Bill Gates Admits Naivety

Educators at all levels should be cognizant of the admissions and statements made by Bill Gates about the inadequate progress and success of his foundation’s projects as cautionary measures when implementing programs that have not been vetted over time. Education’s products are living and breathing human beings unlike the products of most businesses.

Valerie Strauss in the Washington Post’s Answer Sheet Blog on January 3rd 2015 analyzes the recent admissions by Bill Gates about the performance of his various projects. Bill Gates indicated that he was naive about his expectations for the “Grand Challenges” project which has not made a significant contribution in saving and improving the lives of residents in the developing countries of the world.

In the field of education, Gates and members of his foundation have admitted short-comings about the success of small schools because “small-school effort “fell short” of expectations.” Gates also admitted during an interview at Harvard University last September that “It would be great if our education stuff worked, but that we won’t know for probably a decade.” Gates Foundation expressed reservations about Value Added Measurements (VAM) through its K-12 education director, Vicky Phillips. The Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan last January 2014 indicated that while the funds from wealthy philanthropists such as Bill Gates and Eli Broad are welcome and useful, the donations do not entitle these philanthropists to make policy decisions about education.

Ms. Strauss concludes eloquently that

“There is indeed a big place for philanthropy in American society, but there are consequences for replacing public policy with the dreams of the super-rich, not the least of which is that public institutions become testing grounds for philanthropic experimentation. Given that there are methods and approaches that have been proven to work already in education areas such as teacher evaluation, class size, etc., the public might want to start to ask why it allows itself to be used as a guinea pig.”

You Have Till January 7, 2015 To Share Your Views about VAM with NASSP

The board of directors of the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) will deliberate during its February 2015 meeting the final adoption of its official position statement on the use of Value-Added Measures (VAM) in teacher evaluations. The decision whether a teacher should be rated proficient or not, or should be retained or not based on student test scores using VAM has been a controversial and polarizing topic in the field of education and in the national political arena. NASSP has asked its members and all interested parties to share their opinions on this topic from November 7, 2014 to January 7, 2015 – a period of 60 days.

After a intentional, deliberate and thorough analysis of various research reports on VAM, NASSP made the following recommendation about the use of VAM to evaluate the effectiveness of teachers: “VAMs should not to be used to make key personnel decisions about individual teachers.”

NASSP made further recommendations about how VAM should be used:

“VAMs should be used by principals to measure school improvement and to determine the effectiveness of programs and instructional methods. VAMs should be used by principals to target professional development initiatives. States and Districts should provide ongoing training for Principals in the appropriate use student data and VAMs. States and Districts should make student data and VAMs available to principals at a time when decisions about school programs are being made. States and Districts should provide resources and time principals need in order to make the best use of data.

If you would like NASSP to consider your comment before its position statement is finalized, do so by January 7, 2015 via e-mail to karhusea@nassp.org.