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Gates: Not Much To Show For $5B Spent On Education 496

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the i-feel-dumber dept.
theodp writes "Since 2000, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has poured some $5 billion into education grants and scholarships. Ten years into his record-breaking philanthropic push for school reform, the WSJ reports that Bill Gates is sober about the investment and willing to admit some missteps. 'I applaud people for coming into this space,' said Gates, 'but unfortunately it hasn't led to significant improvements.' This understanding of just how little influence seemingly large donations can have has led the foundation to rethink its focus in recent years. Instead of trying to buy systemic reform with school-level investments, a new goal is to leverage private money in a way that redirects how public education dollars are spent. Despite the good intentions, some are expressing concerns about how billionaires and the Gates Foundation rule our schools, including the lack of transparency and spotty track record of the wealthy would-be reformers. Perhaps Gates should consider funding a skunkworks educational project for retired Microsoft CTO Ray Ozzie, who was working on networked, self-paced computer assisted instruction in 1974 — 36 years before Bill and Google discovered Khan Academy!"
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Gates: Not Much To Show For $5B Spent On Education

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  • by jfruhlinger (470035) on Monday July 25, 2011 @10:22AM (#36870534) Homepage

    My understanding that much of Gates' donations have been spent on organizations trying to reform public education along "market-based" lines -- i.e., public schools run by private companies, which supposedly makes them more accountable. Maybe he's discovering this isn't the panacea that the reformers have sold?

    • by MickyTheIdiot (1032226) on Monday July 25, 2011 @10:53AM (#36870832) Homepage Journal

      It seems like the vast majority of people think that education and job training are the same thing or at least should be the same thing. My opinion has been that this is actually the root of the problem. If this actually is true then making schools "accountable" actually makes the problem worse.

      I know talking with those older than me that companies didn't used to expect people to know everything before they could be hired. Now companies don't want to hire except when the person is perfect. It's not only education that has changed.

      • Now companies don't want to hire except when the person is perfect.

        That's a symptom of oversupply of labor, not a structural change. With unemployment so high, if I'm looking to hire someone, why would I hire someone who needs training if I there are 10 people in a line with high experience who are competing for the same job? When demand outstrips supply, you'll see this trend reverse, as it did during the dot-com boom of the 90s, where any fool was being hired as a "web developer".

        • This occurred before the crash and resulting unemployment. It is more a problem of over-education more than anything else. As a lawyer, I had bosses before the crash who were complaining about how much we young lawyers whined. But they went to law school at a time when even a pretty bad law school got you a good jobâ"simply put, they couldn't get hired today with their credentials. They also paid a fifth of the tuition we did, even adjusted for inflation, so they didn't have the pressure we have to pay

  • by Espresso2xshot (2416248) on Monday July 25, 2011 @10:25AM (#36870554)
    Proves the point that we knew all along, throwing money at the educational system does not fix it! Just look at the govt track record. Time to dump the institutional model? I'm sure this article will spark the ever repeating slashdot argument about what's wrong with America's school system.
    • by ByOhTek (1181381) on Monday July 25, 2011 @10:31AM (#36870614) Journal

      Throwing money at the wrong thing will never fix a problem.

      You can spend all the money you want on your plumbing, if you gaskets are salvaged from a junk yard, and can't make solid seals, you are going to have leaks.

      The problem with the modern education system is parental apathy. Observe the better school districts, you'll have more parents that care, but not necessarily better teachers or equipment (though usually at least better equipment). Now, look within a school district, and compare students who do well, vs. those who do poorly (excluding those with learning disabilities), the better students, in general will have parents who have more concern with their kids education, and play a more active role.

      Parental education is a better place to start with reform. Getting them to care about their kids future, and teaching them that their kids have more than just McDonalds and WalMart in their employment future is what is needed.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by jdpars (1480913)
        I wish you were right, that parents were the sole variable in a student's success. But parental involvement is only a piece of the puzzle. Teacher training and effectiveness, school funding, and a lot of other factors also come into play.
        • by ByOhTek (1181381)

          True, but it can be a critical role.

          Note: I know this isn't all cases, but it at least shows an important one
          I went between two school districts when I was younger. The first had EXCELLENT teachers, but parents who didn't care. It ended up being a very low rating school district. Most of the parents simply thought of the place as a free daycare, most actually discouraged their kids from learning. Those who wanted to learn, however, got pushed to think, encouraged to be creative, helped when they needed it,

          • And? (Score:2, Insightful)

            by denzacar (181829)

            The second district had parents who cared. They wanted their kids to be successful like they were. The teachers however, were there for a 8 to 4 job, and didn't give a damn if the students learned or not.

            And?
            Where is the rest of the story/comparison with the first district?

            Did the kids in the second district get better education/better grades?
            Or did they win the basketball game with the help of a crazy inventor/a teenage werewolf?
            You can't just leave us hanging there.

            • by ByOhTek (1181381)

              I think, you can deduce from the nature of the story, that the second had much better standardized test scores and college acceptance.

              But hey, if you needed it spelled out, that deduction is correct.

        • I know this isn't true for large cities with huge school districts, but in small towns at least if the parents care good teachers are hired, schools get funded, and a lot of other factors get addressed besides. Lets face it, a lot of school funding comes from local sources. If parents are involved and concerned you have an army of people willing to go door to door to drum up support for a .2% tax increase that the school needs. If parents are involved the principles and super superintendents are held mor

      • by dkleinsc (563838)

        The problem with the modern education system is parental apathy.

        If only it were that simple.

        Let's say you have a school district which is incredibly poor, but has a highly motivated but not unusually smart set of parents (Such districts aren't hard to find - they exist in most US cities and more isolated rural areas). Because they are poor, they are facing these problems:
        * outdated textbooks
        * a facility that gives their kids respiratory problems
        * teachers without a strong background in either teaching or their subject matter (because smart and capable teachers prefer di

        • many people are taught that Columbus proved the world was round even though everyone thought it was flat (invented by Washington Irving), George Washington cut down his dad's cherry tree (also invented by Washington Irving), and that Paul Revere said "The British are coming!" (invented by Henry Longfellow).

          Find me a school that teaches that, please. Ive never heard a school teach that throughout my educational years.

          Let's say you have a school district which is incredibly poor, but has a highly motivated but not unusually smart set of parents (Such districts aren't hard to find - they exist in most US cities and more isolated rural areas).

          You mean like New York and DC, who have the twin distinctions of being the MOST funded per pupil, and also the least performant, in the country?

          To give our highly motivated parents the benefit of the doubt, we'll assume they've:
          * Ensured that their kids can read, count, and possibly add or subtract 1-digit numbers before entering first grade.

          That puts them at about a second to third grade level in the public schools I went to, and FCPS (fairfax county) is one of the better school districts in the country. Id say "motivated parents putting kids 2 years ahead of peers" is a pretty good example

        • I wouldn't hold outdated text books up as an example. I doubt there have been many changes in basic mathematics up to calculus in the last 300 or so years, same with thing with: classic literature, basic science, history, microeconomics, geography (I know there have been a few map changes but excluding former soviet states and the split of Sudan in Africa nothing that I studied in grades k-12 has changed). I will give you text books having incorrect info and teachers telling kids wrong things.

      • by vlm (69642)

        those who do poorly (excluding those with learning disabilities)

        I had two relatives in the biz, one got out, the other is trying to escape before the system completely implodes. Which, frankly, is probably not too much longer. There's already a lost generation where virtually all teachers between 22 and 40-something have been laid off per union seniority rules, and all the boomers are starting to retire, so rather suddenly the average age, salary, and competence level of school teachers is about to collapse once the last boomer leaves the building and they hire all fr

      • You just can't say that though. It's so Un-PC of a thing to say. No politician would never in a million-bajillion years point the finger toward their voters as the source of the problem. Oh no, it could never be a cultural issue. But we sure could improve our teen daycare system if we only had more money. Not to worry parents, we have the problem solved. Just vote for us, that's all you need to do. Sorry to trouble you for your precious time.

    • by Joce640k (829181)

      You don't need more books, you need better teachers.

      How you attract good teachers to schools full of self-entitled bratz and/or gang-bangers is another matter. It has to be one of the most unrewarding jobs ever. Some things can't be paid for with money.

    • beginning in preschool "Education" has a small number of goals

      1 teach a kids that they can learn (and should do so)
      2 teach them how to get knowledge
      3 teach them how to "fill in the edges of the map" (if "there be dragons" beyond this point find out what kind and how many are there)

      everything else is just drum beating (and providing resources)

    • That's like saying the incident in Japan proves we shouldn't use nuclear power. The only point it proves is Gates' specific implementation had flaws. It doesn't throw out the idea of having govt run education. There's this horribly flawed idea in American politics that "throwing money" at education is a fallacy, when the argument itself is corrupt. Given the sorry state of education funding in much of the country, "throwing money at" is just a conservative way of saying "attempting to properly fund". P
    • It is indeed time to ditch the whole idea of schools. It is parents who should be educating their children, not some poorly trained teacher in charge of 50 kids. All parents do instead is obssess over not having time to do it because they work all day, and send kids to school as if it were a daycare center. How about taking some personal responsibility for your kids upbringing? Your kids want to spend time with you (and if they don't it's because you kept pushing them into institutions) because they love yo

  • What? Throwing money at a problem does not automagically fix things? The deuce you say!

  • by kmdrtako (1971832) on Monday July 25, 2011 @10:28AM (#36870584)

    If I learned anything from my teacher wife*, it's that there are dozens of ways that children (and adults) learn, and you have to tailor the learning experience for each of them.

    Some children may do very well with things like the Khan Academy. Others will not.

    Anyone who tries to shoehorn all children into the same learning solution is likely to leave a large percentage of them behind.

    * and my own experience in contrast to my brother, and my own two childrens' very different learning experiences in public schools.

    • by jdpars (1480913)
      You are exactly right, and teacher training programs are catching up to that idea quickly. Gardner's Multiple Intelligences theory is a step in the right direction, but it doesn't exactly address why some students do well with things like Khan and other don't. A new model is needed!
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by d0nju4n (807508)
      Exactly. There is no magic bullet; My brother and I both went to a Montessori elementary school. The educational model worked really well for me, but my brother needed more structure (and he will freely admit this), and didn't do all that well. Once my parents noticed this, and sent him to a more traditional school, he did much better.
    • by Joce640k (829181)

      "No child left behind" just drags everybody down to the lowest common denominator.

      One of the problems with the USA is that everybody is constantly being told they're amazing. Sometimes a kid needs to be told "you're never going to be a professional singer/dancer/whatever, try something else ..."

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Thanks for the soundbite. However, no one is talking about that misguided attempt to normalize test scores across the nation. They're a useless metric that proves nothing.

        What is being discussed is solid: Everyone learns differently, and these differences need to be recognized and allowed for as much as possible. Telling someone they'll never be something is a stupid plan and will never pan out in the long run. (Although some kids will overperform just to prove you wrong - this approach could work for

      • by Bill_the_Engineer (772575) on Monday July 25, 2011 @12:07PM (#36871756)

        Sometimes a kid needs to be told "you're never going to be a professional singer/dancer/whatever, try something else ..."

        Who is qualified to make that judgement? I say stop being a dick and let the children define their own lives.

        I think you'll find that people excel in fields that they like, and fail in those that they don't. One problem I see with today's educational system is the idea that we should educate people in fields that have the greatest chance for employment instead of what is in the best interest of the child. This lead to the decline of the "fundamentals" (ie Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic) in exchange for "technologies" (ie computer science, trade skills).

        If we actually taught the fundamental subjects in a way that didn't require it being reviewed at almost every grade level, we could actually have an educational system worth bragging about. Not to mention, we would have more time to really teach the advance topics instead of pretending.

    • by Baloroth (2370816)

      You are sort of right, and sort of wrong. You're right that not all kids learn the same way, and much more importantly at the same rate.

      However, there are ways to teach kids that can work for most (as in 90%* of them). Those remaining 10% won't learn, either because they are too stupid or they don't want to... but I repeat myself. Trouble is, we teach the 90% as if they were the 10%, since "we can't leave any child behind!". And of course, you can't really discipline them either, since the parents won't le

    • If I learned anything from my teacher wife*, it's that there are dozens of ways that children (and adults) learn, and you have to tailor the learning experience for each of them.

      Some children may do very well with things like the Khan Academy. Others will not.

      Anyone who tries to shoehorn all children into the same learning solution is likely to leave a large percentage of them behind.

      I don't understand. The whole idea about Khan Academy is to tailor the learning experience to each student's need, as opposed to shoehorning all students into one set format/pace/etc, and no one gets "left behind".. only moves at a slower pace, until they get over whatever obstacle they have and can speed along afterward. And no one is held back either, according to the same theory. I can see you saying what you did about some traditional lecture format, but... do you know what Khan Academy is all about?

  • The problem with our education system is simple; it's run by politicians. Education should not be run by people who a) don't have a solid grasp of the material they are mandating and b) are more interested in reelection.

    The only way we'll get meaningful reform is by pushing control ( ie: money ) down to the county level and letting them figure it out.

    • by vlm (69642)

      The problem with our education system is simple; it's run by politicians. Education should not be run by people who a) don't have a solid grasp of the material they are mandating and b) are more interested in reelection.

      and c) have a vested interest in the populace being uneducated therefore easier to manipulate. A fox guarding the henhouse situation.

  • not surprising. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 25, 2011 @10:32AM (#36870620)

    I did a Master of Arts in Teaching in the early 90's. What I think I learned from my History of Eduction Reforms was this: 1) kids will learn given half a chance, 2) most (if not all) education reforms have had AT BEST marginal impacts, 3) so you can do something good or screw up and it doesn't matter all that much. Education and the drive to become educated starts at home.

  • One major problem with education is that is is big - really really big, like healthcare and military spending. $5B over 10 years is something like 5 cents per student per day.

    So, while an impressive feat for a single man to accomplish, approaching every student in the U.S. every morning for 10 years and saying "hey kid, here's a nickel, try to do a better job in school today," is apparently about as effective as you would imagine it to be.

    And, the real problem, while Bill was giving kids a nickel, the loca

    • by afidel (530433)
      It's not about money, it's about parental involvement and student motivation. The large urban school district in the area where I'm from spends about 30% more per student to achieve MUCH worse results than either the school system I attended or the one my children attend. The difference is that when either of those suburban school district have an open house they have to lay out a strict schedule for meetings with teachers because there is too much demand on their time, while in the urban district a typical
  • we've tried this (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nimbius (983462) on Monday July 25, 2011 @10:37AM (#36870656) Homepage
    here in california with 'charter schools' which have turned out to be little more than money laundering operations for major corporations, business elite, and a handful of food service vendors. Corporations are also granted another platform to showcase to the public a model of business sans union.

    businesses are dismally suited toward the task of education. Their mandate, a legal one at that, is to maintain and grow shareholder earnings and profit.children are complex and perform differently. as such they are a poor if not dangerously unpredictable revenue generator for shareholders. So, instead of measuring childrens success in education by plausible means like college enrollment rates or hireability in the workplace, businesses running education tend to emphasize performance based on standardized testing batteries and total number of students enrolled; a sort of quantity over quality model

    i surmise when bill says 'education reform' what hes tacitly implying is nothing less than what was implied when charter schools were created.
  • Two big problems with Deep Pocket donations:

    1) No audit trail for where/how the donation was spent
    2) No evidence the donation was ever *actually* made

    I apologize if this sounds cynical, but I have very, very little faith in any corporation/monopoly in the US right now. It's far too easy for companies to game tax breaks with large wads of cash. Sure, maybe you donated 5 billion to a school, but in return did you get a 8 billion tax credit from taxpaye

    • ... but in return did you get a 8 billion tax credit from taxpayers?

      This is completely fucking irrelevant and a separate point entirely if you want to say the U.S. tax codes are broken.

    • by afidel (530433)
      What? This is Gates giving away his personal fortune! This has NOTHING to do with corporations so keep your anti-corporate rants to yourself please. Gates has a goal of giving away 99% of his personal wealth, he isn't looking for tax credits, he's looking for ways to better the human condition.
  • by Dr. Spork (142693) on Monday July 25, 2011 @10:39AM (#36870664)
    It's true. If $5B went into developing a full and open instructional curriculum online, we'd be done by now and the whole world would be a better place. I'm not saying that this would fix all of our problems in education, but at least it would give kids who are ready and able to learn the access to an education. Most money in our educational system goes to kids who are either not ready or not able to learn. It's no wonder that with them, progress will be hard to see. I'd much rather see more money spent on educating girls in the third world, or at least those who are motivated to learn. I think they are much more important to the future of our planet than the unmotivated children of US rednecks and methheads.
  • by Maximum Prophet (716608) on Monday July 25, 2011 @10:39AM (#36870670)
    I had a friend who was an education Ed.D. candidate. She did a lot of studies of studies and for the most part found that any new education initiative could have a large positive impact, but it was all the Hawthorne Effect. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hawthorne_effect [wikipedia.org] Young, idealistic, teachers could make any new program work, but once it was filtered down to regular schools, there was no difference in student achievement. Study, after study, and basically the kids do as well in school and after as their parents did.

    Putting money to redirect "how public education dollars are spent", isn't going to help, if we don't know how to do better.

    You'd probably do better to judge a school based on how happy the students and parents are. If the S&P's are unhappy, fire the principle and try a new one until the "customers" are happy. Frankly, if the students are happy with school, and actually going, then learning will happen. You have to actively beat down a human to keep it from learning, but that's exactly what many schools do.
    • by LWATCDR (28044)

      You are funny.
      "You'd probably do better to judge a school based on how happy the students and parents are."
      When I was in High School a million years ago I asked a teacher this question.
      "Why do the teachers get better food and better parking spaces at the high school?"
      I was told it was because they worked at the school.
      So I said, "Well at the mall and most stores the people that work their part far away and give the best parking to the customers, since it is the teachers job to teach us the students that mak

      • I don't buy the argument that teachers unions cause all the problems since this problem is so complex and there as so many factors, but one my earliest observations I had of the school system as a child was that everything was being run for the good of the administrators first and the teacher's second. For instance the school year kept starting earlier in buildings that were not built to be usable during summer heat. Kids were always in classrooms that would bake while teachers could go to a cooled lounge

  • by k6mfw (1182893) on Monday July 25, 2011 @10:40AM (#36870678)

    I get suspicious when people like Gates "leverage private money in a way that redirects how public education dollars are spent." Like those who believe schools should operate how they want schools to operate instead of how they should operate. There was a time when someone completes high school they have reasonable education to be an adult, though trade school or college will help. Instead these "big donors" are trying to form school kids into what they want to function at their companies. Though not necessarily a bad thing if done for the right reasons. Yes, corporations need intelligent employees but people should have a right and ability to pursue a career they have a personal interest instead of having to work $9/hr in IT.

    Everyone has all kinds of ideas for school reform, but what did schools do before they became so "bad?" What was their methods of teaching? I wonder if some of these old people forgot what methods were used to make them successful. Or did they simply grow up in neighborhoods that had good schools and not experienced growing up in neighborhoods with bad schools. There is a huge difference in Palo Alto, CA school district (where many parents have college degrees) when compared to east San Jose school districts (where many parents are poor working class). For you that say, "tango sierra, they'll just have to work harder!" Be careful because poor uneducated can easily be recruited into gang activity, and that can lead to bigger problems.

    My big gripe is they increase spending on prisons, TSA, etc. and decrease spending on schools so it should not be a surprise we'll have more young people going to jails instead of schools.

    • but I will give you a hint, the same problem that exist with the prison system exists for the school systems. The unions.

      Unions love three strikes and your out. They love long prison sentences. Just like they love testing without accountability and "tenure" and seniority.

      You can go read up on the horrors on California prison and you can read up on the latest big education scandal, the Atlanta Public School cheating problem.

      The APS cheating scandal shows exactly what is wrong with the system. They have evid

    • They focused resources on teaching the brightest prospects, and didn't force children to stay beyond their learning capacity. Future janitors didn't have to take 3 years of math in High School. Sure there were some problems with discrimination and one of the key requirements for getting an education was your parents being rich/educated, but still...

      (one of) The problem(s) with our education system now is that it is aimed at bringing all students up to some minimum standard acceptable level, on the pretens

  • If certain sources are to be believed, the entire American public school system was the nefarious brainchild of 19th Century "billionaires", conceived as a means of mass-producing humans conditioned to be ideal top-to-bottom factory workers. If that conspiratorial tale is true, then Bill Gates meddling in the school system to achieve goals that benefit the tech industry would just be more of the same, wouldn't it?

    • Or maybe they just wanted to copy what already worked in other countries.

      "Historically, the Lutheran denomination had a strong influence on German culture, including its education. Martin Luther advocated compulsory schooling so that all people would independently be able to read and interpret the Bible. This concept became a model for schools throughout Germany.
      During the 18th century, the Kingdom of Prussia was among the first countries in the world to introduce free and generally compulsory primary educa

  • by Daetrin (576516) on Monday July 25, 2011 @10:47AM (#36870784)

    Perhaps Gates should consider funding a skunkworks educational project for retired Microsoft CTO Ray Ozzie, who was working on networked, self-paced computer assisted instruction in 1974 â" 36 years before Bill and Google discovered Khan Academy!"

    To paraphrase Heinlein, who was paraphrasing someone else, "when it's time to railroad, people will build railroads" and the corollary "you can't railroad until it's time to railroad."

    Networked computer instruction was a great idea back in the 70's, but the infrastructure wasn't really there to support it. Right now it's entirely possible and it's only entrenched notions about education that are holding it back. A couple decades more and in retrospect it will seem both obvious and inevitable.

  • The problem... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Lumpy (12016)

    Schools are ran like a corporation.

    Administrators that are worthless getting paid 20X-30X of what the teachers get paid. Sorry, that will not cut it.

    Teachers MEDIAN pay range needs to be 20% higher than the MEDIAN pay range in that area to attract good teachers.

    Administrators need to have a PAY cut to no more than 8X more than the MEDIAN pay of their school or district.

    Finally, expenses need to be realistic, teachers and kids using computers from more than 4 years ago is a waste of resources. IT budgets

  • He's on a Roll! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by random coward (527722) on Monday July 25, 2011 @10:55AM (#36870866)
    Bill Gates has been doing pretty good lately. If I owned MS stock I'd be pissed he wasn't still there putting this level of effort into my investment.

    He's done some excellent work with vaccines and malaria. He started an initiative on sanitation that likely could be transformative in poverty struck areas, and now he may have the resources to turn the goliath that is public education towards a direction that helps students instead of the current path that aims at creating unthinking easily controlled sheep.

    He is on the path to becoming the most influential philanthropist in a hundred years.
    • He is on the path to becoming the most influential philanthropist in a hundred years.

      You do realize that every philanthropist throughout history has been a fraud, don't you? I guess not. Do you really think that a sociopath changes in his old age to become a compassionate human being? Dream on. When you have Billions, spending a few pennies on PR to get people to like you is just another part of the game.

      If you want someone who came into his money via talent and hard work, and not putting other companies out of business, just look at Woz. He gave away stock options to co-workers, and h

  • by realmolo (574068) on Monday July 25, 2011 @10:56AM (#36870872)

    Or the kids that are the problem. It's the school boards and administration in most cities that is the problem. The administrations is full of failed middle-management idiots, that have transferred their complete lack of skills into D-level politics.

    And the school board is usually nothing but lunatics just trying to draw a paycheck, and hoping to somehow jumpstart a political career.

    And, of course, there are kickbacks and deals at every level.

    Basically, every school district in the country is representative of the absolute WORST aspects of government corruption and incompetence. And it's not the system, it's the people.

    VOTE IN YOUR SCHOOL BOARD ELECTIONS! Throw the idiots out. Run for the board yourself. That's the only way.

  • should have come in using that money to dismantle the teachers' unions. We are protecting the incompetent and complacent while rewarding the thugs at the top of the food chain. Better yet, maybe he should have used it to make a foundation that provides tuition assistance to move more kids to private schooling.

  • a lot of the blame goes to the parents. If they let their kids sit in front of the TV all the time and play video games all the time and provide them no models of discipline and interest in ideas, they will raise retards and cannon fodder.

    Parents that show interest in their kids learning, sit and help them with homework, direct them at a young age to appreciate culture and to be engaged in problem solving and a creative pursuit that requires discipline, then I have found the kids may still not be the shar

  • These have gotten a bit of a bad rap, but I believe the right balance between entertainment and education can still be found. Kids will play video games 24 hours straight if you let them, because they become so absorbed. When they're on a console, the house could catch on fire and they wouldn't notice.

    The risk/reward mechanic of modern video games produces a neurochemical response that can be quite addictive.

    So if you can insinuate education into that experience such that at the end of completing a missio

  • by MaWeiTao (908546) on Monday July 25, 2011 @11:10AM (#36871044)

    The problem with the United States is that people are deluded by the belief that throwing money at a problem will fix it. The thing is that the US already spends way more per student than any other developed nation. Teachers and school administrators are certainly part of the equation, but the true source of the problem are the parents and popular culture. American culture glorifies the celebrity and the athlete. It creates the expectation that a person can get rich overnight and that everyone will be fabulously wealthy. When isn't there some celebrity dipshit on television flaunting their wealth? There's no idolization of the hard working individual, of the person who studies hard in school. American parents care more about having a child who is popular than they are having one who's studious. The mindset that is endlessly perpetuated is that you should do something you love, because it's fun.

    Look at Asian kids going through the same exact school system. They consistently excel. Not because they're innately smarter than anyone else. Live in Asia any length of time and you'll be cured of that misconception. Asians excel because from birth their parents are pushing them to work hard and do well in school. As a friend explained to me, your average American parent is happy with a child getting B's in school whereas an Asian parent will tolerate nothing less than straight A's. So from the start a child is learning that good enough is all they need to do to satisfy people.

    Every single thing they do is aimed at ensuring their kids not only do well but can get into a good university. This means everything from no computers or televisions in the bedroom to no socializing during the school year. And the parents are always aware of what their kids are doing. Too many American parents are too concerned with giving their kids freedom, with being their buddies.

    And this has nothing to do with the academic system in Asia because most of these Asians kids were born in the States and are growing up here. For a while I considered moving back to Asia and for a variety of reasons stayed here. One of those reasons was the school system here versus in Asia. The thing with the American system is that it's problems can be easily countered with parental involvement. In Asia, on the other hand, there is little that can be done to address the problems there. Asian schools still suffer the problem of focusing on rote memorization, parroting the teacher, and a fixation on taking tests. Study schools are still huge there. After school kids go to these cram schools in the evening with the purpose of studying to pass tests more effectively. School there is a lot more oppressive. I suppose the upside to all that is that at least they're still very focused on academics.

    And of course, the final piece here is that when Asians choose careers they consistently choose those which will ensure the greatest success. They're much less likely to choose a career that merely feels good. So this means that they get into finance, technology or healthcare. But even those who don't go that route, when they've had such a strong work ethic instilled in them ultimately find another path to success, even if they've started off in construction. Where your average individual will remain stuck working for someone else indefinitely, they'll find a way to grow to the point that they've got their own thriving business, as is the case with a good friend of mine. And the funny thing is that I've known Asians who've been fully Americanized, and they pretty much end up in the same situation as the average American; they've lost the formula for success.

    The thing here is that these techniques are especially important for a child growing up in lower to middle-class environments. These are the kids who are less likely to be exposed to successful role models. A kid growing up in an upper-class neighborhood has little to worry about. The success of everyone around them will rub off on them, and if it doesn't, well, they're connected enough that they wi

  • on both money AND technology, and as a culture we get a little closer to growing up.

  • a new goal is to leverage private money in a way that redirects how public education dollars are spent

    It's good that they're being honest and upfront about trying subvert our education system with lobbyist money, but it's kinda shocking they're so blatant about it.

    At least he isn't pushing for a voucher system and killing off public schools.

  • by Lance Dearnis (1184983) on Monday July 25, 2011 @11:21AM (#36871160)
    School priorities are still screwed up. To put this in perspective: At my school, I was a member of the Quiz Bowl and Deabte teams both. And in terms of the attention we got from the school newspaper, announcements, and so forth, it was, quite literally, about 10% of the coverage that our sports teams got.

    Education was clearly a second priority at times - teachers showing up baked, obsession with authority, and, of course, not much prize placed on student interaction with the lessons. School's a job for kids and it's always such a rare and special thing for a teacher who has kids that 'love to learn' - bloody hell! Maybe if we started treating the teachers well and clearly explaining their jobs, this would be [i]every[/i] class. They teach stuff that's interesting as hell! American History and Civics? You've got Franklin Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, FDR, JFK...Chemistry? Work more experiments in, kids like combining stuff, especially if it looks pretty, explosive, or shiny. English? Focus less on literary classics (You know, which let you not update your lesson plan for 20 years) and work in books that the kids will actually like to read and discuss them.

    Teachers will half-ass it because their pay and direction are half-assed; they're treated more like bureaucrats then educators, so why are we surprised that throwing money at the problem without fixing the broken fundamentals has resulted in little improvement? The only reason that you see the H1-B discrepancy is the monumental difference in effort that comes from living in a harder life, having more pressure, but that's not the only way to succeed - good teachers can produce these results from all students. We just don't have, and don't encourage, good teaching.
  • by eepok (545733) on Monday July 25, 2011 @12:32PM (#36872124) Homepage

    ... is nearly limitless. Honestly.

    Here's a guy who is smart. He has a LOT of money because he knew how to use his brain at the right time and right place in history. Now, being older, he wants to do good with his money. Great. Or not so much... because given the cultural assumption that multi-billionaires understand something about the world that the rest of us don't, his quests are followed and worshiped as good steps. But lets look back at his severe missteps in his attempts to reform education:

    1) Scholarships: The whole effort start with giving away hundreds of millions of dollars in competitive scholarships. That's really nice, but here's the thing about competitive scholarships-- they almost always go to the kids that are already destined for higher education funding. He was helping the easily helped. Of COURSE this wasn't going to change the state of education in the USA. He was/is just holding the status quo.

    2) Building Super Schools: Bill funded/helped to fund tech super schools. As Bill knows from the planned obsolescence model, those schools aren't fiscally sustainable because all the high tech hardware needs upkeep, security, and replacement regularly. That means more cost for the schools. Bad move, Bill.

    3) Charter Schools: Bill, despite his great intentions, has fallen into the latest fallacy trap: "Private business survives on lean budgets and thus public service has something to learn." But there's a problem... private/corporate businesses are "lean" in their budgets because their shareholders demand evermore short-term profits at the cost of service and employees. Turning public schools (where the shareholders are effectively the students) into genuine private businesses opens up schools to the profit motive and thus low-investment teachers and cherry-picked students. So what's the plan when stocks take a dive...?

    Bill, here's a tip: Go through an MA in education program and get your California Teachers' Credentials. Experience the massive bureaucracy and cost associated with becoming a teacher and ask yourself, "Who in the world is willing to do this to themselves... and how do we make sure more are able to do it?" What do I mean? Well, here's a quick walkthrough of the path to becoming a well-prepared teacher:

    ***Take your SATs during high school = ~$75
    ***Apply to undergraduate programs at 4-year universities = ~$60 each
    ***Get accepted, go through college, graduate with B or better average = $125,000 (UC education)
    ***Prepare for and take the GRE, CBEST, and CSET (in your planned area of teaching) = $250
    ***Explore the completely non-standardized MA/PhD world, tons of websites, more phone calls and emails, and find the right MA Education program for you. Apply to many and prepare to move house. ~$80 each. Don't forget to save money for all that travel for interviews you'll have to do!
    ***Complete your MA and get your credentials over 2-3 years while also teaching for free = ~$50,000
    ***Congratulations, you're a mostly-prepared teacher with temporary credentials and have only spent $200,000.
    ***Additional fees: $55 per copy of your credential (you'll need multiple), the cost of fingerprinting in each county you apply as a teacher (non-transferable).
    ***Start your job search in a state that recently had MAJOR teacher downsizing. Hope for a 75+% appointment but take whatever you can. Prepare to move house.
    ***Start work making $30,000-$40,000. Don't settle in to your new apartment. There are still more cuts and teacher tenure is under attack. Oh, expect to pay $1,500 out-of-pocket for your class supplies because neither your students nor your school can afford to buy them.
    ***3 years pass, and you have to complete your credentialing. You take more classes, more tests, get evaluated. You've spent $4,500 on school supplies since starting.

    And it goes on.

    Bill, if you REALLY want to change education for the better, here are two ways to do so:

    1) Affect the poorest and lowest performing children. Fund the fixing of thei

  • by anyGould (1295481) on Monday July 25, 2011 @01:13PM (#36872722)

    I would suggest the best way to help teachers is to make the wages competitive.

    And before everyone jumps all over this on a "TEACHERS GET OVERPAID", stop and do the math:

    For a pre-schooler, it's going to cost you around $600 a month for day care. That's about $30 a day to supervise and entertain a child.

    A teacher is expected not only to do those two things, but also educate them. And they're doing this for a much larger group (your day care is required to have one staff for every ten kids here; your kid's classroom will be double or triply as large).

    Do you think your kid's teacher is making $900 a day? (30 kids x $30/day)?

  • by Locutus (9039) on Monday July 25, 2011 @02:57PM (#36874118)
    You can not have computer illiterate educators and users and get educational improvements using computer technology. Your Foundation's donations not only lock them into Microsoft products but do nothing to educate the educators in even the basics of computer operating system usage. You've gone great though selling them on teaching "The Word", "The Excel" and "The Powerpoint" so you've locked another generation into only knowing products and not concepts of word processing, spreadsheets, or presentations. You've also done a great job at instilling fear of the computer by doing nothing to educate on the concepts of file systems, printing systems nor even general desktop metaphoric use. File - Open and File - Create New are perfect because they first must start "The Word", ie _your_ application. And the 3 or 4 other methods of getting new files created must be the right way to do it considering the 10s of millions you've spent in User Design Pattern research over the years.

    And I just loved how you blasted the OLPC for its poor design and unfamiliar software yet turn around and claim that a standard Windows desktop is all they should have to know how to use.

    So you can not have it both ways Bill. You either educate the educators and people learn concepts and standard usage patterns which expose them to the ability to use other platforms or you continue keeping them ignorant and spending your billions to keep them generating more money for you by locking them into Microsoft products.

    Besides, it surprises me that you and your Foundation are even allowed to pedal Microsoft software being so financially tied at the hip. I had thought there were laws against such conflicts of interest.

    LoB
  • by rpillala (583965) on Monday July 25, 2011 @06:27PM (#36876782)

    Gates and Broad and whoever else controls education reform direction have an assumption in common. Namely that poverty doesn't matter. To prove this, they point to KIPP schools where great test scores are achieved. More on that in a minute. I don't know much about what else they accomplish at KIPP schools. I have a vague notion that they excel in performance arts as well, which is great. Anytime a child gets arts experience in school, it's a good thing.

    I have a few major problems with this, mostly that students are selected to go to KIPP (self-selection counts) and that all they demonstrate with high test scores is success on tests. It could just be gaps in my knowledge about how much success kids have in KIPP. But the self-selection and ability of KIPP schools to dismiss students both undermine the idea's scalability.

    Until we address America's 23%-and-climbing rate of child poverty, the scores posted by poor students are going to continue to drag the average down. I don't mean to be cruel here, but scores by non-poor students are generally fine. In some cases, better than many countries'. Poor kids need some basic needs met that are traditionally not the responsibility of schools. You're familiar with Maslow's hierarchy of needs [wikipedia.org] I hope. Throwing more money at the administrators or putting in bonus programs for schools (as in NYC) will not accomplish this. There was a guy in Harlem with a charter I think who put in a dental office in the next building over because his students were not getting dental care. That's a start.

    School reform efforts that ignore or dismiss concerns about poverty will always fail.

    Note that this is still better than the conservative vision of school reform, where the greatest resources are spent on the highest (student) achievers and everyone else gets enough education to serve as their working class.

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