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Valerie Strauss: How Bill Gates Blew Away $575 Million on Teacher Evaluation

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We have by now read about the independent Rand study of Bill Gates’ bet on Making test-based teacher evaluation the keystone of education reform. I distinctly recall Melinda Gates saying on PBS that “we now know” how to get a great teacher in every classroom in America.

Well, no, they didn’t.

The Gates put up $215 million and found willing suckers, I mean, partners to add even more of their own money to bring the total to $575 million to test the Gates’s shiny new idea.

It failed.

It exhausted the reserves of Hillsborough County in Florida, where MaryEllen Elia was Superintendent. She was fired but landed on her feet as State Commissioner of Education in New York. Believe it or not, the fiasco in Hillsborough County did not diminished her love of testing.

Valerie Strauss tells the sad saga here of Bill Gates’ latest failure.

“The six-year project began in 2009 when the foundation gave millions of dollars to three public school districts — Hillsborough County in Florida (the first to start the work), Memphis and Pittsburgh. The districts supplied matching funds. Four charter management organizations also were involved: Alliance College-Ready Public Schools; Aspire Public Schools; Green Dot Public Schools; and Partnerships to Uplift Communities Schools.

“The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation pumped nearly $215 million into the project while the partnering school organizations supplied their own money, for a total cost of $575 million. The aim was to create teacher evaluation systems that depended on student standardized test scores and observations by “peer evaluators.” These systems, it was conjectured, could identify the teachers who were most effective in improving student academic performance.”

There is a silver lining.

“In 2014, he gave a nearly hour-long interview at Harvard University, saying, “It would be great if our education stuff worked, but that we won’t know for probably a decade.””

It’s far, nothing funded by Gates has reformed education. We have only six more years to wait, and maybe then he will invest in children’s health or something else where he has a chance of doing good work instead of messing up the schools.

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