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Bill Gates’ Sobering 2009 Speech to Legislators

March 20, 2014

On March 13, 2014, Bill Gates had dinner with 80 senators and other elected officials. Given his keynote the following day to members of the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS), make no mistake that Gates used his time with the senators and other officials to push the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

However, Gates is more than CCSS. Gates is the entire spectrum of reforms, and he is more than willing to use his influence to promote his opinion of educational reform to those supposedly elected By the People.

The following text is an excerpt from Gates’ 2009, speech to the National Council of State Legislatures, which “co-chair” Gates offered as part of his complete speech on so-called education reform.

The entire speech is worth a sobering read:

We’ve been in an economic crisis for a year or so. But we’ve been in an education crisis for decades. …

You are the authorizers and appropriators of school reform in America. The president and the Congress can make recommendations—and they have passed a stimulus package with billions of dollars you can spend to advance school reform—but ultimately, you decide.

(Keep in mind Gates is speaking to legislators.)

I hope you decide to accelerate reform.

The institutions and innovations that are getting great outcomes should be expanded. Those that aren’t should be changed or ended.

To do this, we need to measure what matters. …

Without measurement, there is no pressure for improvement. …

I would urge the legislators here (with colleges) to start the push to greater measurement by asking the colleges and universities in your districts to publish their graduation rates. …

Caps should be lifted for charter school operators who have a proven record of success—and charters should be offered the same per-pupil funding as other public schools. As you know, a relatively small percentage of schools are responsible for a high percentage of the dropouts. We can make dramatic advances by replacing the worst schools with high-performing charters —operated by organizations with a great track record. …

(“Great track record” = high test scores)

Charter schools, in my view, have been the lead researchers in the most important recent finding in the field of school reform. Namely: The most decisive factor in student achievement is the teacher.

No factor advances student achievement more than an effective teacher. So a true reformer will be obsessed with one question: “What changes will improve the quality of teaching, so every student can have an effective teacher?”

We need to take two enabling steps: we need longitudinal data systems that track student performance and are linked to the teacher; and we need fewer, clearer, higher standards that are common from state to state. The standards will tell the teachers what their students are supposed to learn, and the data will tell them whether they’re learning it. …

Fortunately, the state-led Common Core State Standards Initiative is developing clear, rigorous common standards that match the best in the world. Last month, 46 Governors and Chief State School Officers made a public commitment to embrace these common standards.

This is encouraging—but identifying common standards is not enough. We’ll know we’ve succeeded when the curriculum and the tests are aligned to these standards.

Secretary Arne Duncan recently announced that $350 million of the stimulus package will be used to create just these kinds of tests—next-generation assessments aligned to the common core.

When the tests are aligned to the common standards, the curriculum will line up as well—and that will unleash powerful market forces in the service of better teaching. For the first time, there will be a large base of customers eager to buy products that can help every kid learn and every teacher get better. …

All states and districts should collect common data on teachers and students. We need to define the data in a standardized way, we need to collect all of it for all of our students, and we need to enter it in something cheap and simple that people can share.  …

We’ll know we have the answer when teachers are eager to see the data….

(This contradicts Gates’ comment below about “pushback.” Teachers are not “eager” to have their classrooms and careers standardized.)

This responsibility—to a great extent—lies with you.

(The legislators hold the power– not the teachers– not the parents.)

I’m asking you to draw on the stimulus funding to do two things:

1. Embrace common standards and data systems so we can know where we stand and how to move forward.

 2. Raise the quality of teaching by measuring teacher effectiveness, encouraging innovation, and spreading best practices.

I know you’ll face pressure if you push for reform. …

(So now, in 2014, Gates is “helping” legislators who are “facing pressure.”

It’s called grassroots pushback from violating the tenets of democratic process, Bill.)

This is a national challenge.

It doesn’t really matter whether you are driven by an ethical commitment to equal opportunity or by a long-term economic vision for the country. Both lines of reasoning lead to the same conclusion. We need to measure progress. We need to hold teachers and schools accountable. …

If your state doesn’t join the common standards, your kids will be left behind; and if too many states opt out—the country will be left behind. Remember—this is not a debate that China, Korea, and Japan are having. Either our schools will get better—or our economic position will get worse.

(Keep in mind that the economic crisis of 2008 was not induced by America’s public education system. It was the product of deregulation and corporate greed by powerful individuals– not by common citizens.)

Common standards define what the students need to learn; robust data systems tell us whether they’re learning it—and they tell us a whole lot more than that. [Bolding and commentary added.]

(Regarding the “whole lot more”– consider this lawsuit against ACT and College Board– two companies that were really “at the table” in CCSS development– for the selling of personal student information.)

There you have it.

For years, Gates has been pushing his version of so-called education reform for Other People’s Children.

His kids attend Seattle’s elite Lakeside School, a place where there is no corporate reform “pushback” because there are no corporate-driven reforms.

We regular folk need to keep up the fight.

17 Comments
  1. SpecialEducator permalink

    Incredible. But many teachers believe these lies. Most teachers don’t realize that there is no link at all between school achievement and economic growth. In other words, school reforms are not going to have a measureable effect on job growth or GDP or any other metric you wish to use It’s a fallacy, an outright lie to justify worshiping economic utility in our schools. What a joke.

    • Elin48 permalink

      I know many teachers (myself included) who don’t believe these lies, but you’re correct in saying that many have bought into them. These might be the many teachers who are strapped for cash and are drawn into the CC web via extra cash for extra teaching, teaching which works at teaching other teachers the virtues of CC.

  2. H.A. Hurley permalink

    I read his entire speech and kept coming back to the fact of a rich kid who dropped out of college is telling legislators about reforming teaching and learning. Pretending and playing an expert. It struck me how many references he made about ‘poor low achieving Black kids’ and ineffective teachers…implied White teachers? Those who are not exciting? Wonder if his images are old white teachers in holiday sweaters?
    Gates is on an obsessive power trip with harmful consequences of damaging children and ruining teachers careers. McCarthyism rings a loud bell for me. Witch Hunt! Blacklisting!
    What is theH___ does Gates know about our profession. if he were not filthy rich, no one would pay him any attention. However, American Greed is alive and well!

  3. Danny and Cherie permalink

    I thought you would like this video of Sara Woods testifying in front of the Senate Ed Thank you for fighting! Cherie

  4. Joseph permalink

    Ah yes, college education for all. did he mention the student debt issue and the spiraling costs from college increases?

  5. Julie Anderson permalink

    It’s entries like these that I can’t get through without feeling extremely disgusted. I stopped reading when I read that Arne Dunce-in, I mean Duncan announce 350 million will be spent to create the tests. So let me get this straight. Federal money is going into two privately run companies that will then charge schools for administering the test they developed with the 350 million given to them by the federal government. Oh, REAL GOOD.

    • Julie, Duncan provided the startup money for two testing groups that will be handed over to for-profit corporations.

    • Randal Hendee permalink

      Julie Anderson:

      I hope you’ll open your mind up to the possibility that Bill Gates and the Common Core promoters aren’t necessarily acting in the best interests of children. Gates money and federal money are distorting everything about education and all the discussions about education. It is also possible that corporate agendas, including the agendas of McGraw-Hill and Pearson, don’t necessarily coincide with the needs and aspirations of children, parents, teachers, and the nation as a whole.

  6. beelitenotfab permalink

    Market forces have nothing to do with high quality teaching and someone with such a profoundly lack of understand of teaching and economics should be allowed to make decisions. THAT IS the debate that China, Japan, and Finland are not having.

  7. Reblogged this on Conversations in Boulder County and commented:
    Were there ever any doubts?

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Bill Gates’ Sobering 2009 Speech to Legislators | ΕΝΙΑΙΟ ΜΕΤΩΠΟ ΠΑΙΔΕΙΑΣ
  2. When Bill Gates Told State Legislators What to Do and They Did It | Diane Ravitch's blog
  3. When Bill Gates Told State Legislators What to Do and They Did It | Educational Policy Information
  4. Coercion—the Post-democratic Tradition? | Out of the Cave
  5. Using a Bill Gates Grant to Sidestep Standardized Testing in University Admissions? - Dr. Rich Swier
  6. Bill Gates funded the Seattle Times “Education Lab” | Seattle Education
  7. Seattle Times’ Gates-funded Education Lab Blog Experiment - Dr. Rich Swier

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