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

Sunday, April 04, 2010

How BIll Gates Won the Race to the Top, and Why Every Parent and Teacher Should Boycott Microsoft

Every so often we glimpse small stories stuck into the back pages of the corporate press on the continuing payouts by Microsoft for settlements to years-old State claims that Gates "had stifled competition and broken state antitrust laws by overcharging consumers for software and computers." California settled for $1.1 billion, and this story last week shows more payouts continuing today, with Wisconsin figuring out how it will use $80 million that Gates promised years ago while continuing to deny any wrongdoing.

So bare-knuckled tactics are nothing new to the Gates team, as Bill's cadre of crooks continue to demonstrate in the big all-in bet to help Arne stifle any competition in the rigged RTTT, corporate ed reform's blueprint for the dismantling of public schools and the destruction of the teaching profession. Eerily, this is the same pattern of philanthro-capitalist bullying that Gates has used in other venues to restrict any diversity of views, as within the World Health Organization in the fight against malaria, as documented by Diane Ravitch in her new book:

The chief of malaria research for the World Health Organization, Dr. Arata Kochi, complained in 2008 that the Gates Foundation was stifling a diversity of views among scientists, because so many of the world's leading scientist in the field were "locked up in a 'cartel' with their own research funding being linked to those of others within the group," making it difficult to get independent reviews of research. The foundation's decision-making process, he charged, was "a closed internal process, and as far as can be seen, accountable to none other than itself" (p. 204).

This pattern is at work, of course, in the RTTT, which awarded its first grants last week to Tennessee and Delaware. Not only does Gates have the house keys at the Department of Ed where the Gates and Broad Foundations have set up shop, but the Foundation has also tutored each state in how to write grants to fit the criteria of judging that the Foundation "helped" to develop. In addition, the Foundation is actively funding pilots at the state level, such as the 90 million dollar one in Memphis, which served as Exhibit A in Tennessee's winning proposal. And let's not forget the lobbying and lunching that Gates's goons did in Nashville in the months leading up Governor Bredesen's presentation of the Foundation's plan to clear the way for teacher evaluation by test score and uncapped corporate charter schools. The easiest part was then to buy the cheap and cowardly prostisuits who run the Tennessee Education Association.

Here are some of the highlights of the Tennessee plan provided by the right-wing Education Consumers Foundation, which gives the Tennessee plan high marks:

11. Effective and ineffective teachers and principals will follow differentiated career paths

The state will track and publish system-by-system promotion, compensation, and retention averages for high- and low-performing teachers and principals. Under terms of the $90 million Gates grant in Memphis, the state may create differentiated career paths for teachers and principals. The categories of Beginning, Intermediate, Professional, and Master Teacher would be tied to job performance and underpinned by alternative salary schedules. A supplemental compensation fund of $375,000 per year will be available to support compensation reform for teachers and principals.

From pages 89-91 of the application:

No longer will our teachers and principals be treated as interchangeable parts, because the data clearly tell us that teacher and principal effectiveness varies widely. For Tennessee to increase student achievement dramatically, the state not only has to consistently identify its most talented teachers and principals, but also has to be intentional in finding ways to compensate, promote, and retain them. That means doing things far differently than we have done in the past. As part of the school improvement planning process, districts will be required to differentiate their retention data of top performers, growth of teachers and leaders from lower levels of effectiveness to effective, and attrition of less effective teachers and leaders. Tennessee will track and publicize differential retention rates of our districts, showing the ability of our districts to grow and retain top performers and effectively manage poor performers.

While Tennessee has experimented with career progression programs and differentiated pay plans in the past, we are proposing a bold, comprehensive strategy that builds upon the work already underway in the Memphis Teacher Effectiveness Initiative under a $90 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This innovative partnership between the district, union, and community is implementing an entirely new teacher effectiveness paradigm that encompasses joint development of differentiated roles for teachers, evaluation that uses data as a significant factor and is used to make critical human capital decisions, and implements a compensation structure that rewards effective performance. Please see Appendix D-2-5 for a summary of the Memphis initiative.

Informed by the Memphis strategy, Tennessee will work with and provide support for its LEAs to create clear, differentiated career paths for teachers and principals, based on their performance levels using the new evaluation system. These may include categories such as Beginning, Intermediate, Professional, and Master, each of which would have a high bar for entry, as well as expanded roles and higher compensation. The state, with Race to the Top funding, will provide support to participating LEAs to design and implement new career paths.

Coupled with creating differentiated roles, the First to the Top Act permits LEAs to adopt alternative salary schedules to the current state salary schedule, which is based on education credits and experience. Research shows that a salary scale based on credentials and seniority does not necessarily lead to better student outcomes. Alternative salary schedules can be developed to reward teachers and principals for their abilities to increase student achievement levels. Compensation packages will be aligned with the new career paths and take the form of base salaries, as well as performance and retention bonuses. Race to the Top will provide Tennessee with the funding to help LEAs with design and implementation of new compensation structures that reward our highest performing educators. Tennessee will create a competitive Innovation Acceleration Fund to support the adoption and implementation of alternative compensation systems at the local level. With $12 million from the Race to the Top award, the state and local communities will also aggressively seek private matching funding. Funds will be awarded to districts for the purposes of designing and/or implementing sustainable compensation systems based upon alternative salary schedules. Districts must have the agreement of their local teacher’s union where one exists. If there is an ongoing additional funding burden at the local level, the district must have the full agreement of the local municipality in order to apply for an Innovation Acceleration Fund Award.

The state also will create a competitive supplemental fund of $375,000 per year for innovation in those school districts whose share of funds is within the bottom 20% of the total share of the LEA funds under this application. These districts can apply for supplemental funding within their scopes of work to encourage compensation reform or turning around of low-performing schools.

Along with developing strategies to retain high performers, districts will be encouraged to design clear paths to dismiss those teachers and principals who after receiving ample opportunities to improve, continue to underperform as measured by the new evaluation.

12. Only “effective” teachers will be tenured

The granting and holding of tenure will primarily depend on the teacher’s demonstrated ability to increase student achievement. Only teachers who have reached the “effective” level of performance will be granted tenure. Only teachers who remain “effective” will retain tenure. The state will annually assess and publish for each district the correlation of tenure-granting rates with student outcomes such as attendance, test scores, and on-time graduation rates.

From pages 91-93 of the application:

Historically, tenure in Tennessee has largely been granted by default. Because past statutes dictated teacher effect data could only be used if a teacher had a three-year average to examine – and tenure may be granted at 27 months – most teachers were granted tenure without examination of perhaps the most powerful tool available. Once tenure was granted, little attention, except in the most progressive districts, was paid to teacher effect data for the vast majority of teachers. However, districts now have the ability and responsibility to use this data strategically, bringing only those who demonstrate effectiveness into a long-term opportunity to serve our children.

Given Tennessee’s new mandate to redesign the evaluation system using multiple measures, to incorporate a targeted use of data, and to collaborate with teachers and principals to arrive at a fair and transparent set of tools to use, the state is in an unprecedented position to ensure only teachers who have a met an established performance threshold are granted tenure. It also will be recommended that local boards only grant tenure to teachers who achieve at least an “effective teacher” rating on the new multiple-measure teacher effectiveness evaluation, of which a significant portion will be based on student achievement data.

With the new evaluation system, districts will be able to, and will be expected to, identify tenured teachers whose performance, as measured by the evaluation system, falls in the bottom tier of teachers. Principals will be able to notify these teachers and provide them with significant, targeted support. If after receiving support, the teacher has not moved into the “effective” category of performance, the evaluation results can provide documentation for the termination to occur. As part of the implementation of Race to the Top, and as part of their scopes of work, districts will be encouraged to examine those teachers who are consistently categorized in the lower levels of effectiveness for the possibility of termination. With the new flexibility afforded districts to submit an alternative salary schedule, they can also choose to reward teachers financially upon attaining tenure status as well as for continuing to maintain and/or grow in effectively helping students gain in their learning.

At the state level, we will collect and publicly disseminate data, by LEA and school, on tenure-granting rates. We will work with the Teacher Evaluation Advisory Committee developed pursuant to the First to The Top Act to include tenure-granting rates in principal evaluations. Additionally, we will annually assess and publish the correlation of tenure-granting rates with student outcomes (e.g., attendance, test scores, on-time graduation rates).

13. Rigorous workforce development goals will be met through retraining or, if necessary, dismissals

Thirty percent of Tennessee’s current teacher and principal workforce is not producing a year’s worth of achievement growth per year. The goal of the present reform plan is to reduce that percentage to ten within four years and to zero thereafter. The primary route to change is to increase effectiveness through the use of training and supports, but present law permits dismissal for inefficiency and/or incompetence even during the course of the contract year.

From pages 93-94 of the application:

Tennessee students deserve professional educators and leaders who not only have their best interests at heart, but who have the skills and demonstrate the ability to affect student academic growth. Our goal is to ensure that in four years, we will have reduced the percentage of teachers and principals who are ineffective to below 10%, and thereafter we will strive to drive that percentage to zero. Currently, approximately 30% of our teacher and principal workforce is not able to achieve a year’s worth of growth for their students. Please see the performance measure chart for D(3)(i) for teachers and Appendix D-3-8 for principals. The state’s new evaluation system will serve to assist these teachers and principals, as well as all teachers and principals needing improvement, by providing an array of customized supports that includes coaching and professional development. Teachers and principals who do not engage in this work, or are unable to improve their practice after it has been deemed to be ineffective over a period of time when they have been given opportunity to improve and the supports to do so, should be considered for termination.

Documentation for action will include the evaluation documents themselves and the data used to inform them. In this way, documenting performance – both positive and negative for every teacher and principal – becomes standard operating procedure. District and building leadership should be able to rely on the teacher and principal evaluation system to serve them and their students by supporting effective work as well as by easing pathways to dismissal if that becomes necessary. Please see process above in Section D(2)(iv)(c).

The first priority for increasing teacher effectiveness is to focus attention, resources and supports on what teachers need to improve their practice. It is expected for the vast majority of teachers this strategy will bear fruit for them and the children they teach. However, in the rare instance when poor performers have been unable to improve even after receiving adequate support and professional development, there must be policies and procedures for triggering termination proceedings. Using existing state law, Tenn. Code Ann. §49-5-501, which defines inefficient and/or incompetent, and Tenn. Code Ann. §49-5-511, which determines these reasons as among the causes for dismissal, the new multiple-measure teacher effectiveness evaluation will play a role in such decisions. This determination will be made at the local level and recommended to the board for approval when such an action is necessary.

Until a teacher attains tenure, he or she is only on a one-year contract. However, the teacher evaluation will provide a thoughtful tool for providing targeted coaching and professional development intended to improve teacher effectiveness. When necessary it will also provide useful data, analysis and documentation needed to determine what teachers shall be dismissed during the contract year.

1 comment:

  1. The parallels between what Gates is doing to US public education and world health are alarming. Read more about the deep concern of people in the field of world health here: