"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Gates on the Alignment of Common Core Standards, Curriculum, and Testing; the New Education Marketplace

Today, Bill Gates went in front of the National Conference of State Legislators and claimed national standards, merit-pay, high-stakes testing, a common curriculum, and innovation will unlock the "powerful market forces in the service of better teaching." The billionaire tech nut is overly intoxicated after chugging the Chubb and Moe/Milton Friedman competition kool aid, full-on convinced we'd have a better education system with more standardization and competition, fewer teachers, and a hell of a lot more computer time. Absent from his rant is any mention of poverty, the lack of healthcare for millions of children, or the joblessness created by Wall Street style capitalism (which certainly hurts our children). Gates' entire speech is worth reading (available here), but here is one key snippet:

Fortunately, the state-led Common Core State Standards Initiative is developing clear, rigorous common standards that match the best in the world. Last month, 46 Governors and Chief State School Officers made a public commitment to embrace these common standards.

This is encouraging—but identifying common standards is not enough. We’ll know we’ve succeeded when the curriculum and the tests are aligned to these standards.

Secretary Arne Duncan recently announced that $350 million of the stimulus package will be used to create just these kinds of tests—next-generation assessments aligned to the common core.

When the tests are aligned to the common standards, the curriculum will line up as well—and that will unleash powerful market forces in the service of better teaching. For the first time, there will be a large base of customers eager to buy products that can help every kid learn and every teacher get better. Imagine having the people who create electrifying video games applying their intelligence to online tools that pull kids in and make algebra fun.

There can also be—and there should be —online videos of every required course, taught by master teachers, and made available free of charge. These would help train teachers. They would help students who need some review or just want to get ahead. Melinda and I have used online videos when we’ve helped our own kids on some of their school work. They are phenomenal tools that can help every student in the country—if we get the common standards that will encourage people to make them.

If your state doesn’t join the common standards, your kids will be left behind; and if too many states opt out—the country will be left behind. Remember—this is not a debate that China, Korea, and Japan are having. Either our schools will get better—or our economic position will get worse.

1 comment:

  1. 'common standards' is the opposite of what we need. we need dynamic standards that are relevant to the 21st century - something the Gates Foundation used to advocate.