Bill Gates renewed his foundation’s commitment to the Common Core standards initiative, saying that while there is still much more to do, he believes “we are on the right track.”
Though Gates spent the bulk of his remarks, as he keynoted the U.S. Education Learning Forum in Seattle, on teacher effectiveness and its measurement, he added:
There’s one other pivotal step in the movement for strong feedback and improvement systems, and that is the adoption of high, consistent academic standards throughout the country. Today 42 states and the District of Columbia are using the Common Core State Standards.
The Microsoft founder went on to criticize opponents of Common Core, claiming their attacks against the nationalized reform “have drowned out the facts,” and asserting that the initiative is “starting to work for students and teachers.” He also identified the Common Core as “high, consistent academic standards,” even though there has been no independent research that validates that claim.
Gates, whose foundation has been the primary source of private funding for the Common Core standards reform, summarized the “combination of advances” he continues to support:
For today, and for the coming years, this is our vision: Every student deserves high standards. Every student deserves an effective teacher. Every teacher deserves the tools and support to be phenomenal. And all students deserve the opportunity to learn in a way that is tailored to their needs, skills, and interests.
Focusing primarily on the issue of teacher effectiveness and its measurement through evaluation systems, Gates reiterated that student test scores must be part of a teacher evaluation system.
“Everything we have seen in the past seven years tells us that the strategy we settled on in 2008 remains the best lever for raising student achievement,” the head of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation said. “Effective teachers raise student achievement, and strong teacher feedback and improvement systems help create and support effective teachers.”
Former senior policy adviser for the U.S. Department of Education under President George W. Bush Ze’ev Wurman tells Breitbart News, “It’s worthwhile to note that Mr. Gates spent much of his time on teacher effectiveness rather than on the much more visible Common Core that his foundation funded and peddled all around in recent years.”
Nothing much beyond “the standards are starting to work for students and teachers,’” he added. “Starting” – as in five years down the line – and how many more to go? One is tempted to answer, “Until the next wave of fashionable nonsense comes around in a few years.” Or until the real effects of Common Core — worse-prepared students entering colleges, STEM pipeline drying up even more — will not be able to be hidden anymore.
Wurman recalls a July 2011 interview Gates gave to the Wall Street Journal:
That was before the public opposition to the Common Core arose, so he was, perhaps, a bit too free with his thoughts. Mr. Gates clearly stated that his “new goal is to leverage private money in a way that redirects how public education dollars are spent.” And therein lies the rub. It is not Mr. Gates’ “private money” that he is spending, after all — it is our money that Mr. Gates attempts to channel in the way he personally wants. Four years later the picture is not pretty.
Nor did there appear to be much planning on Gates’ road to influence education policy in the United States. Describing a trial-and-error path taken by his foundation in an attempt to shrink the achievement gap between white and minority students, Gates explained in his address:
Early on, we thought smaller schools were the way to drive up college-ready rates. We set out to build the model of a successful school by breaking large high schools into new, smaller ones. Those efforts did raise graduation rates.
But only some of the smaller schools also raised college-readiness rates—and the ones that did put a huge focus on training skilled teachers. So we weren’t going to reach our goals simply by changing the size of the school.
Gates said that, next, he and his foundation discovered that teacher effectiveness is the “single most important in-school factor in student achievement.”
“[T]he field did not have a clear view on the characteristics of great teaching,” however, Gates acknowledged. “That made it almost impossible to create a great system for giving feedback to teachers that helps them improve.”
While some reports indicate Gates has spent upwards of $250 million on the creation and development of the Common Core, research by Jack Hassard, Professor Emeritus at Georgia State University, reveals that Gates may have actually spent $2.3 billion promoting the education reform.
Despite Gates’ and others’ assurances that the Common Core reform was “state-led,” the former director of the Race to the Top competitive grant program, and outgoing U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s chief of staff, recently admitted the federal government had “forced” full support for adoption of the Common Core standards from each state by requiring its governor, chief state school officer, and head of the state board of education to sign off on the grant application.
Joanne Weiss explained the federal government took advantage of the fact that states were strapped for cash due to the recession.
“[S]o the large pot of funding that we had to offer was a significant inducement for states to compete,” she wrote, adding the surprise number of 46 states willing to sign onto the Common Core standards initiative was due to “our decision to leverage the spirit of competition.”
In an interview with both Bill and Melinda Gates on the PBS NewsHour Wednesday, Melinda Gates said the problem with Common Core and the reason for the “pushback” from critics has been that some states rolled out the new federally funded tests too quickly.
“What happened with the Common Core is, it got rolled out, the standards – the teachers agreed with the standards, they believe in them – but then the tests came out very quickly thereafter,” she said. “And teachers will tell you, teaching to the Common Core is hard – they have to step up their game in the classroom, and it takes awhile to get that implementation down…There were a few states that, quite honestly, went too fast with it.”