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

Dunwoody Mom

July 12th, 2012
11:55 am

I’m still trying to figure out who died and left Bill Gates in charge of education in this country. Seriously, someone tell me.

Georgia and education not compatible

July 12th, 2012
12:04 pm

@ Dunwoody Mom I was thinking the same thing. He has become one of those dreaded “donors” that folks think they have to put up with in order to get his money.

dbow

July 12th, 2012
12:18 pm

This coming from a man that has done so much damage to public education in such a short time frame.

Dr. Proud Black Man

July 12th, 2012
12:35 pm

@ Dunwoody, Georgia and dbow,

No one has left Gates in charge. He, like ALOT of regular people, are getting tire of the same old song and dance, inability to think outside the box, and corruption/cheating scandals, that “educators” for whatever reason have allowed to flourish in schools.

Dunwoody Mom

July 12th, 2012
12:37 pm

@Dr. Proud Black Man….Gates, Michelle Rhee and that whole crew has created a whole new culture of corruption/cheating in their path to the destruction of public education.

Hillbilly D

July 12th, 2012
12:43 pm

It sounds as much like a sales pitch for using technology (sold by you know who), as anything else.

rennin1

July 12th, 2012
12:45 pm

While at the helm of Microsoft Bill Gates engaged in illegal and unethical behavior that destroyed the futures of tens of thousands of college graduates who happened to work for companies that dared compete in the same market space as Microsoft. Is this the kind of person you want to have telling the rest of us how we should go about educating our children?

Proud Teacher

July 12th, 2012
1:03 pm

Bill Gates is a very rich man and I’m sure he must be very nice as well. However, he doesn’t not squat about education in Georgia. He has never taught a day or dealt with the problems we true educators deal with year in and year out. You want to help us, Bill Gates? Give us the interest for an hour of your fortuen for school supplies and updating outdated technology and you will have done something for us. Otherwise, go back to Africa and help those needy children.

Proud But DisgustedTeacher

July 12th, 2012
1:05 pm

@Dr. Proud Black Man seriously???? If all of the people who really don’t know education would allow those of us who have spent some time “TEACHING” and not doing all of this “administrivia” perhaps kids could LEARN to think outside of the box, analyze and enjoy school. Have you noticed that toddlers and pre-schoolers learn all of the time? They enjoy learning, reading, etc it’s not until all of you who need PROOF and insert your opinions that everything comes to al halt. Kids are not WIDGETS that we can control!!!

SavetheSheeple

July 12th, 2012
1:11 pm

Regardless of who is delivering the message, it’s the right message. Our public education is failing them and technology is the answer. You add properly trained teachers and you’ve got a recipe for greatness.

Dr. Lake

July 12th, 2012
1:13 pm

I am an educator in a rural community and I actually like what Mr. Gates said. I think we are being rushed into teacher evaluations, and he makes the point of teachers have to be part of this implementation.

Dr. Lake

July 12th, 2012
1:15 pm

“He makes the point that teachers have to be part of this implementation.”

Mr. Todd

July 12th, 2012
1:23 pm

I don’t believe that classroom technology has made us smarter. Old school teachers—supremely engaging and caring and knowledgeable teachers with chalk-coated fingers—make us smarter.

Sometimes you don’t even need the textbook or a chalkboard.

http://www.adixiediary.com

Bernie

July 12th, 2012
1:28 pm

Unfortunately, Bill’s wisdom is falling on DEAF EARS! The political Leadership of this STATE is moving FULL SPEED AHEAD of implementing a STATE WIDE school VOUCHER PAYMENT system that will further erode the PUBLIC EDUCATIONAL
system that we all have taken for granted.

The children of Georgia’s future will be PERMANENT citizens of this Nations
POOR and impoverished for generations to come.

Wait for US, MISSISSIPPI we will be joining you for the race to the BOTTOM as soon as possible.

Hillbilly D

July 12th, 2012
1:29 pm

Mr. Todd

I’m still thankful that I had the first grade teacher that I had. She seemed ancient at the time but was probably in her 50’s. She knew how to teach and guide us along. I picked things up pretty easily but even then, I noticed that she taught the struggling students differently, than she did people like me. Looking back on it, she seemed to know just what each kid needed to progress.

As for technology, we had those big, fat, red pencils and we weren’t allowed to used pencils with erasers. No hiding mistakes was the point, I reckon.

catlady

July 12th, 2012
1:29 pm

Well, reading the first few comments made me feel better. What I hear from B. Gates is a lot of background noise: blah blah blah. Total static. Unfortunately, powerful static, but static just the same. And he’s recommending more technology? What a surprise! Like an Inuit recommending ice!

Dr. Proud Black Man

July 12th, 2012
1:33 pm

@Dunwoody Mom

Michelle Rhee was/is an “educator” so you kind of prove my point.

@Proud but disgusted

Ive been in the classroom for 10+ years and the amount of hyperbole coming from inside the system never fails to astound me. Btw who is saying kids are widgets? Nice Strawman.

Mr. Todd

July 12th, 2012
1:36 pm

Way to go, Hillbilly D! Seems like if we get right down to who’s really responsible for becoming educated … I believe it’s ultimately up to … the student! Yeehaw, hillbilly bother. Never give up.

Hillbilly D

July 12th, 2012
1:40 pm

Mr Todd

I remember my first day of school, vividly. I was five years old and went straight into first grade, never a day in kindergarten, as it was called then. I woke up at like 4 AM because I was dying to go to school. I wanted to learn to read. It was a bit of a letdown though because somehow I’d gotten it into my head, that I’d learn to read the first day. :lol:

hssped

July 12th, 2012
1:48 pm

Put cameras in every room and tape every class, every day. That will make the slackers (both teachers and students) shape up and fly right. An observation, here and there, really means nothing. Tape EVERY class, EVERY day and then review those tapes of teachers that have underperforming students against those that have on-level/above students. Then one will be able to actually compare and make some suggestions. Of course, most parents won’t agree to having their kids taped…right?

Proud But DisgustedTeacher

July 12th, 2012
1:56 pm

@Dr. Proud Black Man I agree with the foolishness. I have been in the classroom for 22 years and if I could TEACH or if sometimes they would listen to those of us who teach it would make a difference. I am the first to say that there are a lot of people who are in the classroom that shouldn’t be but part of it is because the ones that really want to teach are fleeing because it’s unbearable. I know that the only constant is change but please…..

MA

July 12th, 2012
1:57 pm

This is an example of people with money butting into an area they do not understand. Like ignorant actors (who are skilled in acting) do in politics (which they know absolutely nothing about other than what they are told).

GrandScheme

July 12th, 2012
1:58 pm

If you trace history, you will notice that most high wealthy individuals were and are in some form involved in education. Carnegie (units) is all over and in education still today, Rockefellers, JP Morgan, Gates as well as other corporate families.

Mfon Bassey

July 12th, 2012
1:59 pm

Mr Gates seems to make a lot of sense.No doubt technology will enhance teaching & learning in our classrooms.Go 4 it Mr.Gates.

Mr. Todd

July 12th, 2012
2:05 pm

Technology might help keep the classroom peace. I’ll give you that much.

I guess you could say a DVD player hooked up to a TV screen in the corner of the classroom is technology. It didn’t make any of us smarter, but it made me feel like a teaching revolutionary. One day I figured if they came into the classroom with a movie already playing that they would scoot to their desks and start the class period off without bickering at each other, dropping their books on the floor because they love the loud noise that makes, or trying to sneak candy out of The Globe of Happiness. My idea sort of worked. They typically did only one of those.

Anyway, I played Civil War documentaries, Nacho Libre, The Outlaw Josey Wales, School of Rock, Dorf on Golf, and The Right Stuff, among a number of other mesmerizing, teacherly selections. They loved it. Every single student loved the idea. Of course, the time came when we had to turn the movie off and get to work and chicken chucking. But the dramatic exhibition of hard work and good behavior was always rewarded by giving them the last few minutes of class off so they could repeat Nacho’s infamous fart scene or watch Josey gut Captain Terrill, who sure did deserve it, with a sharp saber.

http://www.adixiediary.com

[...] Gates’s speech in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution here.  Learn about UW CSE’s Center for Game Science here.  Play Refraction [...]

Productive Debate

July 12th, 2012
2:21 pm

@Dunwoody Mom and others.. wouldn’t it be more productive to attack the message rather than the messenger? It seems as if you completely ignored everything he had to say , and just went into a rant about why Bill Gates seems to have a voice in education. I understand your base argument.. but, is it not possible that he has some knowledge about education that is worthy of your consideration? Is it not possible that in all the pilot programs that he has funded in education around the country that he has actually learned a few things from actual educators who talk directly to him about what they see as the issue? Is it not possible that he might be providing a voice to those who, frankly speaking, dont have the money or influence to push their way into a national debate/discussion on education? Is it not possible that he genuinely cares and really does want to help and does not have some selfish motive to sell technology to school systems? For that matter Microsoft Technology had a huge presence in schools well before Bill Gates landed on the education debate circuit.

It just oftentimes seems that there’s some unbeknownst to me list of prerequisites that must be present to give credibility to a person when it comes to the education debate. If there is such a “list”, I’d love to see someone respond on this blog with it.

crankee-yankee

July 12th, 2012
2:21 pm

I like his point as to teacher input in the process of reform. Took long enough for someone to acknowledge that.

Perhaps he felt the need to say that because of the daylight being shed on GA’s push for a new evaluation system that Dr. Barge finds lacks sufficient research behind it. The feds should take notice, I always though Duncan was a loose cannon, some of the decisions coming of of DC confirm it.

I’m not ready to drink the local kool-aid on evaluation restructuring beyond the fact it needs to be done. But sound research needs to be included as opposed to the cardiac approach… “I know in my heart this is the right thing to do.” Prove it first, then implement it. A shortened pilot year IS NOT sufficient to find & address the problems that will surface in any project of this magnitude.

Mr. Todd

July 12th, 2012
2:25 pm

Sales knows no hours. The people who know the most about a company’s faults and good parts are the salesmen. The people who know the most about a school’s faults and good parts are the teachers. When you’re the person actually providing the product to the customer you will be amazed about how much you come to know about everything and everybody.

http://www.adixiediary.com

YALLOweMe

July 12th, 2012
2:31 pm

@MA at 1:57pm – “This is an example of people with money butting into an area they do not understand.”

So Gates, the visioneer and starter of a disruptive technology known as PC, doesn’t understand education? You must think too much of educators.

Not surprised

July 12th, 2012
2:40 pm

I wonder if the school kids in China are using technology?? They are producing 600,000 engineers per year and we/US are producing??
Google singularity and tell me how you will survive the future without technology?

MA

July 12th, 2012
2:52 pm

MA@1:57 – I really don’t like when people take my screen name! Now I have to come up with a new one. Geez! But, I do agree with your statement. I – the real MA didn’t write that though.

Jm

July 12th, 2012
2:53 pm

Amen Bill Gates. Thank heavens he is making so many contributions to move the ball down the field.

The status quo (failure) is no longer acceptable teachers.

Embrace the change or get left behind.

Let's See the Charter

July 12th, 2012
2:53 pm

I am happy Bill Gates is taking a more measured approach this time around. The “small schools” he advocated failed. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2011/05/23/bill-gates-selling-bad-advice-to-the-public-schools.html

Jm

July 12th, 2012
2:55 pm

“The people who know the most about a company’s faults and good parts are the salesmen. ”

Not really true. Sometimes the salesman are the problem.

Jm

July 12th, 2012
2:58 pm

No, the sexual abuse is not on par with a recruiting cheating scandal.

Ergo, shutting down the football program is the minimum they should do.

When sports become more important than everything else, it’s time to shut it down. Penn can live without football for a while.

Mountain Man

July 12th, 2012
3:00 pm

“They are producing 600,000 engineers per year and we/US are producing??”

China has a population of 1.3 billion, so that is a graduation rate of less than 0.46% of the population as engineers. The population of the US is about 309 million and we graduate about 140,000 engineers, so that is about the same percentage.

LOGICAL

July 12th, 2012
3:01 pm

THANK YOU “Productive Debate”. Couldn’t have said it better. Gates does make a lot of sense. He points out how difficult this is going to be and the comments already posted prove that that difficulty will be compounded by the fears, paranoia and cynicism of people who are afraid of change. Does any thinking person actually believe he is funding the various studies and putting his personal time into it just to “sell more technology”? Obviously he knows what technology can do, he believes in it and feels it can help. He also addressed a lot more than just technology if you read the whole article. Gates could be sitting on a beach for the rest of his life. I admire him and his wife for even trying to help out in the face of such ridiculous knee jerk responses. To echo what “Mfon Bassey” said Bill, GO 4 IT!

Jm

July 12th, 2012
3:02 pm

Wrong blog oops

Mountain Man

July 12th, 2012
3:03 pm

And China is able to produce more engineers because they focu their education efforts only on the good students and don’t try to foce EVERY student to achieve even a minimal education. Spending more on the bottom and SPED means spending less on the top tier.

Jm

July 12th, 2012
3:03 pm

Maureen feel free to pull the bookman blog comments

Michael Moore

July 12th, 2012
3:30 pm

I could easily take issue with every point made in this speech, but I’ll just focus on the beginning: “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.”

Let’s be very clear that educators and policymakers do not determine what happens in our schools. What is now happening in schools is the result of unusual cooperation among Bill Gates and his foundation, the consulting giant McKinsey and Company, ACT, SAT, Achieve and the publishing icon Pearson. Educators have had no place at the standards and assessments tables. The funding is and has been calling all the shots.

One more point: Gate’s speech is about improving teacher performance and the only way he discusses how this might be accomplished is through assessments. Stop victimizing the teaching profession and lift the profession. Nothing can be accomplished through fear and reprisals.
Good teaching does not and never has existed in a vacuum. It exists with support from all stakeholders.

Ed Johnson

July 12th, 2012
3:34 pm

For a perspective on Gates’ culture at Mircosoft…

http://www.vanityfair.com/online/daily/2012/07/microsoft-downfall-emails-steve-ballmer.print

Does some it ring familiar?

Mountain Man

July 12th, 2012
4:00 pm

So how does Bill Gates recommend solving the problems of absenteeism, student (and parent) apathy, discipline in schools, and social promotion?

(Reminds me of a joke: Response from Bill Gates to the question “How do you propose dealing with the twin problems of ignorance and apathy?” Gates answer ” I don’t know, and I don’t care!”)

Mary Elizabeth

July 12th, 2012
4:09 pm

I was very pleased to read the following comments by Bill Gates. Those who have followed my thoughts regarding mastery learning and the value of teaching each student where he or she is functioning, and at his/her own pace, will understand why I am pleased with these remarks:
————————————————————————————–

“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.”
—————————————————————————————

If Bill Gates happens to read the comments on this thread, I would offer one suggestion to the idea of “flip the classroom” instruction. 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. In fact, a master teacher would encourage student participation in – and student engagement with – the live teacher’s lecture on new concepts delivered, as the lecture unfolds. This interaction cannot be accomplished during a lecture presented by a teacher on video. It is true that the student could rewind and hear concepts again, at his own pace – and that is good – but he could not probe the video teacher’s mind regarding WHY he is not understanding the concepts taught. A master teacher would know HOW the mind of each of her students processes information and the live teacher, therefore, could answer – with individualized precision and knowledge – WHY a given student is not understanding a point in the lecture, while the lecture is in process. That interaction causes a probing of thinking not only in the mind of the questioning student, but also within the minds of the other students listening to the lecture and to the teacher/student exchange. I was praised in my evaluations for engaging students during my live lectures in that manner, so I have practiced, firsthand, what I now recommend to others.

teacher

July 12th, 2012
4:23 pm

Mr. Gates did not even pursue education past high school and he is now making policy with regards to teachers who have dedicated their lives to teaching???

reality check

July 12th, 2012
4:26 pm

My question is where in the real world to we cater to every person’s educational strenghts and weaknesses. When I shop at the local Target or TJ Maxx, there are people struggling to make change when they botch the transaction by computer. Do they pull these people off the floor and have them dust since they are better there than dealing with money? NO
But, teacher are expected to come up with these beautifully tailored lessons where everyone is happy and everyone is learning. That is not the real world and you are not going to achieve that is public education.

Student Advocate

July 12th, 2012
4:27 pm

Bring on the video cameras! Great idea. Many schools have them in the hallways and outside the schools already.

Hillbilly D

July 12th, 2012
4:38 pm

When I shop at the local Target or TJ Maxx, there are people struggling to make change when they botch the transaction by computer.

That’s why I think we need to concentrate on the 3 Rs. Over the years, I’ve had quite a few 18-19 year olds who worked for me. They weren’t stupid, far from it, but they had no idea how to do anything. Some of them were quick learners but they all had to be taught ever single thing. That was entirely the fault of the schools as most of them had never had to do anything at home. Should you really have to show somebody that age how to mop a floor, etc?

Hillbilly D

July 12th, 2012
4:39 pm

That should say wasn’t the fault of the schools

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.

[...] Downey, posts Bill Gates’ speech to the Education Commission of the States conference in her GetSchooled blog. Gates’ foundation is funding a teacher evaluation pilot program in Hillsborough [...]

Prof

July 13th, 2012
11:39 am

@ Good Mother, July 12, 7:49 pm. “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.”

You’ve posted this many times before. I think what teachers resent is being evaluated by young (in the cases of grades 3-9, very young), untrained evaluators. Working people are evaluated by adult supervisors and superiors.

You’ve often noted that you work in an office. How would you like to be evaluated (with job and raises riding on the results) by those who are 9-17 years old and have never worked at your job?

Prof

July 13th, 2012
11:46 am

P. S. I think that much of the sound and fury here is directed at the student evaluation surveys of grade 3-12 teachers, not the sort of comprehensive administrative evaluation survey that A Teacher, 2, describes in his/her 11:33 am post.

ElemPrincipal

July 13th, 2012
12:03 pm

@ Mountain Man : “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”

I agree that MANY teachers understand exactly what needs to be done in the classrooms. There are some who are constantly looking for better ways to teach. But not all of them.

I am not sure who “the public” is. I would think that term would encompass teachers, parents, administrators, and students – as well as others. So how can “the public” know what to do and members of that same group have such difficulty understanding? (I agree we need a sarcasm font!) As an administrator, I have a hard time believing that everyone else has the answers while I don’t have a clue. A member of “the public,” asked me last week why the number of furlough days was disturbing to me. This doctor didn’t realize that not only do we lose a day of instruction, but that teachers/administrators/bus drivers/cafeteria workers/custodians all lost a day of wages for each day of furlough. And you want me to believe that he knows more about what needs to be done in our school?

Not exactly sure what you think is “too difficult” for administrators, but please don’t group us all together. Many of us were, and still are, very good teachers. Many of us work ungodly hours trying to make sure things are right for our students and our teachers. Many of us are dilligent in trying to bring change to our schools.

The things that are difficult are finding the best way to teach children who do not come to school prepared to learn – how do you teach vocabulary to language deprived children (and no, I don’t just mean those who need to learn English, I am talking about poor children of all races and ethnicities who do not come to school with adequate vocabulary and life experience to be successful.); keeping the stress level of teachers at a manageable level when they are losing salary, we are losing funding, and they are expected to do more than ever before.

By the way…I also take disruptive students from the classroom, I make calls about students who are absent, the teachers and I set realistic learning goals for students in their classes and celebrate progress toward the goal (no one is expected to move a child 4 grade levels in a year), I do support some social promotion because I don’t think any 8 year-old girl should be sitting in a class with a 14 year-old boy.

So please be careful in making such general statements.

Abraham

July 13th, 2012
12:13 pm

Bill Gates:
1. Means good for education through funding research in improving processes. His money speaks.
2. He is correct that involving teachers is the only way to improve education.
3. Nowhere is anybody stating as to what is expected. 80% / 90% / 100% graduation rate?
4. Historically, in the previous 50 years what have the rates been? Does human factor match up?
5. In Bill Gates and other studies, it appears that it is “only” the teacher who is responsible for results.
6. Nobody talks about entry level… a student who does not basic foundation for the grade!
7. What can a teacher do for a student who does not attend or does not do the required work?
8. It is fair to expect teachers to have a laser like focus in delivering instruction.
9. However, teachers do hallway duty, manage disruptive students, prepare question-papers, photocopy, issue and collect textbooks, prepare labs and classrooms, grade answer papers, enter grades, prepare report cards/sheets, student grade-recovery and learning improvement, parent-teacher contacts, staff-meetings, student recommendations, student-research, etc, etc.
10. Finally, any and every voice wants to hold teachers solely accountable, but when it comes to any discussion on teacher compensation, nobody, and that is including Bill Gates, wants to speak about it.

Michelle Rhee:
1. Her single qualification to expertise in education is 3 years as a TFA – Teach for America teacher in an elementary school in Baltimore, Maryland.
2. During that period, it is mentioned that she found it difficult to control and manage students.
3. She, is reported to have stuck strips of masking tape to keep the students quiet.
4. Her claims of student performance, mediocre as it was, was exaggerated from the official record.
5. She founded the TNTP – The new teacher project, to recruit and train new teachers.
6. As DC schools chancellor, she implemented a 30 minute annual teacher-assessment-system, using which teachers were rated. Those who did not meet the minimums were warned or dismissed.
7. Michelle Rhee is the wrong leadership for any teacher evaluation initiative.

JDW

July 13th, 2012
1:35 pm

@Prof…”Working people are evaluated by adult supervisors and superiors.”

Not really. Almost every evaluation includes both peer and subordinates as well. If those 18 and 19 year olds work for or with you they get their chance. If a corporate training class is given, in every instance the participants rate both the material and instructor.

The children involved deserve the right to participate. They, like any learner, perform best when engaged and one of the best measures of that is to simply ask them.

JDW

July 13th, 2012
1:44 pm

@Prof…”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?”

Those are indeed real issues but not in Gate’s purview. He is not trying to improve education in Georgia. He is trying to drive new concepts across the country. Each local or state system will have their own issues that must be addressed.

Gates is focused on providing insight and learning in these areas:

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

Our challenge is to learn from his work and apply it on our level.

Prof

July 13th, 2012
3:28 pm

@ JDW.

You seem to agree at 1:35 pm with my point, for I would say that those 18 and 19 year olds are adults, as are any who are training for corporate positions. Do you have 1 I get evaluated by 18 and 19 year olds whenever I teach freshmen and sophomores– no problem.

The point is that children are, well, children. Their informational feedback can be important, but not when taken as anything more than that. And when the students are 16 or younger, I really do think that they’re too immature to determine an adult teacher’s career.

As to your second point at 1:44 pm, I was trying to prevent Mountain Man’s practical questions about teaching within Georgia’s parameters from being ignored.

Can Gates’s “new concepts” be implemented in a state where its legislators have decreed that students must be passed whether or not they have grade-level proficiency? It seems to me that would seriously affect “Effective Teaching” in the areas of Curriculum and Assessments, Innovation, and the Strategic use of data.

The Ideal must somehow take account of the Real.

Prof

July 13th, 2012
3:32 pm

@ JDW. I seem to have hit the wrong button and sent out my comment. I meant to include the question in para. 1: “Do you have 15 and 16 year olds training for corporate positions?”

BSH

July 13th, 2012
3:42 pm

This is amazing. Here you have a powerful man expressing what he feels about evaluation system (PUT IT IN THE HANDS OF THE TEACHERS) and the TEACHERS on this thread are the ones trying to knock him down. Has he caused some damage in the past ? Probably. Is he a master in education, per se? Probably not. But I haven’t read anything in this speech making such claims.

He’s putting the power in our hands by suggesting that WE need to be involved in the process. Another thing I noticed while reading these comments. Does anyone have any suggestions or is everyone (I and do understand that it’s not everyone here) have any solutions to the problem? It seems that many of the people making comments are looking to shoot everything down

I do understand that there is little for us to trust when it comes to various “reforms” in education. But if we can’t get passed this then this system will continue to lag behind and we will never move forward. Come up with solutions, ideas, etc. instead of looking for the negatives in everything.

mountain man

July 13th, 2012
3:46 pm

Elemprincipal – “By the way…I also take disruptive students from the classroom, I make calls about students who are absent, ”

Maybe you are the exception. Where do you take those disruptive students and what do you do to make sure they do not disturb a class again? You make “calls” but does that solve the problem with student absenteeism? (my son’s principal called me – that was a TERRIBLE ordeal).

I constantly see complaints on this blog about administrators who change teachers’ grades or make them change the grades of their students. I see administrators initiate “no zeroes” policies. I see administrators vote to grant a variance and allow students to progress to the next grade even though they ahave not mastered the subject matter (social promotion). I see blogs about administrators who side with the parents and return disruptive students to the classroom.

Maybe you are not one of these principals. Maybe you are in East Cobb. But there are plenty of other administrators who would rather pressure their teachers to cheat rather than face the issues that prevent student learning.

Mike

July 13th, 2012
3:47 pm

He’s rich, so I guess we have to consider him an authority on this topic.

mountain man

July 13th, 2012
3:54 pm

Thank you, Prof, for understanding about these basics. and for Elemprincipal – maybe you can’t do anything about social promotion because it is the law of the State.

We, the Public who care about education, need to write our Georgia lawmakers and DEMAND that the social promotion law be rescinded.

mountain man

July 13th, 2012
3:55 pm

But tell me truthfully, Elemprincipal, do you agree that the issues that I have mentioned are very real problems in some of the worst performing systems?

Mary Elizabeth

July 13th, 2012
5:34 pm

About social promotion.

A principal I had had, who had been an Associate Superintendent for Instruction at the county office level, had said once in a lighthearted way, “We cannot keep ‘Johnny’ in the 8th grade forever, especially when he starts shaving.” This illustrates why we must think in terms of the continuous academic progress of students instead of “social promotion.” One has to understand the dynamics behind the reason students will always have varied instructional levels in each grade level to understand, at least, some of the reasoning behind sending a student to the next grade who has not totally mastered the concepts in the previous grade. This is why it is better to think in terms of “continuous academic progress” for each student than simply “grade level mastery.” For example, when my high school had tested, each year for over a decade, approximately 600 incoming 9th graders on their individual reading levels, the range of those reading levels, yearly, invariably was from 3rd grade level through grade level 16, with half (or 300 students yearly) of those 9th graders reading on 6th grade level or below. Those are the instructional permutations and logistics teachers are realistically dealing with in the academic development of students. Simply holding a child back a year, and not addressing his exact instructional level, may not make him any more ready for advancement the following year. Teachers must be trained in how to deal with instructional variances within their classes in every grade level. Instructional variance will always exist to some extent because of the great range of student variances from birth, onward. Please read the following example regarding “Johnny” from my personal blog, below, which illustrates why this is true:
————————————————————————————

“However, here is the catch. I was taught, as a graduate student, that if a student is reading within two years of his grade level, that he will be able to function in the reading requirements for that grade level. This means that if a 7th grade student is reading on 5th grade level that he will be able to function in the material for the 7th grade, but if he is reading on 4th grade level or below, in 7th grade, then he will not be able to function on 7th grade material.

Now, in considering the variable of IQ score, Johnny has scored in the IQ range of 83 to 88 for several years. That means that he is probably below average in his innate potential. One could, then, reasonably expect Johnny to grow 7 months in a 12 month period. Let’s say Johnny is in 2nd grade and he is reading on grade level 1.5 which is sufficient for him to function in 2nd grade. Next, he enters 3rd grade and he is reading on 2.2 grade level, having grown 7 months in 2nd grade. Johnny should still be able to learn and grow in 3rd grade because he is not reading more than two years behind 3rd grade level. So, he grows another 7 months in 3rd grade, with good instruction, based on his potential.

Now, we have Johnny in 4th grade and he has advanced in his reading skills to 2.9 grade level, which is within the two year cut off point for being able to master the curriculum for 4th grade. Next year, Johnny is in 5th grade and, having advanced 7 months in a year, he is reading on 3.6 grade level, but he can still cope. The next year, in 6th grade, Johnny is only reading on 4.3 grade level which is barely sufficient for coping with 6th grade material. In 7th grade, Johnny is only reading on 5.0 grade level, and he just barely passes his classes, but he does pass to 8th grade. In 8th grade, he reading on 5.7 grade level. Each year, then, from 2nd grade to 8th grade, Johnny has made his maximum progress which was – based on his IQ potential – 7 months of growth for a year’s work.

Johnny has been promoted to 8th grade because he passed 7th grade curriculum, but he is only reading on 5.7 grade level in the 8th grade, or more than two years behind his grade level. Therefore, although his 8th grade teacher may be a good teacher, Johnny may not advance 7 months in the 8th grade, as before, because he will have been taught on his frustration level during his 8th grade year. Johnny’s teacher was not aware of his IQ scores, nor of his academic developmental history, which had shown how he finally reached an academic frustration point in his 8th grade school year. In fact, Johnny may even regress in his reading skills in 8th grade because he will have spent a year being taught on his frustration level. At the end of his 8th grade year, his reading level may only be 5.5 grade level. When he entered 8th grade, his reading level was 5.7 grade level. His teacher is surprised that she received a poor rating based on Johnny’s 2 months’ regression in his standardized test scores. After all, his previous years’ scores had shown that Johnny could be expected to advance at least 7 months in a year’s time. His teacher does not know why he regressed by 2 months since she had tried so hard to help him grow. Johnny does enter 9th grade, however, because he (barely) passed most of his classes even though he regressed in his standardized reading scores, but now he is only reading on grade level 5.5 in 9th grade, or 3 and 1/2 years behind grade level – a perfect candidate for drop-out status. If teachers had made wise and prudent use of Johnny’s IQ scores, as well as having spent time assessing his developmental history, they might have analyzed his unique needs more wisely, earlier, and they might have provided him with the remediation he needed, earlier, even though he was advancing ‘according to how he had advanced previously.’

If student data continues to be used to evaluate teachers, a factor of data so vital as a student’s IQ must also be weighed, along with his curriculum standardized pretest and posttest scores, if one is to assess – accurately – the effectiveness of a teacher’s instruction, as well as how to instruct, effectively, to each student’s needs.

IQ is a variable that should be weighed within value-added-assessments, in addition to the already named criteria, above, of ‘race, gender, and income,’ in order to have a fuller understanding of each student’s potential. Of course, there are IQ variations within every race and ethnic group, within both genders, and within all income levels. IQ data is one additional source of data information which provides a more complete instructional analysis. Students’ IQ scores should be handled discreetly, and certainly IQ scores should never be published.”
———————————————————————————-

I would add that IQ is only one variable, among many, which contribute to the myriad instructional levels of students within each grade level.

http://maryelizabethsings.wordpress.com/2012/02/25/about-education-essay-5-assessing-teachers-and-students/

Michele

July 13th, 2012
6:01 pm

I know how Bill Gates can save public education. He can bankroll it so that ALL students can get the kind of education that he received in his elite private school that he attended as a young man. Small classes, modern facilities, beautiful campus all sound like great improvements on what we are dealing with now.

AND – WHAT DOES HE KNOW ABOUT EDUCATION??? LET HIM TEACH IN THE SOUTH BRONX FOR ONE WEEK AND THEN HE CAN TELL US HOW FAR HE GOT

ElemPrincipal

July 13th, 2012
7:22 pm

@Mountain Man…I am not in East Cobb. I am outside the metro area in a Title I school with almost 97% poverty and 90 minority students.

We have few discipline problems, but when a student needs to be removed from the classroom, he/she often spends a good deal of time in my office. My goal is (1) to make sure the child does the work from the classroom; (2) understands that the behavior is not acceptable. Parents are contacted (and in our school most are very supportive). The child only returns to the classroom when he/she demonstrates that the rules can be followed.

Promotion/retention decisions are based on many things – not just a standardized test score – but remember, parents have to agree to retention. Any child who is considered for retention and then promoted, goes to the next grade with a detailed plan for remediation. Any child who is retained also has a detailed plan for what the child will get that is different from the first trip through the grade level. There are so many factors that have to be considered. Personnally? I would prefer a non-graded elementary school where students progress to the next level of reading/math/science/social studies when they are ready. When did “5 before Sept. 1″ become the magic formula for being ready for school?

As for the issues you have mentioned, sure, all of them can be factors that cause a school to be low performing on a standardized test. But there are so many other factors –

children who live in poverty, children who are hungry/sleepy/stressed, children from homes where education is not valued, the educational level of the parents (mostly mothers according to research),

teachers who are ill-prepared to manage a standards-based classroom (teacher prep. programs are not all equal), teachers who don’t understand the use of assessment for learning, poor classroom management, poor instructional planning,

administrators who are not instructional leaders, administrators who believe that children should be seen and not heard (keep the halls, classrooms, and cafeteria quiet when research shows that we all learn by talking and discussing), adminsitrators who pressure teachers to change grades or test answers instead of helping teachers find more effective ways to reach the students in their care,

We could go on and on. Each situation is different. Each school is different. There are good teachers. There are good administrators. And there are those who seem to get all the attention and make a bad name for the rest of us!

This is is trip! Is this a joke or what?

July 13th, 2012
8:17 pm

The DeKalb County School District is currently seeking individuals interested in working as substitute paraprofessionals for the 2012-2013 school year. As a substitute, you will perform the duties both individually with students and organizationally in the classroom, of the permanent classroom paraprofessional whom is on a temporary leave of absence. Knowledge of, and ability to assist in instructing, reading, writing, and mathematics is preferred.

Substitute paraprofessionals are paid $58.00 per day.

Requirements: The minimum educational requirements include at least one year of college. The applicant must have a passion for working with all students and must be flexible.

N. GA Teacher

July 13th, 2012
10:43 pm

You can tell on this blog who the real professional educators are and who has no education work experience and spouts wild opinions picked up at bars or parties! First, unions have NO power in any Southern state I can think of. They make NO difference in state policies. Politicians and administrators can trample teachers at will. Second, teachers DO want to be evaluated- in a constructive manner, not in a fear-based, politically(how dare you disagree with me!) or economically(we need to get rid of the 30-year guys who are high on the pay scale). By FAR the best teacher evaluations are done by colleagues, who understand the subject material, have taught the same kids, and can critique their peers in a positive manner to improve instruction. For those out there who think that teachers will “cover” for each other, they don’t realize the extent of professionalism among Georgia teachers. The better teachers in each department WILL NOT put up with slackers, unprofessionalism among colleagues, lack of subject knowledge, and poor classroom management, and if their urgings do no good, they WILL go to the administration, because inept teachers not only hurt the kids but also hurt the cumulative efforts of the entire department!

Mr. Todd

July 14th, 2012
8:47 am

Go teachers. Never give up.

The people who know the most about a company’s faults and good parts are the salesmen. The people who know the most about a school’s faults and good parts are the teachers. When you’re the person actually providing the product to the customer you will be amazed about how much you come to know about everything and everybody. And you are always right.

http://www.adixiediary.com

Unions are to blame

July 14th, 2012
8:59 am

N. Ga Teacher, I was not limiting my comments about teachers unions to Southern states only. I was making an observation about the entire nation. Bill Gates is trying to reform education standards across the entire nation, so my comments were aimed at the scope of his plan from that perspective. Teachers unions are a major source of campaign contributions for politicians at the local, state, and federal level. Therefore, the federal money allocated to education (race to the top, no child left, etc) does have stain of union influence regardless of whether Southern states have unions or not.

Unions are to blame

July 14th, 2012
9:08 am

N. Ga Teacher, furthermore, I did not pick up that opinion at a bar or party! What an obnoxious and petty retort from a know-it-all who won’t admit that you are in a competitive business. If Georgia is so free of political influence from the education lobby, why has it been such a struggle for the private school voucher program to gain traction?

Proud Educator

July 14th, 2012
1:37 pm

This is all pointless. There is no “real” power in education because it’s not seen as a high end commodity or allows you to wield political power. It’s sad that the people outside of our profession with wealth and power are the ones who call the shots. That’s why Bill Gates now has the credibity to tell us what’s right or wrong. Think about the scholarships and grants that he’s responsible for around the country. Don’t get mad. Learn the rules and become a player. Ever notice that PTA moms have alot of power in schools? Teachers are important, but if you want to have power learn the game, move up the ladder, and use your influence in an ethical manner. Teachers have zero power, which means zero influence.

Ed Johnson

July 14th, 2012
1:38 pm

@Mary Elizabeth: “Teachers must be trained in how to deal with instructional variances within their classes in every grade level. Instructional variance will always exist to some extent[.]”

Indeed. Moreover, shouldn’t teachers have a rational way of learning when in their classroom instructional variances mean something and when they mean nothing? Otherwise, how could teachers avoid making one of two kinds of mistake except by happenstance?

Mistake # 1: Focus most exclusively on some individual students rather than the classroom.
Mistake # 2: Focus most exclusively on the classroom rather than some individual students.

It seems Mistake # 1 will likely happen when instructional variances pile up in a curve that shows no outliers, yet the teacher will give greatest attention to just a relatively few individual students. Likely consequence: The majority of students experience the teacher’s benign neglect that then tends to drive them to become or stay apathetic.

It seems Mistake # 2 will likely happen when instructional variances pile up in a curve that shows relatively many outliers on the low and/or high end of the curve, yet the teacher will give greatest attention to the classroom. Likely consequence: High-end Sue tends to be driven to boredom and low-end Johnny tends to be driven deeper into frustration and closer to dropping out.

So it seems if teachers had a rational way to continually minimize the number of times of making either mistake, then doesn’t it also seem instructional variances would stand a far greater chance of eventually piling up in a curve on the high end to evidence classroom-level involvement of teaching and learning and, for the politics of the matter, classroom-level mastery of standards?

Ed Johnson

July 14th, 2012
1:42 pm

“classroom-level improvment” not “classroom-level involvement”

Unions are to blame

July 14th, 2012
3:58 pm

Here is proof: The Wall Steet Journal reports in its July 12th edition that teachers unions have contributed $330 million in just the last five years to campaign contributions, giving them considerable clout on Capitol Hill. These funds were directed almost 100% to Democrats, which should come as no surprise to anyone.

Unions have placed jobs protection and politics as higher priorities than educating YOUR children. Underpaid teachers are being suckered into forfeiting part of their salary to fat cat union executives who live like royalty in Washington. Unions are protecting mediocre teachers to preserve the cash flow from their union dues.

Ashley A

July 15th, 2012
7:09 pm

Others might not agree with Bill Gates, but he makes an excellent point stating “the first and most important feature of a strong evaluation and development system is heavy teacher involvement throughout”. Teachers must learn to work together for a common goal and need to be open and willing to better themselves for their students as well as for their schools. Teachers must be held accountable for meeting the needs of their students and supporting academic growth. If teacher improvement is not a priority, then what is?

JLR

July 15th, 2012
8:26 pm

When you’re a hammer, every problem is a nail. When you ran a software company, every problem can be solved by technology.

NativeEducator

July 17th, 2012
3:13 pm

I have read through most of the comments on this page and I have taken a lot in as a 21 year old student at the University of New Mexico and future educator. I am still young and developing my skills everyday but one thing that I cannot get over is the fact that a national, cookie-cutter method to education reform does not, and WILL NOT work for everyone.

I plan to become a high school teacher at a rural high school in my home county in central-western New Mexico. The population of this public county high school is 95% Native American that happens to be in a district that will not be (according to a 60 year projection) a minority-majorty district anytime soon. This means that the educational techniques and practices that are being forced into this school does not work for the population that it serves. And with the technological divide that is occuring on almost all Native American Reservations, Technology in the classroom is not even an option. Native American children across the nation are already being “left behind” because they require specialized ways of learning. For generations, Native people have learned everything they know by using their environment, learning math and science (unknowingly) through agriculture, song and traditional dance. Some may speak their native tongue as their first language and need to learn to not only read and write proffeciently in English, but they may need to learn to speak it as well. There are so many factors that go into why this school is considered “failing” but it all comes down to the fact that us Native Americans will never learn the same way a child from GA learns and the methods that someone across the country uses will not work to improve schools in NM, and could, in someways, hurt them. Education reform, I feel, needs to happen regionally and then be reinforced with specific guidlines by each individual state.

Like I have stated before, I am still developing myslef academically and am open to any suggestions or opinions that any of you profesional educators would like to share.

[...] View the context of the speech Bill Gates gave this week at the  Education Commission of the States conference in Atlanta.   [...]

[...] Bill Gates in Atlanta: Don’t rush teacher evaluations. Do it right. | Get Schooled. Rate this:Share this:EmailTwitterFacebookPrintMoreRedditLinkedInStumbleUponDiggLike this:LikeBe [...]