Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Anthony Cody Writes the Book We Need: an Expose of Gates Foundation

Anthony Cody and Nancy Flanagan, right
Anthony Cody is one of the first educators I saw using his ‘teacher’s voice’ to stand up to reformers…to push back against reformers. He helped organize and host the Save Our Schools March and Rally on July 30, 2011. I was there, in awe, watching education heroes come to the makeshift stage and remind us how important our fight was…How much the children of our country needed us to keep pushing.

I was able to meet him in person at an NBCT Conference in DC. He and my friend Nancy FlanaganA and online friend David Cohen were all on a panel of NBCTs encouraging others to begin blogging. I had eagerly followed all three of these leaders, and their encouragement helped me take that step and begin this blog.

More online friends. Jon Hanson, left and Gail Richie, right
Attending the SOS March and Rally was a highlight of my career…Linda Darling Hammond, Diane Ravitch, Deborah Meir, Taylor Mali. Jonathon Kozol…all right there in front of me. Oh, and Matt Damon, too! When we marched around the White House, Meier was right there in front of me, in stifling heat and humidity. 

That day gave me the courage to use MY teacher voice.

Deborah Meier
Linda Darling Hammond
Diane Ravitch

As we watched the Gates Foundation roll out their ideas on ‘multiple measures’ for teacher evaluation, I was hopeful. But as I read the document, I saw it was just the same old ‘value added measures’ Gates had been hawking. Anthony and I emailed back and forth, clarifying the issues, and he invited me to write a post for his wildly popular blog, Living in Dialogue. Still a thrill to think I’m published on his blog.

But this piece is really a book review!!

I watched Anthony take on Bill Gates and his Foundation. I read the series of letters back and forth on important issues.  His new book, The Educator and the Oligarch, was born, partly from those dialogues.
But it’s more. It’s a careful investigation into the how and why of Gates’ power play. The circular reasoning that allows him to live in his echo chamber, unconcerned by the voices of students and teachers who are being forced to live with his many hunches about education.

Gates has fixated on the ‘bad teacher’ myth and he believes, with no evidence, that teacher evaluations connected to student test scores is the way to find those crummy teachers and root them out.
Anthony takes apart this argument with the precision of a surgeon, and leaves the foul carcass bare…
Anthony connects the dots…money buys power. Money buys more power. Money buys politicians. Money buys influence. But Gates’ money cannot buy teachers. And I think that bothers him.

Anthony shows how Gates has bought into the education establishment: ASCD has been partially funded by the Gates Foundation. NBPTS has been funded by the Foundation to revise the National Board process. Gates was invited to speak at the conference last year, and Anthony reports his words…his intentions. He asked NBCTs to be vocal about supporting CCSS…now, he wants help from teachers.

Anthony’s dialogue with the Gates Foundation revolved around fundamental questions about public education: How do we build the teaching profession? How do we consider evidence of learning in evaluations? Can schools defeat poverty by ignoring it? What is the purpose of K-12 education? What happens when profits drive education? Good for the Foundation that they agreed to engage in this conversation…they just didn’t realize that Anthony held all the intellectual weapons. These questions SHOULD be the centerpiece of any discussion about reforming schools…

Anthony chronicles some of Gates’ more bizarre hunches: galvanic bracelets, his TED talk promoting video cameras in classrooms, his fixation on evaluations tied to scores, his faith in technology (a funny/sad look at BF Skinner’s teaching machine reminds us we’ve dealt with this nonsense before), MOOCs, Common Core, technology, technology and technology.

My favorite chapter was the “Billionaire Philanthropist Evaluation.” I laughed out loud and cheered.

Standard 1 – Awareness of the social conditions targeted by philanthropy
Standard 2 – Understanding of how learning is measured
Standard 3 – Understanding how teaching is evaluated
Standard 4 – Understanding of effective instruction.
Understandably, Mr. Gates was below the standard in each of these four areas.

I took 10 pages of notes, quotes from the book that sang to me.  I’ll just share a few:

“Last September BG said, “It would be great if our education stuff worked, but that we won’t know for probably a decade.”
  • ·         VAM is a disaster
  • ·         Charter schools, are, as a sector, not better than public schools
  • ·         CCSS and the high-stakes accountability system is on its way to the graveyard of grand ideas

“Bill Gates has made it clear that this was an experiment from the start. What he did not seem to allow for in his scenario was the possibility that his experiment would not succeed. Hand there was an impatient imperative in his demands—“They have to give us the opportunity for this experimentation.””

“We, the citizens, students, parents, and educators, were not asked nor allowed to vote on this. BG and his allies decided this was needed, and they made it happen, suing the levers of power within their control.”

Indeed. When are we the citizens, students, parents, and educators going to rise up, use our voices, and tell Gates enough is enough.

Anthony has given us the evidence, and the call to action.

Buy this book if you care about public education. Then buy another copy and donate it to your legislators.

Make them accountable for following their lead. Maybe Antony will write a “Legislators Education Evaluation” instrument too! 

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