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 http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/11/education/gates-foundation-urges-moratorium-on-decisions-tied-to-common-core.html?smid=fb-share&_r=2 ]
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 http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/06/09/how-much-bill-gatess-disappointing-small-schools-effort-really-cost/ AND Bill Gates: 'It would be great if our education stuff worked but' - 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." [http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/how-bill-gates-pulled-off-the-swift-common-core-revolution/2014/06/07/a830e32e-ec34-11e3-9f5c-9075d5508f0a_story.html ]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." [http://news.heartland.org/newspaper-article/2013/06/07/five-people-wrote-state-led-common-core ]
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 http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/11/24/following-the-common-core-money-where-are-millions-of-dollars-going/ AND http://www.foxnews.com/us/2014/02/05/number-states-backing-out-common-core-testing-maryland-schools-low-on-funding/ ]
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 http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2014/04/23/common-core-education-standards-test-scores-editorials-debates/8071745/ ] ---------------------------------- SIDEBAR PHOTO: Bill Gates (Credit: AP/John Minchillo) **********************************************