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Topic: [ncsm-members] Bill Gates needs to drop his Common Core obsession
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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 16,576
Registered: 12/3/04
[ncsm-members] Bill Gates needs to drop his Common Core obsession
Posted: Jul 16, 2014 8:07 PM
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From Salon, Monday, July 7, 2014. See
Bill Gates needs to drop his Common Core obsession

The billionaire's latest little fixation is
catching hell on all sides. Here's why he's
better off simply moving on

By Michael P. Mazenko

It's hard to envision Bill Gates not getting
exactly what he wants, or backing down from
anything. However, that was before he became the
sugar daddy and primary backer of the Common Core
State Standards, which have raised the ire of
parents, students and educators in the past year.
As Common Core critics began pushing back against
adoption of the standards and influencing several
state legislatures to cut ties with Common Core,
Gates and his foundation found themselves in the
unusual position of backpedaling last month. [SEE

In a surprising act of damage control, the
pro-Core Gates Foundation took to the pages of
the New York Times with an open letter calling
for a two-year delay in the use of Common
Core-linked tests as measures for teacher and
student accountability. Gates Foundation director
Vickie Philips conceded frustrations with Common
Core, writing, "No evaluation system will work
unless teachers believe it is fair and reliable.
The standards need time to work. Teachers need
time to develop lessons, receive more training,
get used to the new tests and offer their
feedback." [SEE

Of course, educators know those considerations
should have been obvious from the beginning, long
before states were coerced into adopting the
standards, in some cases unseen. For a successful
businessman, Gates has been rather negligent in
testing, piloting and evaluating an unproven
product like Common Core before selling it to an
unsuspecting public. Experts in education like
Dr. Diane Ravitch know there is a time-honored
process to review policies and standards. Bill
Gates, however, is far from being an education
expert. [SEE

He is, instead, a billionaire who believes his
wealth and business success qualify him to set
education policy.

This isn't the first time Gates has reversed his
position on education after realizing he knows
less than he thought he did about how to "fix
schools." Gates poured more than $600 million
into his "small schools campaign," only to later
concede he was wrong and the idea was virtually
fruitless. While that doesn't seem to bother a
man who can literally waste billions of dollars,
it's more disturbing to hear him admit, "We won't
even know if it will work." Playing so
frivolously with institutions like public
education should not be so easy. Clearly,
whenever scandal is brewing in politics, it's
always a matter of following the money. And with
Common Core, there's little doubt about the money
trail. [SEE
AND Bill Gates: 'It would be great if our
education stuff worked butŠ' - The Washington
Post ]

The Gates Foundation's letter to the New York
Times seemed a conveniently timed response to
recent investigations into the significant
influence Gates has had in promoting the
standards. Last month, the Washington Post
featured an extensive story and interview by
Lyndsey Layton who recounts "How Bill Gates
Pulled Off the Swift Common Core Revolution."
]The story exposes how the development, promotion
and implementation of "national education
standards" became a pet project of Bill Gates
after the software mogul and billionaire
philanthropist met with private groups who were
organizing a national push for common standards.
Despite having no educational background or
credentials other than having gone to school and
dropped out of Harvard, "Bill Gates was de facto
organizer, providing the money and structure for
states to work together on common standards in a
way that avoided the usual collision between
states' rights and national interests." Layton's
story also poses questions about the standards'
origins, implying they were "not states-led" but,
in fact, "Gates-led."

Since the publication of Layton's story and
Gates' letter, Common Core critics have used the
information to continue questioning the standards
and the process by which they became embedded in
school districts across the nation, even as
public suspicion and criticism grew. Teacher and
education blogger Mercedes Schneider has spent
the past year blogging about the surreptitious
process the standards took to adoption and
implementation. Her work culminated this year
with the book "Chronicle of Echoes: Who's Who in
the Implosion of Public Education." In it,
Schneider traces what she sees as the excessive
and inappropriate corporate influence on public
education. Following the publication of Layton's
story, Schneider turned her attention to the
curious timing of the interview, asking, "Why
Would the WashPost Wait Three Months to Publish a
Gates Interview?" Schneider's research implies
powerful corporate and national forces pushed a
project and agenda that should have been far more
inclusive of teachers and school communities.

Now, criticism of the excessive influence and
manipulation by Gates and his foundation has
moved beyond a simple question of supporting and
promoting the standards. Again, it's always about
following the money. The underreported story
about Common Core is the millions of dollars to
be made in developing and selling educational
materials and assessments linked to the new
standards. Despite claims by Common Core
advocates that standards are not curriculum,
school districts are realizing they need to spend
money on new materials and training to meet the
new expectations of the standards, especially if
schools are required to use standardized
assessments to measure student growth and teacher
accountability. Without doubt, the implementation
of Common Core will cost hundreds of millions of
dollars, and the U.S. Department of Education has
already given $350 million to education companies
like Pearson to develop curriculum and
assessments. Clearly, the Common Core has been
incredibly lucrative for businesses while the
benefit to students remains dubious at best. [SEE

The economic side to the Common Core debate is
what Florida math teacher Joshua Katz decried in
his TEDx presentation criticizing companies who
hedge the market in a "Toxic Culture of
]That criticism is supported by work from David
Sirota and Nathaniel Mott, writing for Pando, who
investigated the funding Gates provided to PBS
programming. Sirota and Mott's piece recounts the
same funding issues previously mentioned.
However, they go further in examining how the
"Gates foundation financed PBS education
programming which promoted Microsoft's
interests." The implication is that Gates may
have been using the movement to sell software and
educational materials. [SEE

Because of concerns about the federal influence
on state control of education, the issue of
Gates' role in Common Core could now reach the
White House. Conservative critics of national
standards have taken to calling Common Core
"Obama-Core," decrying it as federal overreach.
And liberals have condemned the use of
standardized tests as a panacea. Thus, as the
nation looks toward fall when schools will
continue implementation of Common Core and
associated tests, the Obama administration faces
serious challenges to its approach on education.
It's time for Gates to drop this obsession and
move on to the next one. [SEE
SIDEBAR PHOTO: Bill Gates (Credit: AP/John Minchillo)

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