Bill Gates And His Numbers

Bill Gates Among Top Quartile of Aspiring Wizards

One of Obama's bosses on education is making news noise again, with his corporate-spun notions on how to make the next generation of children the servants of Microsoft. Among his favorite ideas is turning urban education over to the KIPP-inspired brainwashers and prison guards trained in the happy talk pop psychology of CIA advisor, Dr. Martin Seligman, whose mind fix for the poor is viewed as the affordable solution to a social fix that is much too expensive for the richest men in the world to consider. Never mind that these KIPP testing chain gangs have teacher and student attrition rates that make such "schools" entirely unsustainable beyond the boutique model within which they now grind out their test scores while turning poor children into automatons.

Another of Bill's favorite ideas is a pay-per-score plan that rewards good teaching. What is good teaching? Well, good teaching produces good test scores. And what makes good test scores? Well, it's good teaching, of course. As the good professor explained about the origin of turtles, it's turtles, then, all the way down.
. . . .Fixing what is wrong with American learning, Gates said, requires new ways of looking at its problems.

Teachers are rewarded for "seniority and master's degrees," he said, and that is not the best way to ensure educational quality.

Critical in determining whether a student will drop out of high school, he said, is whether he or she connects with a good teacher in the fifth to eighth grades and develops a passion for lifelong learning.

A quality teacher would boost scores by 10 percentage points in a single year, Gates noted. "What that means is that if, in the United States, for two years, our teachers were all top-quartile teachers, the differences between the United States and the very best scores in the world would go away," he said. "We should identify those teachers, we should reward them, we should retain them, we should make sure other teachers learn from them."

The economic-recovery money creates new opportunities for public and private partnerships. . . .
And how would Bill have our teachers crank out the highest test scores in the world? Simple, he would have all teachers improve so that they would produce test scores that would put them in the top quartile of test score producers, i. e., test score producers such that they would be more effective than 75-99% of all teachers. Even for a duplicitous jerk like Bill Gates, this is an astonishing expectation to put on teachers, here or in Timbuktu. Here's why, as patiently explained by Richard Rothstein in Class and Schools . . . (2004):
. . . improving teacher quality so that all teachers rise to the top quintile of effectiveness is a fanciful goal. Policy makers who cite Dr. Sanders [or Bill Gates] do not appreciate how unattainable is a 40 percentile gain--voving teachers from about the 50th percentile in effectiveness to about the 90th [or 87th]. This is more than what researchers call a full standard deviation. In no field can a policy reform reasonably aim for such enormous gain.
And here is an analogy that Rothstein offers to "help think about whether we can possibly recruit or train teachers to be as good as the 90th [or 87th] percentile group:"
In 2000, real median household income in the U.S. was $42,000 a year. The 90th percentile income was $112,000 a year, nearly three times as much. We could imagine radical labor market or macroeconomic policies that might raise typical household incomes up to, say, $45,000 or even $50,000 in a few years. But policies to move the median to $112,000 are unimaginable. Improvement of 40 [or 35] percentile points up a distribution is not a real world aspiration (p. 65).
The value for Gates and the other Oligarchs of such fanciful thinking comes from putting the achievement bar at an unachievable level. In doing so, teachers, students, administrators will never do enough to satisfy the corporate bosses who stand on the sidelines with their junk science, their media scourges, and their big scary threats about China and India and Korea eating our lunch. See NCLB.

If Gates had his way, of course, none of us on this side of the curtain would know enough to peek backstage. That is not the case, however, yet. In fact, you can come out from behind the curtain now, Mr. Gates: your balloon is ready to take you aloft.

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