Due respect, Mr. Gates, but you have no clue.
None. Nada. Zilch.
Jonathan Alter of Newsweek, in this puff piece — or ode to you, if you will — published on Newsweek.com today, does everything but say that you are the savior that our educational system needs right now (I’m saving my critique of Mr. Alter for tomorrow – I’m so beyond disappointed in this piece of “journalism” that I need some time to cool off).
Mr. Gates, you are now calling for larger class sizes – of course, I guess we’re to forget that this is a complete 180 from your former vision of smaller schools and smaller classes. So let’s just throw some big time money at the wall and hope that it sticks this time. And since your name is Bill Gates and Newsweek is kissing your butt, more and more people will mistakenly think this is the way to go.
Beyond your extraordinary wealth, what exactly are your qualifications when it comes to education? Do yourself a favor and move beyond the pay system. If you truly believe that merit based pay, in which the merit is based upon a high stakes test score, well, then I’d like to know what you’re smoking — or who your advisers truly are. This is beyond a joke and you need to come to this realization. You’re obviously an intelligent guy — why are you so blind when it comes to this topic?
While I agree with you when it comes to seniority pay having “little correlation to student achievement,” I think that people need to truly understand that the converse of this is also true. A new teacher does not guarantee a good teacher any more than experience guarantees a good one (or a bad one as so many people are wont to say these days). I wish that people could truly come to this realization sooner rather than later. You should know better than to base your theories (and comments to Newsweek for that matter) upon such a horrid assumption. By the way, I’m with you on the rest of your ideas concerning how pay and promotion are determined — just not by basing it on these idiotic tests. And please don’t take my disdain for these standardized tests as not wanting to be held accountable — this would be the furthest thing from the truth.
Mr. Gates, your influence is incalculable. Do yourself a favor and sit down with some teachers. Don’t announce that you’re coming. Don’t take a television or documentary crew in with you. Just walk in, observe and listen. I have a feeling that any school in the country will grant you the visitor’s pass to do this. Ask the teachers for an honest response concerning how these high stakes tests are ruining our system of education. Ask the teachers what kind of support they’re getting on a daily basis from the parents they need to have this support from.
And then quit blaming seniority and teachers in general. Are lazy, bad teachers partly responsible? Absolutely. But no more so than the lazy, bad parents. Or the lazy, bad administrators, for that matter. We all must take responsibility to turn things around. And you could help us greatly in turning this around. (By the way, why is it that nobody will take the parents to task for their misgivings in this situation??)
While on your visit, take the time to speak with some of these new teachers. These teachers who are the supposed saviors are being poorly prepared to teach. The state of our nation’s training programs is — well, it’s just horrendous. Walk into their rooms unannounced and see just how ready — or not — they are. And I hope when you do this that you truly see what is going on in our schools — both the bad AND the good. The vast majority of our teachers are caring, well-educated human beings who are doing everything they can even though we are being trashed on Oprah and by Davis Guggenheim, and now Newsweek.
The money you’re throwing around right now is being wasted. Your investment is failing you and the return will be small, if anything. If you want to be a reformer, then you need to truly do your homework. And if you’re willing, I’d love to have you come to Greensburg Salem High School’s Room 273. I’ve got some great kids who’d love to speak with you as well. I’m 100% confident I can get you that Visitor’s Pass.