Laura H. Chapman on Gates’ Efforts to “Transform” Teacher Training
As a complement to this February 10, 2016, guest post by Southeastern Louisiana University professor James Kirylo concerning the pressure on teacher educators to adopt canned teacher education, retired Ohio arts teacher, Laura H. Chapman, weighs in on the Gates push to shape teacher training programs in his image:
I have been looking at all five of the Gates “Teacher Transformation Grants,” each for 33 months and just shy of $4 million for each grantee. All of the press releases are filled with jargon about “elevating” the teaching profession. The interlocking networks and complementary funding by other foundations of these new Gates investments is amazing.
In October 2015 the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education received a 33 month grant for $3,928,656 from the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation to support the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) “teacher transformation” effort: The Elevate Preparation: Impact Children (EPIC) center. This is an addition to a separate Gates grant in October 2015, $ 300,000, “to launch, execute, and utilize implementation data collection at the state-level.”
On other blogs, I have commented on this takeover of 71 “providers” of teacher education in Massachusetts, where a large administrative unit in the state department of education is functioning as one of Gates Foundation’s Teacher Preparation Transformation Centers.
Why Massachusetts? Massachusetts has already imposed industrial strength surveillance systems on teacher prep programs. The Gates grant will complete the so-called “EPIC System” including tracking the “performance outcomes” of graduates of 71 teacher prep programs insofar as their graduates are employed by the state. Among the measures of performance (in addition to those already required in the state) are surveys of employers, parents, students, and all of the candidates who have become teachers—tracked for a minimum of three years.
In addition, Massachusetts and six other states are part of the Network for Transforming Educator Preparation (NTEP), with a focus on teacher licensure, program approval, and data systems—an initiative of the Council of Chief State School Officers. The CCSSO is so dependent of the Gates Foundation for operating support is should be regarded as one of many subsidiary operations of the Foundation. Here is a summary of the press release
Also, Massachusetts knows how to make a pitch.
Here is the new (and grandiose) target for teacher education:
“The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) believes that educator preparation can and should produce teachers who are ready to be effective on day one. We are working toward an ambitious goal that by 2022, candidates prepared in Massachusetts will enter classrooms and demonstrate results on par with peers in their third year of teaching.”
You have to look at all of the tests and forms and surveys to determine the meaning of “results.”
In addition to scooping up 71 teacher preparation programs and a large administrative unit in a state department of education (charged with approving “providers” of teacher preparation), the Gates Foundation sent about the same amount of money to TeachingWorks, housed at the University of Michigan School of Education.
TeachingWorks is developing a performance-based path into teaching based on mastering so-called “high-leverage” strategies for success in teaching. Among other initiatives, Educational Testing Service and TeachingWorks are refining the use of virtual classrooms with interactive avatar students, in partnership with Mursion™. Mursion™ provides a mixed-reality teaching environment with about six to eight simulated students. The avatars are animated by trained, “calibrated” human “inter-actors” using standardized protocols. There is evidently pride at TeacherWorks in saying that teacher preparation should be standardized, scripted, and automated as possible.
Some of the Gates money for the EPIC center in Massachusetts will be used to hire someone who can manage contracts with providers of avatar-based training. There is gold in this form of training.
Another of these grants for “centers” went to Relay Graduate School of Education. In this case, Relay seems to be conduit for money for an ancillary operation TeacherSquared or Teacher2. At present TeacherSquared is not much more than a social media space. But… I tripped on a job opening for the Gates foundation that suggests this “center” for teacher transformation is envisioned as one part of a surveillance and a data mining operation focussed on teacher practices, enthusiasms, sentiments, and so on. It appears to be part of a portfolio of projects which a new hire at the Gates foundation will manage and expand.
The U.S. PREP National Center housed at Texas Tech University, is advertised as a transformation center ready to prepare “classroom-ready teachers.” I judge that the six universities and their “partner school districts” will be also be doing competency-based programs, with a lot of online “modules” introduced as tests of mastery. The dean and key Texas Tech faculty in education are in-migrants from Arizona State and will push that model for teacher prep. Texas Tech “partners” with Lubbock ISD, Southern Methodist University with Dallas ISD, University of Houston with Houston ISD, Southeastern Louisiana University with two parishes, Jackson State University with Jackson n public schools, University of Memphis with Shelby County schools (many are charters).
Even before U.S. PREP entered the scene, members of the University of Memphis faculty were in turmoil because the President there: (a) introduced Relay Graduate School of Education as a competing path for teacher preparation, (b) dismissed discussion of questions of the plan in the faculty Senate, and (c) used Relay’s PR as a reason to threaten cuts to existing faculty in teacher education.
As I understand the intent and effect U.S. PREP, a lot of authority over teacher ed is relocated in those partner districts (many populated with TFA and charter schools), and other “trainings” that will try to make faculty in teacher education think a Gates-funded brand of teacher education is best, especially for teachers entering “high performing, high minority, low-income schools” in partner districts.
In addition to the four Teacher Transformation Centers, the Gates Foundation awarded $3,248,182 (Term: 33 months) to the Teacher Preparation Inspectorate, US (TPI-US). TPI-US is a new entity that will evaluate the progress of the four Teacher Transformation Centers and their respective networks of “providers” and a lot more.
TPI-US is led by Dr. Edward Crowe, co-founder of Teacher Prep Analytics (TPA). Beginning in the fall of 2013, Crowe initiated and oversaw the first pilots of this inspection process, modeled on the British inspection system. This pilot program was started in 2014, before the current Gates grant. At that time, TPA organized four “trial inspections” of elementary preparation programs. These inspections were conducted at Southern Methodist University, the University of Houston in Texas (two targets for transformation), New Mexico State University, and Eastern New Mexico University. In 2015, inspectors checked out programs in Florida, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, and North Carolina. (I have not found the names of these institutions.)
Here is the shocker: TPI-US will use a process similar to one used in the United Kingdom, but the specific criteria for rating programs are from the National Center for Teacher Quality (funded by Gates and others). These criteria are so prescriptive that they down-grade programs unless they clearly focus on seven specific ways to teach and two specific Pearson texts for courses. At last check, Pearson’s own Sir Michael Barber was a “technical advisor” for NCTQ. See this link and also this link.
I think that these latest initiatives from the Gates Foundation are designed to eliminate academic freedom among faculty engaged in teacher preparation, to by-pass/overide faculty governance of content and requirements for programs, eliminate preparation grounded in scholarship in favor of multiple tests and triage of candidates, and fend off justified criticism of unrelenting quests for standardized and increasingly de-humanized educationeducation.
I also think the Centers are designed to reduce the influence of professional associations as sources of knowledge about the work of teachers—ranging from the American Educational Research Association to the associations organized around content areas—reading, mathematics, social studies, sciences, the arts, and so on—almost all of these with new standards.
The only standards mentioned in connection with these grants for transforming teacher preparation was a request for evidence of some fealty to the Common Core—largely funded and marketed by the Gates Foundation.
You have to credit those who work on educational projects at the Gates Foundation. They have Machiavellian instincts, deep pockets, and not enough critics of what they are undertaking on a grand scale.