kitchen table math, the sequel: Bill Gates is likely not just a funder but the major funder of Elizabeth Green

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Bill Gates is likely not just a funder but the major funder of Elizabeth Green

In the comments section, Hainish writes:
I checked, and Gates is one (two?*) out of over 25 contributors! It seems very misleading to say that she's "funded by Gates." One of the other donors on the list is the Walton Foundation . . . Can you imagine someone cherry-picking that particular donor to smear Green by association? (I can!)
I should explain.

I believe that I'm not cherry-picking when I cite Bill Gates, and only Bill Gates, as Chalkbeat's backer. I assume that Green's major donor --by far -- is Gates (or possibly Gates/Walton).

Unfortunately, I don't have easy access to Chalkbeat's 990 forms, so I haven't fact-checked.

In terms of bias, the presence of multiple donors on the donor page doesn't matter if one donor is providing most of the funding. I'm a member of a list that recently dealt with the multiple-donor issue re: Thomas Fordham Institute. Fordham, too, has a list of donors, but Gates is the big one:
Based on their 2012 990 there, Fordham had a total $2.8M income from grants in 2012. Given that Gates gave Fordham $1M in April 2013 (and $1.5M in 2011), clearly Gates is a major contributor. Gates' grants are probably split over 2 years or more in Fordham's tax forms. Other grants seem to be on the order of $100k-$300K. [email excerpt
Bill Gates is in a category unto himself. (Chalkbeat has been taken to task for the Walton funding, by the way.)

From a Chalkbeat story written by Green in 2008:
One of the world’s most expansive philanthropies, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, emerged yesterday from a year-and-a-half-long silence on one of its major investment areas, releasing a plan to dramatically alter the foundation’s approach to improving American schools.


In the crowd were some of the most important names in education: the presidents of the two major American teachers unions; the current U.S. Education Secretary, Margaret Spellings; at least one former Education Secretary, Dick Riley, who served under President Bill Clinton; and several people named as possible Education Secretary in the Barack Obama administration now being formed. That group includes Schools Chancellor Joel Klein of New York City; Arne Duncan, the superintendent of schools in Chicago; the former chairman of Intel, Craig Barrett; and the co-chairs of Obama’s education advisory board, Stanford professor Linda Darling-Hammond and the New York City-based education entrepreneur Jon Schnur.

The education A-list crowd flocked to the Seattle conference because the direction the Gates Foundation takes will undoubtedly have a significant impact in schools across the country. In the last eight years, the foundation has invested $4 billion in education projects, and that is not counting its investments in scholarships and libraries.....

The size of Gates’ investments is expected to continue apace in this next phase, a foundation spokesman said.

As a result, some observers said Gates’ new direction is more important to the future of American schools than the identity of the next U.S. Education Secretary.

“In a way, being Secretary of Education is less significant than being Bill Gates,” the education historian Diane Ravitch said, guessing that the foundation gives more money annually to education than the U.S. Department of Education has available in annual discretionary funds. “I’d rather be Bill Gates.”
I don't have a firm view on the issue of donor-backed, one-issue journalism.

I like think tanks, which exist to produce reasonably solid research and opinion papers devoted to a particular political or policy view. I'm a big consumer of think-tank white papers.

I'm not sure I'm sold on donor-funder journalism, which is what Chalkbeat purports to be.

At a minimum, I think Chalkbeat should disclose funding sources within any reporting on their donors. I had no idea Chalkbeat was funded by Gates (or by the Walton Foundation, for that matter). I was reading their stories 'straight,' not suspecting a bias toward charter schools or Common Core. Whether or not that bias is present is neither here nor there. Disclosure is good form.

Here's another Chalkbeat story on Gates I've just come across:
Gates announcement A-list, continued: So many power players! by Elizabeth Green November 12, 2008
One thing's for sure: way too much Bill Gates.

He doesn't know what he's doing, and he shouldn't be able to assemble policy "A-lists" to explain to them what comes next in public education.

Be gone, Bill Gates!


orangemath said...

I believe "Core Knowledge" lost a great deal of its pep against non-content Common Core programs after receiving Gates money, but I haven't verified that.

Without trying to sound too "conspiracy theory," it's pretty clear that many, if not most, major ed writers/bloggers have been subsidized - intentionally. Quite frankly, a good deal.

Robin/Student of History said...

Dennis-what I have found is that it is CK's alliance with Expeditionary Learning that seems to drive the shift.

I am no fan of the Gates Foundation but Washoe County creates a great deal of the cutting edge CCSS curriculum. That was the first place I recognized the alliance.

So the shift is more than the financial partnership.

And March through the Institutions in the case of radical ed reform means consciously creating unexpected conflicts of interest.

Robert Pondiscio said...

Et tu, KTM? I don't believe Core Knowledge receives Gates money. At least it didn't when I worked there. Our support of CCSS was predicated then and still on the standards loud, unambiguous call for a content-rich curriculum (Google: "The 57 Most Important Words in Education Reform. Ever" for more). CCSS basically stands as the last best chance, IMHO, to overthrow the desultory process-driven regimen of ELA mini-lessons (progressive ed)and the equally tedious skills-driven regimen of test prep and main idea finding (charter school, et al) and get schools to, oh, you know TEACH SOME FREAKIN' CONTENT!!!!

That's pretty much the alpha and omega of my interest in CCSS. I've said it for years, blogged about it, etc. But lemme guess: now that I work for Fordham my views are suddenly going to be seen as doing Gates' bidding?

C'mon KTM. You're better than this.

orangemath said...

Thanks for correcting me. I rather be flat wrong, than wrongly informed.

SteveH said...

"CCSS was predicated then and still on the standards loud, unambiguous call for a content-rich curriculum"

That didn't happen, did it? That battle was lost long ago. In fact, some schools are backtracking on trying to get more kids prepared for algebra in 8th grade. CC does NOT require K-8 schools to prepare kids for STEM careers. K-6 gets to redefine CC in its own image and then defines away STEM paths by expecting students to take summer classes or doubling up in high school.

"CCSS basically stands as the last best chance, IMHO, to overthrow the desultory process-driven regimen of ELA mini-lessons ..."

Are you still clinging to that hope - one size fits all with low expectations? Is quality education defined by improved relative statistics and not individual opportunity?

CCSS institutionalizes low expectations. With NCLB, nobody thought that it set any sort of college readiness standard, but now CC lets K-6 completely off the hook. The College Board, ACT, PARCC, etc. are all trying to define magic paths from CC in K-6 to real college readiness for anything other than a community college level. They can juggle their numbers, but proper preparation will still require a lot of help from parents and tutors in the lower grades.

This is nothing new. Ever since K-6 schools increased the ability range (age tracking)and began trusting the spiral, parents and tutors began doing the academic tracking at home. Educators don't see it and they don't want to see it. Many bemoan the academic gap but they are either clueless or not honest with themselves.

The only solution is school choice, but CC has shifted the focus towards more centralized and national control of education, and that attracts influence money. One can complain about the money, but it's the philosophy of central control, not individual or parental control, that is the issue.

At best, national standards are useful for low cutoffs, but they will never define a path higher than that. They just redefine College Readiness to that low level. PARCC defines their highest level ("distinguished") as the likelihood of passing a college algebra course.

Life goes on as usual and a lot of money is being wasted.

Froggiemama said...

The major parental complaint here in my upper middle class leafy burb is that CC is too hard, and expects too much of kids. I find that hard to reconcile with SteveH's comment that
"CCSS institutionalizes low expectations"

We must be living on different planets.

SteveH said...

".. is that CC is too hard"

What do they base that on?

Part of the problem is that many states don't have the tests done. Our state uses PARCC and they specifically do NOT support a STEM path in math in K-8. If parents think that CC is "too hard", then what do they think about normal high school honors or AP classes? What may seem "hard" are all of the fuzzy, silly tasks that K-6 pedagogues impose on the process that have little to nothing to do with any hard, cold mastery requirements of CC.

Many go out of their way to describe CC in difficult "understanding" terms, but one really has to wait to see the actual state test used and see what the proficiency cutoff is.

For most students (and parents), the gold standards for college preparation are SAT/ACT, GPA, and AP classes. No college that my son applied to asked for his state test scores. They are meaningless, and CC will give no indication as to whether you are on a proper college preparation path.

One of the first signs is whether you make it (by hook or crook) to algebra in 8th grade and whether you qualify for the second year language course in high school. And, when your child sets up their high school freshman year classes, whether the school recommends all honors classes or not. By then, many (properly) college-bound students care not one bit about CC.

CC is not NCLB, which was all about setting low proficiency cutoffs. Now with CC, the idea is some sort of vague "college readiness", but this just means getting into any college without having to take remedial courses - they hope. CC, with this "college" goal and it's talk of deep learning and understanding, tries to make is seem much more than their raw score proficiency cutoff on whatever test they will use.

Froggiemama said...

In my district, they have already made the changes. The parents are really upset because they a) scores are lower on the CC tests than they were on the older, easier tests. b) the district eliminated a lot of arts n' crafts projects - teachers can no longer spend lots of time on dioramas and have that pass as content c) elementary school math is much more serious. When my oldest went through first grade math in 2006, they spent lots of time drawing pictures of math facts. When my youngest went through,a year ago, she had to actually learn math. The parents do not like that. They hate the mental math, and they are upset that the drawing assignments have been eliminated, and the 6th grade "math journal" is gone. I sat in a meeting in the spring in which all the parents in the room were complaining that "kids can't be kids any more".

The way that my district used to operate was very sink or swim. The elementary curriculum was pretty bad 10 years ago, especially in math, and there was a lot of time spent on craft projects. When the kids hit middle school, suddenly everything changes, but our district intensely gatekeepers the honors and AP tracks. Kids have to maintain 90 or above averages to stay in the track. So basically, parents in the know, those who taught their kids at home, those who insisted their kids do well at every turn, those who monitor every last assignment so the kid never slips and goes below the 90 cutoff, the kids of those parents do well and make it to AP. The other kids, the kids of the pizzeria owners and the guys with their construction businesses, do not - but it is OK because they will go into the family businesses. Our superintendent is on record as saying he wants to figure out why so many of our graduates do not go to "good" colleges - but that was the reason why, I think. I am hoping that with a better elementary curriculum in place, at least some of those kids will have a better shot at making the middle school transition, but the parents are absolutely freaking out. And I have never heard a single parents here say that the standards are too easy. That is why I think we are on a different planet.

CC may not be perfect, but it is better than what came before. If this fails, we will be facing decades of arts n' crafts projects and fluff in our schools. I would rather accept it and work to improve rather than give up

palisadesk said...

Froggiemama, you're seeing what I am seeing, more or less. Even before I switched schools (4 years ago), I saw a big change towards a more academic focus in K-8 (maybe too much in K, but it seems to be evening out now). Arts and crafts projects? Gone. Haven't seen them (except in art) for years. Drawing and illustrating for math, science, social studies? Ixnay. Journals are gone except for specific topics or curriculum units.

We abandoned the spiral approach in math a few years back, with an emphasis on sequential learning in each strand and measuring whether kids have met the specific standards; we have mandated daily practice on math basics and mental math (what is practiced depends on the grade of course) and even the tests that used to feature all this "explain your answer" math essays have dropped most of that in favor of "show your calculations."

Teachers are very focused on the idea that it is our job to make sure the children learn the required material, at least as much as possible. Being a low-SES school we have problems that middle/upper class schools don't -- frequent moves, children with high absenteeism due to family problems, children with nowhere to study or do homework (so we provide after-school and homework clubs), 90% ESL and many kids with real but unclassified special needs which will not be addressed even if we refer them.

Unlike your experience, and maybe because of the SES difference, most parents seem to be onside with high expectations and a work-focused school atmosphere. They may be doing shift work or minimum wage jobs but they have high aspirations for their kids. Kids in the primary grades will tell you they are going to be engineers or pediatricians or biologists, and some of them may -- our graduates get into some very competitive high schools, although unfortunately the fact that some are too far for them to realistically commute every day, and many need to help at home or at the parents' workplace, means they often end up at a local high school but are much more likely than their SES predicts to graduate in the advanced level and get scholarships.

Because the parents support the school and its fairly rigorous expectations, most whose children would benefit from a special education placement refuse it because they want their child to stay in the school. This can make it difficult when the child's needs are very different from those of peers in the same grade, e.g. a fifth grader with a first grade level of cognitive development. I've seen this a lot, and not only at this school.

We have some parents who were educated in eastern Europe or central Asia who do think make observations about how much more quickly at younger ages some subjects were taught when they went to school, but none that I've talked to have wished their child could have the education they remember. With the elementary-aged kids I haven't seen parents focused on the details of post-secondary -- it is too far in the future and daily life poses many obstacles.

SteveH said...

"scores are lower on the CC tests than they were on the older, easier tests."

New tests can be calibrated quite differently, and how do those scores relate to how one will perform eventually on the SAT or ACT?

"the district eliminated a lot of arts n' crafts projects - teachers can no longer spend lots of time on dioramas and have that pass as content"

That's good, but it all depends on what they replace it with. If they are trying to keep all students moving along in math at a STEM level in K-6, that's a good thing, but it's not CC that is requiring that.

CC might be implemented better than the old NCLB, but that doesn't mean that CC says anything about any proper level of rigor in math.

In out town, they worked on improving education with NCLB, but CC doesn't require them to change anything. It doesn't require a STEM level of curriculum, and since it is considered a "college readiness" standard, our schools will never fix math in K-6. Non-STEM education has been institutionalized. Some parents will provide the extra help at home and schools will never know why they are successful.

"They hate the mental math ... all the parents in the room were complaining that "kids can't be kids any more"."

I've heard this here too, but what am I talking about? I'm talking about the hope people had that CC would fix math education in K-6. It did not happen. It might be better or fixed at some schools, but CC does not require that. Our schools still use Everyday Math, they still use full inclusion, and they still trust the spiral. There is no improvement, and now there is no hope for improvement. I'm not talking about what some or many parents think is good education.

"I would rather accept it and work to improve rather than give up."

This is where we fundamentally disagree. Show me how CC will evolve to require STEM math preparation in K-6 when CC tests do not require it? When schools use full inclusion and they can just tell students to take summer classes or double up in high school, what, exactly, is this work that will drive change in K-6?

The only solution is more school choice. Parents can fix things now for their kids and not wait for some magical "work" that might improve schools in the future.

Catherine Johnson said...

"CC may not be perfect, but it is better than what came before."

I disagree very strongly where history, literature, and writing are concerned.

NY's history 'framework' is far worse than what it had before; the writing assignments are absurd; and h.s. English teachers are 'teaching' 10-year old op eds from the NY Times.


Catherine Johnson said...

Robert wrote: "But lemme guess: now that I work for Fordham my views are suddenly going to be seen as doing Gates' bidding?"

Back when I was first writing ktm, and was just discovering constructivism, I watched an Oprah Winfrey special on a Bill Gates-funded school in San Diego (I think it was): High Tech High.

The camera followed Oprah around the school for what seemed like a very long tour, and there were no books in sight. No desks, really, either. Just groups (teams!) of kids building stuff.

Finally Oprah said, "I don't see any books. Don't you have books."

The tour guide, who may have been head of school, said rather proudly that no, they didn't have books.

The look on Oprah's face was priceless. She more or less wrinkled her nose, then said, "I don't think I'd like this school very much."

Naturally I was aghast, and I wanted to write a post about the show.

But I thought better of it. My co-creator of the blog, Carolyn Johnston, and her husband Bernie had just taken jobs at Microsoft, and I didn't think I should be writing posts sharply criticizing Bill Gates.

So I didn't.

I had actually been planning to write a post about this very experience, so I think I'll pull this up front.