Monday, July 12, 2010

Gates Leaflet Makes News

The Heartland institute is a right-wing organization that supports "free market
solutions", offers a "Tea Party Tool Box," and puts out "School Reform News."

This author seem to like what happened in Seattle this weekend.

My HuffPost column, not so much.

Gates Praises Teachers Union, Touts Tenure Reform

Written By: Ben Boychuk
Published In: School Reform News
Publication date: 07/12/2010
Publisher: The Heartland Institute

Tech billionaire-philanthropist Bill Gates met with a mostly warm reception
from the nation’s second-largest teachers union on Saturday. His message to the
American Federation of Teachers: Do not fear change, but embrace it.

“You are driving the changes that will accelerate student gains,” Gates told
the audience of about 3,400 union delegates assembled at the Washington State
Convention Center in Seattle. “No other union is doing what you are to make
this happen.”

“If reforms aren’t shaped by teachers’ knowledge and experience, they’re not
going to succeed,” he said.

Teacher Training Funded

As president of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Gates has donated more
than $4 billion over the past eight years to educational causes controversial
with teachers unions, such as promoting charter schools and mayoral control of
school districts.

More recently, however, Gates has put his philanthropic heft behind efforts
such as the Measures of Effective Teaching project and Intensive Partnerships
for Effective Teaching. Those initiatives were mostly all Gates wanted to
discuss on Saturday.

“If we analyze the teachers whose students are making big gains, if we identify
what they do, and if we find out how to transfer those skills to others—then
every teacher can move closer to the top,” Gates explained. “It will elevate
the whole profession.”

“We have to make sure that teachers get the evaluations, training, standards,
curriculum, assessments, and the student data they need to improve their
practice,” he said.

‘The Most Dangerous Man in America’

Gates received a standing ovation as he took the stage and his speech was
interrupted with applause at several points. AFT President Randi Weingarten
introduced Gates and praised him for “recognizing the need to help teachers and
invest in teachers.”

Although Gates generally stayed clear of touchy topics, delegates sounded
agitated at his discussion of tenure reform.

“You owe it to your profession and your students to make sure that tenure
reflects more than the number of years spent in the classroom,” he said. “It
should reflect the quality of the work in the classroom. And that means student
achievement should be a factor in decisions about tenure.”

Despite what Education Week reporter Steven Sawchuk described as a “very
carefully balanced” speech, some union members continue to regard the Microsoft
founder with suspicion. A small group of delegates reportedly staged a walk out
during the speech. And members of AFT’s “Peace and Justice Caucus” on Friday
circulated fliers denouncing Gates’ speech and calling the billionaire “A
Trojan Horse in the AFT House.”

Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters and a blogger for the
left-leaning Huffington Post, called Gates “the most dangerous man in America”
in a post appearing a few hours before his speech.

“Watch out, America!” Haimson wrote. “You have nothing to lose but your public
school system, at the hands of the richest man in the country who, like a
spoiled child carelessly playing with toys, breaks one after another.”

The American Federation of Teachers is the second-largest teachers union in the
United States, with 1.5 million members. The theme of this year’s AFT
conference was “Building Futures Together.”

Ben Boychuk ( is managing editor of School Reform News.

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