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The Gates Foundation agreed to pay Hillsborough County, Florida, $100 million to pilot its teacher evaluation program. However, the program cost $271 million, and the district exhausted its reserves. It ended its relationship with Gates in 2015, Gates stopped paying after investing $80 million, the Hillsborough superintendent MaryEllen Elia was fired by the board, and was soon hired by Commissioner of Education for the state of New York. The Gates program was not working, and the district pulled out. The state legislature adopted features of the failed Gates approach in its revision of state laws.
Elia, who was fired in 2015 as the district had a financial meltdown, discussed the “success” of the soon-to-collapse teacher evaluation program with Vicky Phillips, then the president of the Gates Foundation for education, in 2014.
This week, the Hillsborough superintendent is wrestling with the problem of seven D and F-rated schools and has promised not to close them.
Districts have four options for such schools, assuming they do not improve to a C.
The first, shutting them down, is not on the table. “We’re not closing any schools, so you can put that in bright lights,” superintendent Jeff Eakins said Wednesday.
Nor is the second option, turning the schools over to private charter operators.
That leaves two more — entering a partnership with an outside consultant who would help run the school, or creating a district-run charter school.
Under that fourth scenario, the school would have a governing board, as privately run charter schools do. The district would manage the school. But union contracts would not apply, giving the district greater latitude in deciding who would work there.
Eakins and his chief of schools, Harrison Peters, said they are optimistic that all seven schools will earn at least a C. Four of the D schools were within two points of a C when the last year’s grades came out.
“Nothing has changed about our expectations, but there has to be a back-up plan,” Peters said.
School leaders, so far, seem to understand, he said. “They’re not interested in being a charter school and they’re not interested in being closed, but they get it.”
School grades, invented during Jeb Bush’s tenure, are completely bogus, but Florida and many other states continue to use them. They are a tool in the privatization toolkit.