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Transcript of Gates’ March 2014 Washington Post Interview

June 21, 2014

On June 7, 2014, Washington Post reporter Lyndsey Layton published a blockbuster article largely based on a 28-minute interview she had with Gates following his keynote speech at the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards’ (NBPTS) Teaching and Learning Conference in Washington, DC, on March 14, 2014.

I am writing my second book, this one on the origins of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). In the process of writing a chapter on the Gates bankrolling of CCSS, I transcribed the entire 28- minute interview, complete with every “uhh” and “you know.”

My primary purpose in writing this post is to make my transcription available to the public:

Layton-Gates Interview March 14, 2014


Allow me to offer a few observations regarding both Layton’s March interview and her June article:

The June Article

The layout of Layton’s June article is such that one might mistake the entire article as being based upon her March interview with Gates. Not so. In fact, a key admission revealed in the article– and the one with which Layton chooses to open her piece– is not part of her 28-minute interview with Gates.

As one views the June article, one first sees a 5-minute video clip of Gates, an abbreviated version of the full-length, 28-minute interview.

Immediately followed by the video clip is the stunning news that former Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) President Gene Wilhoit and CCSS “lead writer” David Coleman asked Gates in 2008 to bankroll CCSS.

Even though one might believe that this Wilhoit/Coleman information was part of Layton’s March interview with Gates, it is not. The Wilhoit/Coleman information came from Wilhoit.

Much of Layton’s June article focuses on the information in the March interview. Further along in the article, the video link for the full, 28-minute interview is available, with the caption that this is the “full interview.”

The descriptor “full interview” might lead one to believe that the Wilhoit/Coleman admission is part of this interview. Again, not so.

Layton’s article also declares Kentucky as the first state to sign on for CCSS, in February 2010. Again, not so. By June 2009, 46 states and US territories had already signed the legally-binding CCSS memorandum of understanding (MOU). Most dodged the entire legislative process. In February 2010, Kentucky adopted CCSS through the “back door” of Senate Bill 1 (2009) (a mandate to revise all Kentucky standards), and Kentucky was the first state to move to implement CCSS; however, the majority of US governors and state superintendents had already signed over their state education systems for CCSS.

Kentucky was also the first state to administer CCSS-related assessments and to encounter problems. New York was right behind Kentucky with CCSS assessment problems.

The March Interview

In transcribing Layton’s March interview with Gates, I realized what a fine interviewer Layton is. She asks Gates some probing questions that he is clearly uncomfortable answering. Gates becomes testy with Layton a number of times during the interview. What particularly appears to tick him off is Layton’s insistence upon asking Gates questions related to the politics of CCSS. But Gates does not want to talk politics. He does not believe the fact that CCSS is a political land mine to be “substantive.”

Gates sees himself as a neutral benevolent who is outside of (above?) the political process, and he clearly resents the idea that anyone would question his motives in funding CCSS.

There is much more that I could write here; however, I will save it for my second book.

I will note that at one point in the interview, Layton agrees with Gates that most teachers support CCSS and that the problem (here it comes) is faulty implementation.

I closely examined seven surveys that supposedly show teacher (and other) support for CCSS– including an early-release version of the Gates/Scholastic survey– and none hold up to any declaration that teachers “want” CCSS.

The Transcript of the 28-minute Interview is Worth the Read

And with that statement, I will close.


Like my writing? Read my newly-released ed “reform” whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who in the Implosion of American Public Education


  1. We all need to remember that earlier in the school year Gates actually admitted that it might be a decade before we really knew if this experiment with CCSS really worked or not.
    Looking forward to reading your next book, Mercedes.

  2. Laura H. Chapman permalink

    I downloaded your transcript, single spaced it and did some underlining and bold facing to discern the shape of Gate’s thinking. It is is clear that the interviewer was pressing him and that he would like to have escaped questioning. As a strategy of avoidance, he tries to make a distinction between the “politics” of eduation his superior quest for “excellence,” with counts and comparisons of this and that being indicative of what’s best. He wants this interviewer and the public tot hink of his investments in education are apolitical, just accelerated R & D in a neglected field, with no possible negative consequences and little or no leadership unless his money provides it. His next target is a lot of scaling up with entire districts serving as thralls to his uninformed and unwise efforts to standardized education. He is a huge danger, uninformed about the paper-thin rationale and research for the CCSS. He has not read them and would not understanding anything about them, least of all what a “learning progression” entails and where these are in evidence in the CCSS. He is hooied on the idea that there are learning progressions in the CCSS (not self evident), that grade level expectations are just there and not controversial, and that standards are totally disconnected from and implications for teaching. Dumb and dangerous, sold a bill of goods, as clueless now as he was with huge investments in small high schools–that fiasco from his misreading of “data.”
    Mercedes, after you take a breath, correct some of the typos. Overall you did a remarkable job of transcribing the garbled claims, hedges, and defensive moves in the interview. Ideally, this kind of work should be outsources to a court reporter. The drawback is not having an intimate and labored understanding of all the ums, long waits, convolutions, etc.

  3. Laura H. Chapman permalink

    Sorry to say I did not look for my typos or do a spell check first. See the red face.

    • Laura, I reposted a corrected ms hours ago. If you read it and mark any other typos for me, I’d appreciate it.

  4. Nice reporting. Thank you!

  5. vlorbik permalink

    (gates:) /*So, technology has to deal with the fact that neither technology nor anything else has changed mass achievement in this country up till now. So, whatever reform, technology or otherwise, comes along, it’s good to be skeptical because even as we have intensified resources going against education very substantially, we haven’t moved achievement. Other countries have. They’ve done it very dramatically, but, but we’ve not.*/
    “… we have intensified resources going against education…”
    thanks for posting this transcript.
    i say again: this is a great blog.

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