software. CompassLearning will join two dozen technology companies at this week’s SXSWedu conference in demonstrating how they might mine the database to create custom products — educational games for students, lesson plans for teachers, progress reports for principals.

Maybe I’m confused, but I thought teachers created lesson plans and principals created reports? This discourse suggests the intensification of the de-skilling and de-professionalization of educators that began decades ago with scripted protocols, etc. Once in place, any Teach for America like temp worker can print up the computer-generated lesson plan, which will certainly include some “educational games”. Results of those “games” will automatically populate the report that the virtual principal will produce for the virtual school board.

Next we are told:

The database is a joint project of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which provided most of the funding, the Carnegie Corporation of New York and school officials from several states. Amplify Education, a division of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp [known for violating privacy rights and spying], built the infrastructure over the past 18 months. When it was ready, the Gates Foundation turned the database over to a newly created nonprofit, inBloom Inc, which will run it.

What isn’t shared in the article is the role this database will play in implementing the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI), which would not exist in its present form without the Gates Foundation. The inBloom website discussion board clearly indicates that this database is designed around the CCSS. The CCSSI assessment apparatuses are likely to directly tie into this database if and once they become fully functional. And, given that the plan is to have student essays graded by computer, there are likely to be “digital” assessments of student writing from the dispositional point of view. Might an angry or merely “different” essay by a student trigger a “no education list” (a la the U.S. Terrorist Screening Center’s no fly lists) and be used by corporate charters in screening applicants, inventing a vast and detailed hierarchy of “human capital”?

The article continues:

States and school districts can choose whether they want to input their student records into the system; the service is free for now, though inBloom officials say they will likely start to charge fees in 2015. So far, seven states — Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Massachusetts — have committed to enter data from select school districts. Louisiana and New York will be entering nearly all student records statewide.

So, individual data collected by public authorities that are responsible to protect the privacy claims of these individuals is turned over to a private company, and then the public authority has to pay the private company for access to that data? Now that’s “critical thinking”! And while “inBloom pledges to guard the data tightly, its own privacy policy states that it ‘cannot guarantee the security of the information stored … or that the information will not be intercepted when it is being transmitted.’ ” Seems like a double standard when you think about how “reformers” would scream if a public school stated that it could not protect student privacy.

The article does report that parents from

New York and Louisiana have written state officials in protest. So have the Massachusetts chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union and Parent-Teacher Association. If student records leak, are hacked or abused, “What are the remedies for parents?” asked Norman Siegel, a civil liberties attorney in New York who has been working with the protestors. “It’s very troubling.”

I encourage parents to send a letter, similar to this.

What follows is the main justification for the initiative, and it is worth parsing out in detail.

“We look at personalized learning as the next big leap forward in education,” said Brandon Williams, a director at the Illinois State Board of Education.

First, I believe “personalized learning” is the new language for what used to be called tracking based on “ability”, social class, or other forms of social differentiation (“race,” ELLs, etc.). But it gets better:

Does Johnny have trouble converting decimals to fractions? The database will have recorded that — and may have recorded as well that he finds textbooks boring, adores animation and plays baseball after school. Personalized learning software can use that data to serve up a tailor-made math lesson, perhaps an animated game that uses baseball statistics to teach decimals.

What kind of non-thinking human being creates such narrative? Even the most unmotivated mediocre teacher can determine if a student has trouble converting decimals to fractions! And wouldn’t the database be more useful if it could identify those students who actually found textbooks exciting? And, seriously, might teachers, unencumbered by the demands of “accountability” that increasingly block them from establishing meaningful relationships with their students, know which student likes baseball?

No teacher, school administrator or parent needs this database; it is a solution to a non-existent problem. It’s a complete hoax. It is also frightening that someone thought the above narrative was a useful public justification and that it could stand in a news item. How far gone are we that the absurdity is not evident? “Personalized learning” = remove the teacher -> collect “data” -> replace real teaching with “virtual games” -> so as “to get to know the student.”[1]

But wait, there’s more!

Johnny’s teacher can watch his development on a “dashboard” that uses bright graphics to map each of her students’ progress on dozens, even hundreds, of discrete skills.

Forgive me, but I prefer to watch the development of young people in person. “Bright graphics” — sounds like Disney, not education. “Discrete skills” — nothing says “product specification” better than “discrete skills.”

“You can start to see what’s effective for each particular student,” said Adria Moersen, a high school teacher in Colorado who has tested some of the new products.[2]

If you need a glowing, colorful dashboard of “discrete skills” to “see” your “students develop” and discern what is “effective” there’s definitely a problem. Or, maybe that’s the vision? Let’s continue:

The sector is undeniably hot; technology startups aimed at K-12 schools attracted more than $425 million in venture capital last year, according to the NewSchools Venture Fund, a nonprofit that focuses on the sector. The investment company GSV Advisors tracked 84 deals in the sector last year, up from 15 in 2007.

NewSchools is a big supporter of charters and other privatization schemes.

In addition to its $100 million investment in the database, the Gates Foundation has pledged $70 million in grants to schools and companies to develop personalized learning tools.

Again, I offer my suggestion that “personalized” is the new language of tracking. Data will be the new marker used to segregate.

Also of note is that the official estimates of the Gates Foundation contribution to the Common Core Standards is $100 million; but if we include all those grants that are part of the Core agenda, the number becomes much, much bigger; the above $170 million constituting a start. Based on data I have collected from their Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation website, I estimate the total expenditure to be about $1.5 billion between 2009 and 2012. The next bit is revealing as well.

Schools tend to store different bits of student information in different databases, often with different operating systems. That makes it clunky to integrate new learning apps into classrooms. […] The new database aims to wipe away those obstacles by integrating all student information — including data that may previously have been stored in paper files or teacher gradebooks — in a single, flexible platform. […] Education technology companies can use the same platform to design their software, so their programs will hook into a rich trove of student data if a district or state authorizes access.

This reminds me of the justification for the security state built post 9/11. We would all be safe if we could just break down those barriers between databases (e.g., eliminating boundaries between local, state and federal police agencies) and remove the blocks to spying!

At the Rocketship chain of charter schools, for instance, administrators must manually update at least five databases to keep their education software running smoothly when a child transfers from one teacher to another, said Charlie Bufalino, a Rocketship executive. The extra steps add expense, which limits how many apps a school can buy. And because the data is so fragmented, the private companies don’t always get a robust picture of each student’s academic performance, much less their personal characteristics.

First point: you most likely don’t need the software; the money could be better spent. Second point: who cares if the “private companies don’t get a robust picture”? Why are we all of a sudden so concerned about private companies having a “robust picture” of our children?

Yes, it even gets better.

Larry Berger, an executive at Amplify Education, says the data could be mined to develop “early warning systems.” Perhaps it will turn out, for instance, that most high school dropouts began to struggle with math at age 8. If so, all future 8-year-olds fitting that pattern could be identified and given extra help.

Forgetting for a moment that Larry’s statement erases more than 40 years of research on the predictors of “dropping out” (linked mostly to poverty, racism and lack of funding), my question is this: will the “early warning system” be color coded, like the now infamous “terror alerts?” Is “fitting the pattern” the new language for profiling? Sounds like the noble language of helping to prevent “drop outs” might hide something a little less palatable; maybe inBloom will partner with state governments to alert them of students not “ready” to vote?

Companies with access to the database will also be able to identify struggling teachers and pinpoint which concepts their students are failing to master. One startup that could benefit: BloomBoard, which sells schools professional development plans customized to each teacher.

Well that’s good news. Private companies that are charging the public for access to the data provided to them by the public will assist in further attacking teachers as the source of the problem while social inequality reaches new heights! Hopefully BloomBoard will lobby for more computers — I just hope some of the leaking roofs won’t short out the circuits. I also hope their statisticians can develop models that can compensate for students not giving a damn as they sit, alienated, in their PARCC testing cages.

The new database “is a godsend for us,” said Jason Lange, the chief executive of BloomBoard. “It allows us to collect more data faster, quicker and cheaper.”

But I thought it was “all about the kids”?

In the end, this is an untenable plan, doomed to failure, with more harm along the way. It should be opposed.

  1. Even the introductory video on the inBloom website presents a vision of the teacher/student interaction as completely mediated by their database which is to form the basis of and completely structure the student/teacher relationship. In the video, both students and teachers are presented as passive, with very limited voice, only acting through the devices devised by the database developers.
  2. The formulation “each particular” set me off, so I went searching on the Internet for Adria, and I came up with what appears to be someone who loves signing up to all the social media, but never really uses any of it (is she real?). No posts from her twitter account. No info on Linkedin, but a member. “Summitt Post” indicates “high school teacher” in Colorado. On “Clas talk”, nothing. Uses “pinterest” — what I saw was vapid. Appears on “rate my teacher” with 3 stars out of 5, from six respondents (“fun” was used frequently by those posting). (Obviously the sites that did not identify her profession and location could be for someone else.) From what I could find, she does not come across as an authority on the subject of using large databases to enhance education. She has been a teacher for a short time, and in general strikes me as an odd choice for an interview by an international news agency.

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Filed under Data Mining/Tracking, Data Systems, National Standards (Common Core)

Common Core Is An Insult to Everything Dr. King and President Lincoln Ever Taught

by C.E. White

This past week, President Obama was sworn into office as the 45th President of the United States of America. As a history teacher, I was elated to learn he would be placing his hand on two Bibles, one belonging to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the other belonging to President Abraham Lincoln, when he takes the oath of office to lead our great nation. Dr. King and President Lincoln helped define civil rights for America…historical heroes who transformed the idea of justice and equality.

As jubilant as I am that President Obama is symbolically using the bibles of two of the greatest Americans in our nation’s history, I am saddened that this administration seems to have forgotten what Dr. King and President Lincoln promoted regarding education.

In Dr. King’s “Letter from the Birmingham Jail,” he stated “the goal of America is freedom.” As a teacher, it is such an honor to teach America’s children about freedom and patriotism. However, over the past few years, I began to learn about a new education reform initiative called Common Core Standards. A few years ago, when I first heard of Common Core, I began doing my own research. My students represent the future of the United States of America, and what they learn is of utmost importance to me. I care about their future, and the future of our country.

My research of Common Core Standards kept me awake at night, because what I discovered was so shocking. I discovered that Common Core Standards is about so much more than educational standards. I wanted so badly to believe these changes would be good for our children. How can “common” standards be a bad thing? After all, isn’t it nice to have students learning the same exceptional standards from Alabama to Alaska, from Minnesota to Massachusetts?

As a teacher, I began to spend nights, weekends, summers, even Christmas Day researching Common Core, because these reforms were so massive and were happening so quickly, it was hard to keep up with how American education was being transformed. I quickly began to realize that the American education system under Common Core goes against everything great Americans like Dr. King and President Lincoln ever taught. The very freedoms we celebrate and hold dear are in question when I think of what Common Core means for the United States.

One of my favorite writings about education from Dr. King is a paper entitled “The Purpose of Education.” In it, he wrote “To save man from the morass of propaganda, in my opinion, is one of the chief aims of education. Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction.”

When I sit in faculty meetings about Common Core, I hear “curriculum specialists” tell me that Common Core is here to stay and I must “embrace change.” I am forced to drink the kool-aid. These specialists don’t tell us to search for facts about Common Core on our own, they simply tell us what the people paid to promote Common Core want us to know. Didn’t Dr. King want us to separate facts from fiction? Why are we only given information from sources paid to say Common Core is a good thing? Isn’t that the exact same type of propaganda Dr. King discussed in his writings about education? Shouldn’t we discuss why thousands of Americans are calling for a repeal of the standards?

I am told that I must embrace Common Core and I infer that resisting the changes associated with Common Core will label me “resistant to change.” As a teacher, I definitely believe our classrooms are changing with the times and I am not afraid of change. Teachers across America are hearing similar stories about how they should “feel” about Common Core. This is a brainwashing bully tactic. It reminds me of my 8th graders’ lesson on bullying, when I teach them to have an opinion of their own. Just because “everyone’s doing it,” doesn’t make it right. In regards to Common Core, I am not afraid of change. I am just not going to sell-out my students’ education so that Pearson, the Gates Foundation, David Coleman, Sir Michael Barber, Marc Tucker and others can experiment on our children.

I agree with Dr. King, which is why I am so saddened at how propaganda from an elite few is literally changing the face of America’s future with nothing more than a grand experiment called Common Core Standards. Our children deserve more. Our teachers deserve more. Our country deserves more. Education reform is the civil rights issue of our generation, and sadly, parents, teachers, and students have been left out of the process.

President Lincoln once said “the philosophy of the classroom today, will be the philosophy of government tomorrow.” With Common Core, new standardized tests have inundated classrooms with problems of their own. Teachers find themselves “teaching to the test” more and more. These tests violate our states’ rights. I wonder if parents realized that all states aren’t created equal in Common Core tests? Shouldn’t all states, under “common” standards for everyone have everyone’s equal input on how students are tested?

What about privacy under Common Core? Why didn’t local boards of education tell parents about the changes to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act? Do parents realize their child’s data, including bio-metric data such as fingerprints and retinal scans, is being placed in a state longitudinal data system and shared with others?

If our philosophy of the classroom is to violate states’ rights, use children and teachers as guinea pigs, and hide from parents the fact that their child’s data is no longer private, it can only be inferred that the philosophy of government tomorrow will do the same. What is America becoming?

As I watched President Obama place his hand on the bibles of Dr. King and President Lincoln, the history teacher in me was overjoyed to watch such a patriotic moment in U.S. history. And yet, I was crushed at the realization that if we do not stop Common Core and preserve the United States educational system, the philosophy of our government tomorrow will not be the America we know and love.

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Filed under National Standards (Common Core)

Recommended Reads 9/25/2011

Below you will find some educational articles from the past week that we think are worth reading.

Our Achievement-Gap Mania

This piece is by Frederick M. Hess, he is director of education-policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute and author of The Same Thing Over and Over: How School Reformers Get Stuck in Yesterday’s Ideas. This essay was made possible in part by generous support from the Hertog/Simon Fund for Policy Analysis.

The truth is that achievement-gap mania has led to education policy that has shortchanged many children. It has narrowed the scope of schooling. It has hollowed out public support for school reform. It has stifled educational innovation. It has distorted the way we approach educational choice, accountability, and reform.

And its animating principles — including its moral philosophy — are, at best, highly questionable. Indeed, the relentless focus on gap-closing has transformed school reform into little more than a less objectionable rehash of the failed Great Society playbook.

http://www.nationalaffairs.com/publications/detail/our-achievement-gap-mania

Dear Rick Hess: There is Nothing Wrong with “Achievement Gap Mania”

In the spirit of open and honest debate, please check out the response by RiShawn Biddle to the above article in Dropout Nation.

When your Dropout Nation editor has been brought low by that horrible viral-based disease called Influenza, it not only forces him to spend days sleeping in bed (when not coughing and other disgusting aspects of being sick), but limits him to reading a lot of really smart people writing and saying dumb things. And if you have been reading this publication long enough, there are few things that displease me more than smart people — especially Beltway school reformers — uttering statements that shouldn’t even come from their minds, much less their pens.

http://dropoutnation.net/2011/09/21/rick-hess-nothing-wrong-achievement-gap-mania/

Five things students say they want from education

Technology, creativity, and choice are among the features students would like to see in school.

http://www.eschoolnews.com/2011/07/28/five-things-students-say-they-want-from-education/

Obama rolling back Bush-era education law

Many teachers oppose NCLB, liberal and conservative, but this is not a solution to the problem.

President Barack Obama is giving states the flexibility to opt out of provisions of the No Child Left Behind law, a move he says is designed to energize schools but Republicans challenge as outside his authority.

http://abclocal.go.com/wpvi/story?section=news/national_world&id=8365374

Father upset over homework promoting polygamy, Islam

COBB COUNTY, Ga. — A father’s complaint that his daughter’s homework promotes the Muslim faith could lead to a lesson change in Cobb County.

Channel 2′s Tom Regan talked to the father who showed him where his daughter’s homework which said there’s nothing wrong with having multiple wives.

http://www.wsbtv.com/news/29284189/detail.html#.Tn6PXb7YtFM.twitter

The Outrage of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is Misdirected

I have to say I am skeptical of Bill Gates asking for support of his educational vision. I am tired of the Gates Foundation putting out its version of how education should and can be fixed with The Gates Foundation plan using taxpayer money. Here is one of the latest articles and tweets from the Gates Foundation about “where’s the outrage”?

http://www.missourieducationwatchdog.com/2011/09/outrage-of-bill-and-melinda-gates.html

Finally, as just a fun item. Do you want to annoy a liberal educator from Wisconsin? We came across this piece by a Wisconsin teacher, and thought it might be fun to encourage conservatives to leave a comment. You’ll understand why once you get there and read this, it’s always fun to look into the mind of a liberal union educator once in a while. Just don’t stay there too long.

http://monologuesofdissent.blogspot.com/2011/09/scott-walker-vs-state-of-education-open.html

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Filed under Recommended Reads

Bill Gates is the Pac-Man of Education Reform. He’s Eating the Constitution.

Thanks to our friends over at Missouri Education Watchdog for this piece.

Remember the Pac-Man game? It introduced Americans to video games, replacing arcade games such as pinball, foosball and skeeball. What’s the difference between current video games and the old fashioned mechanical games?

Video games are computerized and do not having moving parts, such as balls or pucks. Everything is contained in a screen and the movement is a blip. You are controlling the movement but it’s more of a passive control and takes only fingers on a stick or pad to create movement. Physical movement is minimal in video games; the game itself is in a screen, rather than involving balls and a person directing that move in an overtly physical manner. Video games perhaps could be considered activity through a simulation setting vs actual physical action.

Is that what is happening in education? The taxpayers, parents and students have for quite some time been in a simulated educational program. Taxes have been paid into a system in which taxpayers have little to no voice and minimal effect. Parents can complain about objectionable material taught to their students but since it is set by the state and not the district, these objections are often futile for change. Students are taught to the test so the school won’t lose funding and the real goal of education is whittled down to basic test questions. School “reform” options are crafted by lobbying groups and PACs, not the local communities in which they are located.

Teachers, administrators, superintendents and state educational agencies discover they are further drawn into the simulation of education. Their hands are tied by No Child Left Behind, students are not tested or taught to as individuals, rather as subsets, and federal regulations strangle innovation. Throw Common Core standards (heavily funded by Bill Gates) into this equation, and the perfect video game of public education emerges.

Bill Gates has become the Pac-Man of the United States Public Education system!

He’s been named as a gobbling Pac-Man as early as 1991:

Hey everyone. I’ve just posted my latest project called Pac-MANager (which moves Bill Gates around as Pac-Man as he tries to “eat up” the competition) on PSC, which includes a lot of stuff that different people on this forum helped me with — thanks all!

Back then Gates was eating up business competition. Now he is eating the traditional stakeholders in education: students, parents, taxpayers, school districts, etc. that he considers competition to his educational vision. How is Gates sating his appetite for educational control?

We and other bloggers have been writing about Gates’ idea of philanthropy. Unlike previous philanthropists, these new philanthropists drive the reform, rather than leaving organizations to do so. The New York Times published findings from a graduate student who has studied how Gates is taking over education:

For years, Bill Gates focused his education philanthropy on overhauling large schools and opening small ones. His new strategy is more ambitious: overhauling the nation’s education policies. To that end, the foundation is financing educators to pose alternatives to union orthodoxies on issues like the seniority system and the use of student test scores to evaluate teachers.

In some cases, Mr. Gates is creating entirely new advocacy groups. The foundation is also paying Harvard-trained data specialists to work inside school districts, not only to crunch numbers but also to change practices. It is bankrolling many of the Washington analysts who interpret education issues for journalists and giving grants to some media organizations.

Bill Gates is not stingy with his money and the vast amount given to various entities buy acquiescence for his vision:

The foundation spent $373 million on education in 2009, the latest year for which its tax returns are available, and devoted $78 million to advocacy — quadruple the amount spent on advocacy in 2005. Over the next five or six years, Mr. Golston said, the foundation expects to pour $3.5 billion more into education, up to 15 percent of it on advocacy.

Given the scale and scope of the largess, some worry that the foundation’s assertive philanthropy is squelching independent thought, while others express concerns about transparency. Few policy makers, reporters or members of the public who encounter advocates like Teach Plus or pundits like Frederick M. Hess of the American Enterprise Institute realize they are underwritten by the foundation.

“It’s Orwellian in the sense that through this vast funding they start to control even how we tacitly think about the problems facing public education,” said Bruce Fuller, an education professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who said he received no financing from the foundation. (emphasis added)

What does this vast amount of money buy?

The foundation paid a New York philanthropic advisory firm $3.5 million “to mount and support public education and advocacy campaigns.” It also paid a string of universities to support pieces of the Gates agenda. Harvard, for instance, got $3.5 million to place “strategic data fellows” who could act as “entrepreneurial change agents” in school districts in Boston, Los Angeles and elsewhere. The foundation has given to the two national teachers’ unions — as well to groups whose mission seems to be to criticize them.

“It’s easier to name which groups Gates doesn’t support than to list all of those they do, because it’s just so overwhelming,” noted Ken Libby, a graduate student who has pored over the foundation’s tax filings as part of his academic work.

What might be an effective method to demonize teacher unions?

While the foundation has given money to both the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, totaling about $6.3 million over the last three years, some of its newer initiatives appear aimed at challenging the dominance that unions have exercised during policy debates. Last year, Mr. Gates spent $2 million on a “social action” campaign focused on the film “Waiting for ‘Superman,’ ” which demonized Randi Weingarten, the president of the federation.

“Waiting for Superman” and screenings for legislators were concerns we wrote about in this past legislative session and the multi-million dollars poured into the school choice movement. “Waiting for Superman” was touted as a grassroots movie, but the mass infusion of cash and influence is far removed from grassroots philosophy. Most of the grassroots comments from various blogs about “education reform” mention the desire to abolish the Department of Education and not so much about charters, trigger options and the redistribution of teachers. The movie and school choice movement have been shown to be a carefully orchestrated public relations move:

A document describing plans for the group, posted on a Washington Post blog in March, said it would mobilize local advocates, “establish strong ties to local journalists” and should “go toe to toe” with union officials in explaining contracts and state laws to the public.

But to avoid being labeled a “tool of the foundation,” the document said the group should “maintain a low public profile.”

The Gates Foundation has been exposed for what it is: a version of the Pac-Man game eating all the unnecessary and cumbersome stakeholders in its way for the quest of remaking the United States educational system:

Gates Memo to Support “Race to the Top”

Note that Gates tells applicants what questions will be asked–and what the answers must be. This is their view of education in a nutshell.

The Gates Foundation had already handpicked 15 states to receive $250,000 each to help them apply for Race to the Top funds: Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Texas. Now, probably because of whining of “unfair,” they’re offering a bone to the other 35 states –if they can answer “Yes, master,” enough times.

See the Gates memo here.

September 23, 2009

This is how our government is operating. It used to be tycoons like Gates wanted to eat their business competition for a larger piece of the business pie; now they want to control the government in which they operate. This is a Pac-man version of our constitutional right to self-govern being eaten up by special interests. Taxpayers have been co-opted in the past by educational unions (even the retiring NEA counsel states it’s not for the children or because it has a vision for great public education for every child) and now it’s Bill Gates and his funding of think tanks, professors, software companies, governors and even the Department of Education. Watch this video by retiring NEA counsel Bob Chanin, and substitute Gates’ names and organizations he’s funded:

The United States Public Education System has become one big huge power grab by special interests such as the Federal Government (isn’t this interesting how it has become a special interest), the unions and the corporations. In the meantime, the student, taxpayer and parents are not receiving a quality education focused on education and use of these taxes is not free of these special interests. Education is centered not so much on teaching sound educational material; rather, much of education today teaches politically correct theories and is delivered in a way that will make hedge funders, venture capitalists, and technology companies quite wealthy.

This is a great history lesson on how not to let control of your local school district be given to a state agency, then a federal agency and then to a consortia controlled by Gates money. Stop the money train to all these organizations (government, union and private), bring it down to the local level (where it belongs) and then maybe, just maybe, the dialogue can begin about authentic educational reform.

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