Monday, April 15, 2013

Recalling the Heart of Corporate Ed Reform

A couple of weeks ago Diane Ravitch recalled a 2011 article by Sam Dillon in the New York Times which laid out how the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation really operates. I remembered the article and sure enough, we had picked up the piece in KSN&C. At the time, I had been perusing data through 2010 in an attempt to better understand the extensive network Gates established to advance corporate education reform and rewrite American education policy. (Annotated Excerpts of the Gates Foundation 990 Form 2009 here.)

Ravitch says,
[The GatesFoundation] has a double agenda, like all the corporate reform groups it supports. It publicly speaks of support and collaboration with teachers, but it funds organizations that actively campaign against any job protections for teachers...

Gates’ anti-union, pro-testing groups are made up of young teachers–with names like TeachPlus and Educators for Excellence–who are paid handsomely to advocate against due process rights and in favor of tying teacher evaluations to test scores. Since few intend to make a career of teaching, why should they care?
My working data set was incomplete at the time, and is now three years older, so the chart below should be considered inaccurate. It should also be considered much smaller than the actual amount of money and influence Gates has poured into the corporate school reform effort since that time. Here's roughly how it looked way back in 2010 - Gates in green:

Recipients of Gates grants, I was told by one recipient, are not exactly free to say whatever they want about how the foundation works, but are restricted somewhat by the agreement granting the funds. The way it works out, a host of Gates funded groups flood the media stream and support each others' efforts. When a study was needed to let folks know that it was OK to use student test data to evaluate teachers  the MET folks were apparently hired to produce one that all of the groups tout (despite serious concerns with methodology).

Frederick M. Hess of the American Enterprise Institute, which is funded by Gates, indicated to the New York Times that he never forgets where the money comes from.
Mr. Hess, a frequent blogger on education whose institute received $500,000 from the Gates foundation in 2009 “to influence the national education debates,” acknowledged that he and others sometimes felt constrained. “As researchers, we have a reasonable self-preservation instinct,” he said. “There can be an exquisite carefulness about how we’re going to say anything that could reflect badly on a foundation.”

Bruce Fuller, an education professor at the University of California, Berkeley told the Times, “It’s Orwellian in the sense that through this vast funding they start to control even how we tacitly think about the problems facing public education.”

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