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February 1, 2013

Can Big Data Save American Schools? Bill Gates Is Betting on Yes

Dana Goldstein:

On the domestic front, Gates expects his foundation to devote increasing resources to ranking colleges not by how selective or prestigious they are -- the infamous U.S. News and World Report model, which Gates called a "perverse metric" -- but on how aggressively they recruit underperforming students, provide them with a rigorous education, and then place them in remunerative careers. Real success in higher education, Gates, said, would mean accepting a student with "a combined SAT score of 600, and they got $100,000 jobs, and they're super happy." He also hopes to rank teachers' colleges according to how well their graduates perform in the classroom, but warned that real "excellence" in teacher education is probably a long way off.

One of Gates' most controversial priorities has been his attempt to encourage school districts and states to tie teacher evaluation and pay to evidence of student learning. Through the federal Race to the Top education grant competition, the Obama administration adopted this agenda, and now 33 states have passed laws overhauling the way public school teachers are evaluated.

The devil, Gates freely admits, is in the details. In his 2013 "annual letter" about his philanthropic work, released yesterday, Gates praised the Eagle County school district in Colorado, which abolished seniority-based pay and instead rewards teachers by grading them during intensive classroom observations and by factoring in their students' scores on standardized tests in math, reading, and science. Teachers of other subjects are exempted from many of the test-score based components of this system. But Eagle County's program could be seriously upended by SB191, the law Colorado passed three years ago in response to Race to the Top. The bill requires that every Colorado teacher -- even those in currently non-tested subjects, like art and music -- be evaluated according to individual students' achievement metrics. Pencil-and-paper tests are unlikely to be the best way to measure student learning in non-traditional subjects. But because tests are "cheap," as Gates puts it, some states and districts are extending them to music, art, and even gym classes.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at February 1, 2013 2:03 AM
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My teacher evaluation/merit pay experience dates from the early 1960s when a school superintendent was hired into our school district to implement such a teacher pay program.Our school distrct later experienced a strike over that and other issues. Cicago teacherts recently struck over such a merit pay issue. I was personally involved in inplementing 3 merit pay/evaluation systems. To my knowledge there is no such system that has ever met its objectives for 3 years.No system in the private or public sector including private industrial etc. corporations Yet,billlionaires such as Bill Gates,Koch brothers,bradley foundation,etc.keep insisting on repeating these failures,blaming teachers for causing student failure which is largely caused by impaiored parenting.

Posted by: wprowe at February 5, 2013 2:11 AM
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