Bill Gates in Atlanta: Don’t rush teacher evaluations. Do it right.

Here is the speech Bill Gates gave this week at the  Education Commission of the States conference in Atlanta.

I’m very excited to be here. This is a rare opportunity for me to talk to the educators and policymakers who will determine what happens in our schools in the next generation.

And it’s a special honor to be here with so many state Teachers of the Year.

If we wanted to give the United States the best chance for a great future, and we were allowed to pick one thing to promote that – I would pick great teaching in America’s classrooms. In my view, nothing is more important. That is why helping all teachers get better is the primary focus of our foundation’s work in the United States.

Right now, we are funding pilot programs in five urban school districts, working with them to develop teacher evaluation and improvement systems. This is the heart of our work.

Developing a great teacher improvement system is truly difficult – because there are no models. The country’s teachers have been working in systems where almost everyone gets a good evaluation — and almost no one gets any feedback. That’s the key point. Our teachers get no feedback – no guidance on how to get better.

So the goal of our pilot sites is to answer pivotal questions on teaching: What are the great teachers doing? What are the average teachers not doing? And how do you help that average teacher do what the great teacher does? That’s what this is all about.

Now, let me just say that at this time, we don’t have a point of view on the right approach to teacher compensation. We’re leaving that for later. In my view, if you pay more for better performance before you have a proven system to measure and improve performance, that pay system won’t be fair – and it will trigger a lot of mistrust. So before we get into that, we want to make sure teachers get the feedback they need to keep getting better.

Fortunately, 24 states are now working to put in place new approaches to teacher evaluation and development. Just a short time ago, no states had comprehensive evaluation and feedback systems. So this is a great development.

But we need to remember: A new teacher evaluation system is not automatically a good thing. If states and school districts feel pressured to rush out new systems, those systems could evaluate teachers unfairly and fail to help teachers improve. That would be a disaster. A flawed execution of a good idea could convince people it is a bad idea – and that could kill this push for reform.

That’s why today I would like to describe the features of a strong teacher evaluation and development system — and warn against the shortcuts that could lead to failure.

Let me start with one overarching point: a strong teacher evaluation and improvement system costs money. We have estimated that it will cost between 1.5 and 2 percent of the overall budget for teacher compensation and benefits to implement an evaluation system based on multiple measures of teaching performance. This price tag might cause people to try to do this cheaply – to skimp on paying teachers to do classroom observations, to cut corners on training the evaluators, to get stingy on providing the feedback that will help teachers improve. But saving money on those measures would be like saving money on a car by leaving out the engine. One-point-five to two percent is a small investment compared to what is paid now for teacher development that shows little results. It’s possible that the costs could be met by reallocating existing dollars. And the returns in student achievement will be many times the investment. So I hope you will take a stand for spending the money it takes to do this well.

Now, based on our work in the pilot sites, and also from the Measures of Effective Teaching study, which is a large study we are funding that involves 3,000 classroom teachers – we have learned that there are a number of elements that are indispensable to a top-flight program.

The first and most important feature of a strong evaluation and development system is heavy teacher involvement throughout – from the conceptual stage, to the roll out, to revising the program once it’s underway. If someone wants to rush an evaluation system into place – and they think they can speed it through by doing it without the teachers – that is a grave mistake. The system will be low-quality, and will never get buy-in from the teachers.

None of us who work outside the classroom can do anything for students unless we do it with teachers. That’s why working with teachers is rule number one.

The second crucial element is to ensure that teacher evaluations include multiple measures. Some reformers believe that test scores alone are sufficient for teacher evaluation. I strongly disagree. Test scores have to be part of the evaluation. If you don’t ground evaluations in student achievement, evaluations will conclude that “everyone is excellent,” and that holds teachers back.

But using gains on annual test scores as a sole measure of teaching performance has huge drawbacks. First, the tests say how the students are performing too late for the teacher to do anything about it – and the whole purpose of evaluation is better student performance.

Second, annual tests are not diagnostic. If the scores are high, they don’t tell us what the teacher did well. If the scores are low, they don’t tell us what the teacher could do better. Teaching is part art, part science – there are lots of great things that teachers do for students that will never be captured on a test.

That’s why we favor three broad measures of evaluation – classroom observations by trained evaluators based on validated measures of good teaching; student surveys with questions such as: ‘did you work your hardest in this class?’; and third, a measure of student gains in testing.

The third crucial element of getting reform right is to make sure teacher evaluations are fused with professional development.

The key area where evaluation converges with development is in classroom observations. Part of this approach has to include evaluations done by the school principal. That is a crucial part of a sound process. But no principal has the time to be the sole observer for each teacher in the school, particularly at the high school level. Moreover, our Measures of Effective Teaching study found that for evaluations to be reliable, you need multiple observations by multiple observers: not just a once-a-year visit by the principal.

In the best evaluation and development systems, peer evaluators play a vital role in the work, alongside school administrators. In Hillsborough County Florida, one of our pilot sites, they have taken about one percent of the teachers and trained them to identify key teaching techniques that lead to higher student achievement. The peer evaluators observe a class, and then talk to teachers about their strengths and areas they can work on.

When Melinda and I talked to the students in Hillsborough, they said that their teachers are changing the way they teach because of the feedback they’re getting from their peers. They’re engaging the students more, not just lecturing — and the students can feel the difference.

The peer evaluators we talked to were very enthusiastic about their work. They were all confident they were going to be much better teachers when they returned to the classroom.

In Memphis, another pilot site, Melinda and I were invited to join teacher Mahalia Davis, who volunteered for the MET study, as she watched a video of herself teaching a class. Ms. Davis leaned forward in her chair and said, “Look, I just lost that student.” Then she said, “The class wasn’t with me on that point. I need to teach that concept in a new way.”

She told us: “I wanted to do the videos because I want to know how I was relating to students. I want to do my job better.” Now she finally has some of the tools for doing that.

As a point of comparison, you all have heard of Usain Bolt, the fastest man in the world. This past May, as he was preparing for the London Olympics, he ran his slowest 100-meter time in 3 years. After the race, he said: “I don’t really know what went wrong. Hopefully, I can go back, look at the replay, and my coach can explain to me what I need to do.”

I think Mahalia Davis deserves the same kind of support as Usain Bolt. It’s true – more people will be watching Usain Bolt than Mahalia Davis, but if you had to ask whose performance matters more in the lives of young kids, Mahalia wins that race going away.

The fourth element of a successful change is to align the curriculum and assessments with the common core state standards, now adopted by 46 states and the District of Columbia.

These new common core state standards in Math and English Language Arts pinpoint the concepts that are crucial. The standards are a staircase, and each step equips you to do more complex tasks. The standards in math are similar to the standards used by countries that outperform us in international tests.

The standards in English Language Arts emphasize the ability to read text, analyze it, and apply it at ever higher levels of complexity – with ever greater independence. This is the core of the core. It opens the door to everything.

The common core, rolled out with the right tools and templates, will let teachers teach the content they want, and still focus on the skills and concepts that students most need to learn.

Some people continue to say that the common core state standards are a precursor to a national curriculum. I hope you can help set the record straight. The common core state standards are led by the states, not the federal government; they are about goals, not methods. Their purpose is to create great learners, not to transmit facts.

As long as we all want our students to be able to read complex text and solve difficult equations, the common core state standards should not be controversial.

In addition, the common core will help deliver a huge advantage that our schools have never had before: a large market for new innovations that can help teachers teach at a high level and still reach each child.

Imagine if kids poured their time and passion into a video game that taught them math concepts while they barely noticed because it was so enjoyable. We’ve been supporting the Center for Game Science at the University of Washington, which has developed a free, on-line game called Refraction. The goal of the game is to rescue animals whose ships are stuck in outer space. The ships require different amounts of fuel, powered by lasers. So the players have to manipulate fractions to split the lasers into the right amount of fuel.

As the kids play the game, the teachers watch a dashboard on their computer that tells them how each student is doing, so they know instantly if the student is getting it or not. Teachers no longer have to wait for the unit test to find out if they’re kids understand the material.

Teachers have not had these tools before. Fragmented standards that differ from state to state and district to district have made it hard for innovators to design tools to reach a wide market. The common core will help change that.

In the classroom of the not-too-far-off future, kids will have computer devices with phenomenal interactive content. This will allow teachers to do what they call “flip the classroom.” Instead of learning a concept in class and applying it at home, students would learn the concept at home, on video, and apply it in class, where they can get help from the teacher.

When students learn a concept on video, they can take as much time as they need and learn at their own pace. They can pause the video, rewind it, or just listen to it all over again.

Then the students can use class time to do the problems. The teacher sees instantly on the dashboard which kids are getting it, and steps in if someone is stuck. The students move on when they master the material, and not before. This is very different from the old method where every student moves on to the next topic after the test, whether you got an A or a D.

Now we finally have the answer to the old riddle of education – ‘do you teach to the faster kids or the slower kids?’ This technology will let you teach each child. And often, when the so-called ‘slower kids’ are given the time and attention they need to master a core concept, it turns out they accelerate – and they’re faster than anyone thought.

I hope you’ll do all you can to help speed the adoption of new classroom technology. Teachers have waited long enough. Doctors don’t sit alone in their offices trying to find new ways to heal their patients. They’re supported by a huge industry that is constantly working to provide them better tools. Teachers deserve the same kind of support, and the common core state standards create an historic opportunity to make sure they get it.

We’re on the verge of a new era in our schools. For the first time, we have people who used to oppose each other now pushing together for standards, evaluations, training, and tools that will help every teacher get better.

I’m very excited about this. But I’m not naïve. This is difficult. We have to work together to design this teacher improvement system and make sure it’s implemented well in the early states, succeeds there, and moves to others. This is a delicate job.

But as long as we spend the time and money to get each element right; as long as we don’t let politics block the common core; as long as we let teachers use new technology in the classroom, this could be the educational equivalent of the Big Bang – creating a new universe of learning and discovery for our teachers and students.

Given the opportunities, the next five years could be the most pivotal in the history of America’s public schools. Your support could be decisive.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

131 comments Add your comment

Wondering

July 12th, 2012
4:39 pm

Our medical system is policed by doctors and ours is the most expensive and ineffective system in the world. Our legal system is controlled by attorneys and we are the most litigious society on the planet with unethical attorneys on every corner. Our school systems have been turned over to educators to run and they are failing. Do we see a common thread?

Gates is trying to change the future of our country and planet. He is spending much of his fortune fighting illness and he wants to improve education. The U.N. protested his medical efforts because ‘he has too much money.’ Sounds like people need to get over themselves and start looking for the greater good.

As I read Gates message above, he wants to involve teachers in developing the teacher evaluaton and improvement processes. Why are teachers so afraid? This man has been successful in so many areas by pulling in the experts and giving them funding. He has been trying to do that with education but many educators can’t get over themselves to work with him.

As for the China’s 600,000 engineers per year, get over it. I have worked with many of these engineers and the Duke study was true. China may label these people engineers but in the U.S. they would be lab techs assigned to solder boards together. Nothing more. See http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5478159

Actual numbers from the study: U.S. – 137,000 engineering graduates; India – 100,000; China – 351,000. Even then, U.S. engineers are better educated as evidenced by the fact that both India and China send their brightest students to the U.S. for their education. Read the article.

mountain man

July 12th, 2012
5:43 pm

“Bring on the video cameras! Great idea”

I agree. Then when there is a discipline problem, you can pinpoint the problem and deal with it. Parents would HATE them, because then they would have to face the behaviors of their “little darlings”. Also, you could select a representative set of classes to evaluate. Since there is no way to know which days would be evaluated, the teachers could not just “be on their best behavior” while the evaluator is in the room.

mountain man

July 12th, 2012
5:45 pm

“Our school systems have been turned over to educators to run and they are failing”

What school system has been turned over to “educators” (teachers). All I see is ADMINISTRATORS, and ones with no cojones, at that.

A Teacher, 2

July 12th, 2012
5:51 pm

Wouldn’t outfitting each classroom with cameras be MUCH cheaper than a lot of things that are being proposed? Another benefit is that students who are absent would lose an excuse for not making up missed work. I have been told that a school of about 1000 with 50-60 classrooms could be outfitted with cameras for about $150K. That is a LOT cheaper than what is quoted for the implementation of the evaluation instrument.

mountain man

July 12th, 2012
5:55 pm

Mary Elizabeth – you keep talking about these “master teachers”. Where are you going to find these teachers and how are you going to keep them in today’s teaching environment? Turnover is 50% at schools and I don’t think it is the bottom 50% that is leaving. Teachers have to deal with unrealistic expectations from administrators – giving teachers kids that are 4 grades behind and then expecting them to be caught up to standards by the end of the year while also managing 30 – 40 kids. Along with that add in 5 IEP students who have to have individualized attention, and a couple of SPED students. Then trow in a couple of discipline problems that you send to the office, and they send them right back, telling you to deal with them. Then a segment of your class ISNOT EVEN THERE, but you are expected to teach them. Why would anyone who would qualify as a “master teacher” ever put up with that? Answer – they don’t. They leave and go to a private school where they are appreciated, or they leave and go into industry where they make a LOT more money and the conditions are not so much like a battlefield.

Mary Elizabeth

July 12th, 2012
6:09 pm

mountain man, 5:55 pm

“Master Teacher” is a phrase that has been used in educational circles, for as far back as I can remember, to describe an outstanding teacher who acts as a model for other teachers.

You may, also, be interested in the following link, regarding a more official assigning of “Master Teacher”:

http://www.gamasterteachers.org/MT_application_high.aspx

Mary Elizabeth

July 12th, 2012
6:12 pm

SOGATCHR

July 12th, 2012
7:01 pm

Gates doesn’t have a clue. What kills me is: let us start a new teacher evaluation along with brand new common core standards in every subject. That makes sense!

Eric

July 12th, 2012
7:22 pm

Well of course, technology will solve everything in education.

Actually teacher reviews always include feedback, so I’m not sure why this is suddenly so urgent. Gates makes it sound like educators don’t know much of anything, yet we keep graduating so many bright students. His argument just doesn’t hold water, sorry.

Good Mother

July 12th, 2012
7:49 pm

It really doesn’t matter who says it, Bill Gates or Joe Schmo. When someone wants to evaluate GA teachers, the teachers on this blog always condemn it. Almost all teachers on this blog just simply flat-out resent being evaluated and will fight it and criticize it regardless who initiates it.
All working people have to be evaluated, including teachers.
If you don’t want to be evaluted — become an unpaid volunteer.
GA teachers are government workers and government officials. When it comes to spending tax-payer money, especially on something as precious as childrne, teachers need to be scrutinized thoroughly and often. It comes with the job title.

[...] Bill Gates: It’s better to take longer to create new teacher evals than create bad ones. (Get Schooled) [...]

Mdw

July 12th, 2012
9:06 pm

I like the analogy of video games. Just put an Xbox in every room and use them. We wait to pay for them. Only after the end of the year, we pay Microsoft for the ones that didn’t get the ring of death, have any technical issues, and the ones that never freeze up-kinda like merit pay. We reward students who score extremely high on games by letting them go to P.E. and those that didn’t score very high (despite they have disabilities or not) we will punish them by taken away their electives such as music and art and put them in remediation classes. If they still can’t score high enough on the game-throw out the game and get a new one. If that doesn’t work, then throw out the xboxs’ and get new ones. We will punish the students who didn’t make the cut off score because of 1 point by sending them to the Summer Xbox Academy for four weeks and let them see if they can get the cutoff score again. If that doesn’t work, we need to send in the “Xbox professionals” who never worked on xboxs to come in and show how the Xboxs should be used.

iTeach

July 12th, 2012
9:10 pm

I don’t care what Bill Gates says…who left him in charge of everything. Go back to work
Bill and butt out. You don’t know everything about everything. Humble yourself please.

Read here to find out more about his true motives:

The Gates Foundation’s Leveraged Philanthropy: Corporate Profit Versus Humanity on Three Fronts

http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/living-in-dialogue/2012/07/the_gates_foundations_leverage.html

Prof

July 12th, 2012
9:29 pm

Just to take Gates’s ideas on the great value of evaluation surveys a little further, I’ll adjust this quotation of his a bit:

“Our [administrators] get no feedback – no guidance on how to get better.

“So the goal of our pilot sites is to answer pivotal questions on [administering]: What are the great [administrators] doing? What are the average [administrators] not doing? And how do you help that average [administrator] do what the great [administrator] does? That’s what this is all about.”

Mary Elizabeth

July 12th, 2012
9:53 pm

Prof, 9:29 pm

Your point – which needed to be made – is well made, Prof. Thank you.

The emotional climate, as well as the excellence – or not – of a school starts at the top.

Is This The Same Bill Gates Who Championed Dr. Beverly Hall?

July 12th, 2012
10:11 pm

“This is a rare opportunity for me to talk to the educators and policymakers who will determine what happens in our schools in the next generation.”

___________________________________________________

I am skeptical of Bill Gates’ opinions and judgement.

He gave millions to APS, Dr. Hall and her administrators.

The Gates Foundation flew them to many conferences, etc.

WHAT DID HE GET FOR HIS MILLIONS?

The worst cheating scandal in the country.

Money cannot BUY commonsense or integrity.

Dr. Monica Henson

July 12th, 2012
10:14 pm

Mary Elizabeth posted, ” I would not make this instructional ‘flip’ a plan for every day of the week. Two or three days a week would be more advisable because, during teachers’ lectures of new concepts, students should be able to raise their hands to interact with a live teacher concerning the content of the teacher’s lecture, as it unfolds.”

I agree wholeheartedly. I taught a prototype “flipped” classroom model back in the late 1990s, way before all the cool YouTube technology that is available now. I did a lot of frontloading in my unit and lesson planning so that students could work as much as possible at their own pace on many assignments. A couple of days a week were reserved for students to come in and work on their choice of things and use me as a problem-solving coach. Two days a week were scheduled as “whole-class” days, where we would have some lecture, some whole-class dramatic reading, some cooperative learning activities, technology lab time, etc. Fridays were always reserved for film clips and class discussions.

It was amazing how students wholeheartedly embraced this kind of classroom setup. As much as they enjoyed the days where they had their own choice of what to work on, I never would have made the entire schedule work in this fashion. By compressing the “teacher-led” days and activities, it helped the students to see the value of taking notes during a lecture, of taking advantage of my presence in leading the activities, and really maximized the impact.

Dr. Monica Henson

July 12th, 2012
10:18 pm

(When I first developed this model of teaching, my students were heterogeneously grouped middle schoolers in a working-class central Massachusetts neighborhood K-8 Title I school.)

Mary Elizabeth

July 12th, 2012
11:21 pm

Dr. Monica Henson, 10:14 pm

Outstanding instructional model you have stated in finely tuned detail, Dr. Henson. You offered students the security and continuity of a consistent weekly instructional plan, which contained enough daily variation to serve students’ individual needs well, as well as to alleviate dull, daily repetition – which would have caused boredom – through having several instructional approaches, even within your “whole-class days.” Brava!

Brook Lynn

July 12th, 2012
11:26 pm

The college dropout Mr. Gates who has never taught nor completed his college degree is now an expert on teaching? There is only one motive and its making a profit from education. The sad part is America was once a country that had many jobs. Today it appears the only thing made in America is Hollywood movies and so education is the next venture for profit making. Bill Gates, get real. You have no business speaking about education as I have no business telling you how to run Microsoft, in which I may add produces a crummy product such as the Vista OS.

Old School 36

July 12th, 2012
11:27 pm

I agree with several folks that Mr. Gates does seem to be listening to teachers somewhere because I did not really get angry when I read this article. I have certainly felt quite a bit of annoyance in the past. I agree teachers need lots peer review, which is not a new thing, but it has never been fully implemented in any school district where I have taught. I really think these types of evaluations are important. The best evaluations I have received was in the 1990s when I taught in California because the feedback was designed to let me see my lesson through the evaluator’s eyes. They were so different from what I had received in Georgia. I was also observed 3 times here in Georgia by 3 different administrators in the school during one school year where I felt they got the lesson and I saw myself as a teacher through someone else’s eyes in ways I had not before. It was a very powerful experience. Teaching in isolation is truly what many of us do and it is possible these types of teacher evaluations might actually be a positive experience. I am open at this point.

Just the Facts

July 12th, 2012
11:39 pm

A lot of teachers out there afraid of their own shadow.

Robert

July 12th, 2012
11:43 pm

Bill Gates and his wife are making a positive difference in this world. God bless them.

Chip

July 13th, 2012
1:24 am

Unfortunately, when Bill Gates farts the past two Governors of this state are always willing to sniff….oh, that smells good!

question

July 13th, 2012
7:41 am

Hey Maureen what County Superintendents were in attendance?

Julia

July 13th, 2012
8:42 am

A few days ago there was an article about how DeKalb County School System is laying off teachers and paraprofessionals to balance this year’s (2012-2013) budget. At the same time, however, the Country is advertising for a large number of administrative positions. Can someone tell me what is going on? Please visit their Human Resources website and check out how much this cash stripped county will spend on hiring new administrators. Thanks.

Reallyperplexed

July 13th, 2012
8:45 am

Bill and Melinda Gates have become the equivalent of the Federal Government with regards to education. They give a small amount of money, in retrospect, and make huge demands. What are any on their qualifications? Seriously!! I realize that when a teacher is being evaluated that it cannot and must not be analyzed on a one time visit. Various wak-throughs must exist throughpout the year, mostly unannounced. This is not for the process of attempting to “catch’ teachers at whatever, but rather to create strategies to assist teachers and offer constructive criticism in order to create more effective people in our classrooms. So, Bill, Melinda and the Federal Government—we really do know what we are doing!!! But thanks…..

Reallyperplexed

July 13th, 2012
8:46 am

Julia–without both a strong administrative team and strong teachers and parapros collaborating, the organizations will fall. Please do your research as to why these postings exist

JDW

July 13th, 2012
8:47 am

I find it quite interesting that many of the comments from those involved in the current failing enterprise of education in Georgia seem to indicate that the guy that changed the world as we know it and made quite the fortune along the way doesn’t understand. You folks are a classic change management nightmare.

Fact is we are not succeeding in education in this state. We must change…that means YOU.

Now Gates has decided to direct a large amount of money and brainpower at the problem. Will he always be right…no. However by observing those that are successful and driving the key competencies they have through the system progress can be made. Your best course of action is to hush, listen and learn.

JDW

July 13th, 2012
8:49 am

@Reallyperplexed …”So, Bill, Melinda and the Federal Government—we really do know what we are doing!!! But thanks…..”

Performance seems to indicate otherwise.

Mountain Man

July 13th, 2012
9:05 am

“Now Gates has decided to direct a large amount of money and brainpower at the problem. ”

No, he has NOT addressed the major issues at schools. I said this in an earlier post and got no response: What has he and his wife done about discipline in schools, absenteeism, social promotion, apathy of students (and parents)???

(crickets, vast silence)

How are VIDEO TEACHERS going to help kids WHO WON’T COME TO SCHOOL?

How are VIDEO TEACHERS goping to help kids who think that getting an education is bad, because it makes them act “too white”?

Dr. Sanford Aranoff

July 13th, 2012
9:06 am

See “Lessons We Can Learn from Bill Gates’ Dropping Out of Harvard University”
Published in Gifted Education Press Quarterly, Fall 2011.
You may read this at http://www.analysis-knowledge.com/msgTeaching.htm

Mountain Man

July 13th, 2012
9:08 am

“@Reallyperplexed …”So, Bill, Melinda and the Federal Government—we really do know what we are doing!!! But thanks…..”

Performance seems to indicate otherwise.”

TEACHERS know what needs to be done. We the public knows what needs to be done. But we are ignored because what we suggest is DIFFICULT for ADMINISTRATORS and PARENTS and STUDENTS. And taxpayers don’t want to do it because it COSTS more. So we get what we have been getting.

worried gmom

July 13th, 2012
9:19 am

I feel sorry for any parent trying to educate a child in Georgia! WAKE UP, PEOPLE!!

Unions are to blame

July 13th, 2012
9:19 am

Teachers need to admit that their unions are THE single biggest obstacle. Mediocrity is tolerated to keep the dues flowing. Politicians are unlikely to introduce reform because they want the support of the teachers union. Parents are the real “customer” yet the teachers union tries to deny them the ability to choose the best “service” for their child. I send my daughter to a private school. It is a huge sacrifice and I drive a 10 year old car as a way to manage the tuition, but I will not send her to the awful public school near my neighborhood. Unions ignore the nature of competition in the market place, “adapt or go out of business”, and they need to admit that it’s just a jobs program with no regard for the parents and students.

Mdw

July 13th, 2012
9:27 am

@ unions to blame- we just got to blame something that doesn’t exist in Georgia. That is what is wrong with education- people who uses myths to offer suggestions from them.

Unions are to blame

July 13th, 2012
9:38 am

Teacher unions have blocked education reform and vouchers/choice across the country. When I was in 6th grade, we had a new teacher who had moved to Georgia from upstate New York. The first thing he did was try to organize a union. He bullied an English teacher who left to teach at a private school. Unions = Mediocrity. Trying to hold off competition and technological advances is a fool’s errand, and we have a lot of fools in our public education system.

[...] Bill Gates in Atlanta – Don’t rush teacher evaluations, get it right. Get Schooled blog in Atlanta Journal-Constitution [...]

robert thomson

July 13th, 2012
9:53 am

Since when did Bill Gates become an expert on classroom teaching? Has he ever taught before in a school setting. I dont go running around claiming to be the expert on operating systems.

JDW

July 13th, 2012
9:55 am

@Mountain Man…”No, he has NOT addressed the major issues at schools. I said this in an earlier post and got no response: What has he and his wife done about discipline in schools, absenteeism, social promotion, apathy of students (and parents)???”

Sounds to me like you are just trying to find any reason to cross your arms and pout. Why should Gates spend his time worrying about discipline, absenteeism etc…these are clearly issues for individual school administration that varies WIDELY by school.

Gates is focused on the following:

-Effective Teaching
-Standards Curriculum and Assessments
-Innovation and networks
-Strategic use of data

The idea is for you to learn from what he is doing and apply that at the local level…along with solving discipline, absenteeism and other such issues.

JDW

July 13th, 2012
9:57 am

@Robert…”I dont go running around claiming to be the expert on operating systems.”

Then again you didn’t quit your day job and spend the last several years learning about operating systems.

cris

July 13th, 2012
10:24 am

I love the flipping idea…let’s just make sure that when they’re watching these videos at home that they purchase Microsoft operating systems to do it with! No iPads either! (sarcasm font really needed – maybe Bill could work on that)

Tony

July 13th, 2012
10:29 am

The “600,000 engineers in China” myth has been debunked repeatedly. It is completely false. Its reoccurence in discussions about US education shows how lies are perpetuated and how gullible people are. (Source: Gerald Bracey)

Mountain Man

July 13th, 2012
10:33 am

“Why should Gates spend his time worrying about discipline, absenteeism etc…these are clearly issues for individual school administration that varies WIDELY by school”

Of course they are. But we are not here trying to solve problems at Pope or Walton in East Cobb. We are trying to solve the problems of APS. Those are the basic issues in low-performing schools. And low-performing schools are what Bill Gates are targeting also.

Mountain Man

July 13th, 2012
10:35 am

“Why should Gates spend his time worrying about discipline, absenteeism etc…these are clearly issues for individual school administration that varies WIDELY by school”

And my is that ADMINISTRATORS at idividual schools ARE NOT addressing these problems. If they were, we would not be looking at teachers so hard.

Anonymous

July 13th, 2012
10:48 am

Regarding the “flipping” approach – So if I have 3 kids they’ll each need to watch at least 4 videos (one each for core subjects) and we’ll have to schedule the computer so they can each watch 2 hours (assuming each core class has a 30 minute video)….

Oh wait, we don’t have a computer, or it’s on the blink.

I like innovative ideas but when do we check to see if those ideas are remotely realistic?

Money...

July 13th, 2012
11:00 am

Bill Gates’ money always comes with strings attached. For years, Beverly Hall and her thugs threw around his name regularly. If Gates said something Hall would latch onto it and it became part of the APS plan…and by God you better make it work or else!!

This is no different then the money attached to federal grants, i.e. Race to the Top, Title 1. Does anyone think the American Medical Association would allow Gates to come in & decide on medical issues or how we evaluate our doctors?

States/Systems and Teachers!!! Need to stand up and say NO…keep your money and let us monitor our own profession.

Prof

July 13th, 2012
11:12 am

Mountain Man inquires what Gates is going to do about problems that local teachers face such as social promotion, and JDW replies at 9:55 am: “Why should Gates spend his time worrying about discipline, absenteeism etc…these are clearly issues for individual school administration that varies WIDELY by school.”

I think Mountain Man touches on a very real problem: social promotion has been decreed by law for the entire state of Georgia by our state legislature. It doesn’t “var[y] widely by school.” And many pernicious results flow from social promotion, which leads to students being advanced who are not performing at grade level. Such students are much of the source of schools’ disciplinary problems, absenteeism, and apathy noted by Mountain Man.

How will Bill Gates get around this law that has such terrible results for teachers as well as students? Or, what do we do about the fact we live in Georgia?

Abdullah the Butcher

July 13th, 2012
11:24 am

Why can’t we tie future participation in government entitlement programs to successful completion of education milestones?. If you don’t attend school and/or disrupt the class, your teacher can fill out an (anonymous) report that will block you from social transfer of wealth programs beyond 21 years old. That would give teachers real power to command the attention of apathetic students and apathetic parents. Teachers are in a tough spot unless they can dole out consequences. Parents would change their stance if they were screwing their kid out of welfare and healthcare.

A Teacher, 2

July 13th, 2012
11:33 am

For the record and directed at those that do not wish to be confused with the facts, I am evaluated each and every year. The evaluation instrument used by my county is about 20 pages long. I have to provide evidence of student achievement, with or without standardized tests, evidence of instructional effectiveness, and then show documentation of my effectiveness as a productive member of the school community. The entire process takes about 10 hours of my time and my administrator’s time. The instrument is very comprehensive and includes every part of a teacher’s job.

Georgia State Law mandates that all educators be evaluated each year. If your local educational entity is not doing this, or if you feel like the evaluations are not being done with fidelity, please be a part of fixing your own problems within your local educational entity. I am frankly tired of being painted with the same brush as those who can’t or won’t take their jobs seriously.

My system is loved by almost all constituents. We have a high level of trust and collaboration between parents, students, administrators, teachers, school board, and larger community. We sent a high percentage of each graduating class to competitive universities, other colleges, technical colleges, and the military. The reason this has happened is that the larger community demanded it about 20 years ago. If someone on any level comes in to upset what we have, they do not last long. It can be done, people!

Making things work in a larger community requires work, not just cynical comments expressed anonymously on a blog. Waiting on any government entity to make it work for you will be a loooooong wait.