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Bill Gates On What Business Can Teach Schools 272

Posted by Soulskill
from the principals-need-golden-parachutes dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Most workplaces build a system to evaluate worker performance, provide feedback that yields information employees can use to improve, and then hold employees accountable for results. However, Bill and Melinda Gates write that in the field of education, we really don't know very much at all about what makes someone an effective teacher. 'We have all known terrific teachers,' write the Gates. 'But nobody has been able to identify what, precisely, makes them so outstanding.' For the last several years, the Gates Foundation has been working with more than 3,000 teachers on a large research project called Measures of Effective Teaching to get a better sense of what makes teaching work (PDF) so that school districts can start to hire, train and promote based on meaningful standards. 'Once the MET research is completed, we hope that school districts will work with teachers and their unions to create fair and reliable evaluations that reward teachers who are effective and identify and help those who need to improve. When that happens, we believe that districts will be on the cusp of providing every student with an effective teacher, in every class, every year.'"
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Bill Gates On What Business Can Teach Schools

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  • by Frosty Piss (770223) * on Monday October 24, 2011 @02:40PM (#37822524)

    This guy Hugh Pickens, he's Roland Piquepaille [wikipedia.org] back from the grave, right?

  • Once the MET research is completed, we hope that school districts will work with teachers and their unions to create fair and reliable evaluations that reward teachers who are effective and identify and help those who need to improve.

    How many times have people tried this? How many different answers do we need anyway?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by sigipickl (595932)

      How many times have people tried this? How many different answers do we need anyway?

      Many, and the teacher unions have shot it down every time. Good teachers can not be rewarded and bad teachers can not be punished. The only reward is for those who stay around the longest.

      • by hedwards (940851)

        You make that sound like a bad thing. The reason why most universities provide tenure is so that the professors don't have to worry about being fired when a new dean comes in and decides that a teacher is being controversial.

        Likewise with the K-12 system teachers are always under pressure from administrators and parents to do this or don't do that, and without job security in that form, it gets really tough for the educators to make any decisions about how to run their class as a single minor complaint can

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 24, 2011 @03:05PM (#37822958)

      1) Gives a shit.
      2) Knows their shit.
      3) Low tolerance for shit.

      Or, more to the point, the elements of a bad teacher:

      1) Wants to expend the least amount of effort to collect a paycheck.
      2) Has a head full of stupid ideas like: these kids probably aren't doing drugs or bullying each other. The stupid ones will always be stupid and the smart ones will always be smart no matter what I do. Cheerleaders wouldn't lie to me. I don't have to know my subject to teach it well, I can just read the book as I go. Disagreeing with me means the answer is incorrect, even if it is clearly an opinion-seeking question. The correct remedy to low grades is MORE HOMEWORK! Rote memorization of boring facts is a great way to get young minds interested in higher learning. etc.
      3) Refuses to adequately punish the trouble-makers or under-performers, to the detriment of the rest of the class.

      While we are at it, we should more intelligently align the curricula with age groups, as suggested by Piaget [wikipedia.org] (e.g. young kids should study foreign languages rather than math, because the brain is far more capable of learning language when young, and will be able to pick up basic math very quickly when a bit older).

      Oh, and the phrase "zero tolerance policy" usually means "zero thought put into proper enforcement or deciding what constitutes infringement" which means "zero respect for authority learned at an early age."

      Ok I'm done.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Punishing should only be for trouble-makers. Punishment is a deterrent against unwanted behaviour. Punishing under-performers generally makes them perform worse, because it associates punishment with the subject being taught. Just my opinion though, feel free to disagree, I don't have a large sample-size.

      • by Jack Fat (2492762)

        3) Low tolerance for shit.

        3) Refuses to adequately punish the trouble-makers or under-performers, to the detriment of the rest of the class.

        I agree with both short lists of elements, but I think this pair (for good and bad teachers, respectively) needs to be expanded because there's more to it than the Iron vs Lenient Fists that it implies.

        Which is to say that all of my best teachers were adept at being approachable and friendly while also maintaining the authority to be taken seriously by (all but the most deliquent) students.

        The worst teachers erred on one side or the other. Some created an atmosphere where they could be treated as peers (and

      • by reboot246 (623534)
        Very good post.

        I would have said it a bit differently, but you made the point pretty clear anyway.

        The great teachers really care about their students, of course. They also know their subject well enough to know what part of it the students need to learn. Depending on the subject a lot of what's in the book may be outdated or just plain wrong.

        I was graduated from high school in 1971, so I've seen the decline of our education system over a long period of time. It's interesting how the decline started as disci
    • by LWATCDR (28044)

      Well that is the problem. How do you know if teachers are teaching. The old answer of "you just know" isn't good enough.
      Looking back the teachers I had varied from very good, over worked, and some where just terrible.
      My second grade teacher hated kids. She was very old and really disliked me because her son knew my father and got into a lot of trouble a decade before I was born. She was the only 2nd grade teacher so i was stuck. My third grade teacher was great and found out that I was reading way above lev

    • Re:Not again.... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by eln (21727) on Monday October 24, 2011 @03:22PM (#37823254) Homepage
      I think the problem here is that such a system seeks to evaluate teachers as if they were line workers, cogs in the machine. In reality, teachers operate more like managers. As anyone who has been involved in management or management education should be able to attest, getting a good read on exactly what makes good managers so good (and bad managers so bad) is a lot harder. The metrics are a lot fuzzier, and there tends to be a lot of different ways to get good (or bad) results. In many cases, two people doing things that look on the outside to be very similar can lead to wildly divergent results.

      Go to any random business school and take a look at their various case studies on managers. It's usually quite difficult to find any common thread in any of them, other than "this guy's company was successful, therefore what he did is the right way to do it." Of course, in every one of those studies, the manager did things differently than the other managers. The upshot of it is that the best managers are unique snowflakes who follow their own rules and are successful, while the worst managers are unique snowflakes who follow their own rules and aren't successful

      In short, why does Bill Gates think business can help evaluate teachers (leaders of students) when business isn't even very good at evaluating their own managers (leaders of corporations)?
      • In many cases, two people doing things that look on the outside to be very similar can lead to wildly divergent results.

        That's because the variables also include the people being "managed" and the corporate culture.

        How often have people here completed a project DESPITE the manager's attempts to "manage" said project and people?

        The upshot of it is that the best managers are unique snowflakes who follow their own rules and are successful, while the worst managers are unique snowflakes who follow their own rul

  • Apples and Oranges (Score:5, Insightful)

    by elrous0 (869638) * on Monday October 24, 2011 @02:44PM (#37822590)

    It's not that we don't know HOW to evaluate teachers, it's that you have to cut through miles of bullshit from teachers unions, state employee unions, and assorted political allies to actually DO IT and USE IT for anything. If you think that unions are about to negotiate away things like teacher seniority, tenure, automatic raises, etc. then you're high. They protect their own, and they have the emotional political/public appeal of the underpaid noble teacher to use if they need to (even though teachers are actually usually very WELL paid).

    There are also real world issues that no one wants to talk about that effect teacher performance at the best and worst schools. Poor schools tend to be in shitty neighborhoods where teachers don't want to work, for example. Improving a school in a shitty neighborhood isn't as simple as "We need to get good teachers." You're NOT going to get the good teachers because the good teachers would be fucking crazy to teach at Gangbanger High when they could make more money and put up with less threats of physical violence if they go to the suburbs and teach at Whitey McRichkid High. So you're stuck with the worst teachers, the one's who had no choice but to come there. School stays shitty, vicious cycle continues.

    Breaking that cycle requires real money to recruit better teachers, and the shitty schools usually have the LEAST money. If you want to get rid of the bad teachers in a crappy school, what are you going to do, fire everyone? Where are you going to get replacements? Some crappy schools are having to recruit overseas in places like the Philippines just to find teachers as it is.

    This is approaching the problem the wrong way. In an ideal world, it would be great to evaluate teachers and pay/promote/fire based on performance. But in the real world, it doesn't work that way.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by AnonGCB (1398517)

      Wish I had mod points.

      Remove government regulation public schools, make them have to compete, and we'd see the end of teachers unions that force high pay and automatic raises, tenure, etc.

      • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Monday October 24, 2011 @03:04PM (#37822944) Homepage

        Make them compete.

        With WHAT? The problem is that poor schools already can't compete even with regulatory pressure to help them. They need MONEY. If they had money, they wouldn't have the problem they are having. The poorer neighborhoods are already at huge disadvantage to Elrous' "Whitey McRichkid" schools. If they have to 'compete' on a flat playing field, exactly what would they bring to the table?

        • by sigipickl (595932) on Monday October 24, 2011 @03:26PM (#37823338)

          Money is not the problem, accountability is.

          Here in California, local property tax money is redistributed throughout the state. Often schools is poorer neighborhoods get more money per student than the schools in more affluent areas. Heck, in some districts teachers get paid more to teach in the under-achieving schools. Nothing has gotten better except the employment at schools.

        • Exactly how is money going to help?

          Its not going to help the way the fucking twits and geeks think its going to help.

          First the kids need to be taught that the ghetto is not the "real world".

          It boils down to the fact that the children need a safe environment where learning is actually encourage. Most of them don't have books at home, and aren't in an environment where education matters. The kids in the poor neighborhoods are starting school where their parents never read to them, and they weren't taught to

          • Well, step back a moment. Why would you say that the ghetto is not the "real world" for them?
            For some kids, the school IS in the ghetto. The ghetto sits across from them in class, teaches at the chalkboard, and awaits them after school. There are poor doomed bastards that get born into the ghetto and will live and die in the ghetto. So, I think I have to explain to you that the ghetto IS their world.

            It's a world we want them to escape, but there's a statistical improbability that all of them are going t
        • If what you said was true, then the schools that spent lots of money would CONSISTENTLY get better results than the schools that didn't.

          The problem is that they don't. New York City and Washington DC have the highest per-pupil expenditures in the United States, and they have the WORST schools in the United States.

          Meanwhile, dirt-poor schools in the Rio Grande Valley routinely get better results than schools in New York and Washington DC.

      • by HeckRuler (1369601) on Monday October 24, 2011 @03:44PM (#37823654)
        Everyone, please pay attention!
        This is a republican/libertarian that wants to remove government regulation of public schools.
        The stated purpose is to end the "high pay" and raises of teachers.

        The high pay of teachers.

        Think about that. He doesn't want better teachers. He doesn't want poor schools to do better. The entire goal he's going for, in the grand sum of two sentences, is to pay teachers even less than what they're paid now.
        This is why we need unions. This is why teachers unions fight this sort of thing. This is a roadblock to progress.
      • What would they compete on? Parents have no idea what makes a school good (if they did, presumably Bill Gates could just ask them). When you compete you have to have a good metric for success that can be measured. There are lots of places where people do not have this metric and really crappy businesses thrive (snake oil anyone?)

        If you think markets are efficient, then you have to say things like the people who buy the "anti-virus" that pops up when you get a virus are really good AV programs (after all, th

    • by grasshoppa (657393) <skennedy@tp n o - c o .org> on Monday October 24, 2011 @02:58PM (#37822818) Homepage

      You touch on some good points, but fail to address the real issue with education today; Parents. Education starts, and never ends, at home. If parents aren't valuing education at home, then kids are learning that education is a waste of time.

      An overwhelming majority of parents today view education as free day care. That's it. The best teacher in the world has a 50/50 chance of any kind of impact on a child when their parents don't care. That's why poor schools tend to have poor results; it's not the money specifically, but the fact that poor folks tend to be less than college education and, generally, hold a negative view point of higher education.

      Just some things to think about.

      • by khallow (566160)

        You touch on some good points, but fail to address the real issue with education today; Parents.

        And if you do nothing about parents, then that observation is garbage. Similarly, the "real issue" with living is the dying part at the end. But nobody has the fix for that either. (Also, if you happen to disagree that dying is the "real issue", then maybe that same consideration applies to your assertion about parents.)

        There are two things to remember here. Teachers are the ones typically held responsible by society for the education of their students, not the students nor the students' parents. Given

        • There are two things to remember here. Teachers are the ones typically held responsible by society for the education of their students, not the students nor the students' parents. Given that, it makes sense to hold teachers accountable for the outcome.

          Teachers are only being held responsibly by individuals who wish to have society raise their children. No competent parent thinks teachers are the source of their childs education. They're absolutely there to HELP and GUIDE, but it is a parents responsibility to be involved in every aspect of their education.

          Second, a good teacher or a good school can encourage students and their parents to be more receptive and responsive with respect to education. A bad teacher or school would IMHO be far less likely to.

          That may very well be the most ridiculous statement I've seen on this site to date. A good teacher can encourage bad students and their bad parents to suddenly be involved? Mr. Jones is going to c

          • by khallow (566160)

            Teachers are only being held responsibly by individuals who wish to have society raise their children. No competent parent thinks teachers are the source of their childs education. They're absolutely there to HELP and GUIDE, but it is a parents responsibility to be involved in every aspect of their education.

            I didn't say that teachers were the source of education (though they are an obvious source of education). I say teachers were held responsible by society. That's a statement of fact.

            Second, a good teacher or a good school can encourage students and their parents to be more receptive and responsive with respect to education. A bad teacher or school would IMHO be far less likely to.

            That may very well be the most ridiculous statement I've seen on this site to date. A good teacher can encourage bad students and their bad parents to suddenly be involved? Mr. Jones is going to convince Jimmy's mom to stop smoking crack so she can read to her son every night? You're out of touch with reality.

            Yes, you idiot. That is exactly what I'm saying (Aside from the "suddenly" part). There's this thing called "communication" that people do. Maybe Jimmy's mom will keep hitting the pipe, but maybe the fact that Jimmy's future hinges on whether or not she quits smoking crack (or whether she hands Jimmy off to a relative who can ta

            • I didn't say that teachers were the source of education (though they are an obvious source of education). I say teachers were held responsible by society. That's a statement of fact.

              You may personally hold them responsible, but you don't speak for everyone. I dont' know a competent parent who holds teachers responsible for their child's education. That responsibility is held entirely by the parents. A teacher is simply there to assist them.

              Yes, you idiot. That is exactly what I'm saying (Aside from the "suddenly" part). There's this thing called "communication" that people do. Maybe Jimmy's mom will keep hitting the pipe, but maybe the fact that Jimmy's future hinges on whether or not she quits smoking crack (or whether she hands Jimmy off to a relative who can take care of him) will make the difference. Most decisions don't start from scratch and most people aren't firmly decided on being destructive parents.
              As to the "suddenly be involved", most teachers see their students for nine or so months at a time. That's a bit of time in which to help a student become more effective or parent become more supportive.

              I can tell you've sat through a lot of parent-teacher conferences. You know, the ones that uncaring parents don't show up to. What exactly is this mode of communication from teacher to parent again? If you call them and they don't want to tal

        • In an ideal world, the teacher would be totally responsible but we don't live in an ideal world. I have friends who are teachers who work in these bad districts with parents that don't care. A hard part in teaching some of these kids is that they come to school hungry and sometimes dirty. What can they do about that? Feed them out of their meager salaries? Clean them and wash their clothes? Some have parents that downright don't care. Some of them outright told them that their job as teachers is to w
      • Wish I had mod points. So true. I recall my mother helping me and my brothers with english. Really just the fact my parents were interested in our performance and did not instantly blame the teacher was probably a good deal of the reason I did well in school. I am so tired of people blaming the schools. And oh, more money for the schools is always the answer. The answer is for parents to start caring about the lives they brought into this world and make sure those lives can survive after they leave the nest

      • by ryanov (193048)

        Poor folks also have much less time to deal with their kids' education as they're often times at work well more than full time trying to keep the lights on. Further, if the parents don't succeed at at least that much, that becomes another reason why poor kids do poorly.

    • by bbasgen (165297) on Monday October 24, 2011 @02:58PM (#37822836) Homepage
      I think your premise is incorrect: evaluating teachers is actually very difficult to do. I think that one way to sum up the challenge is that teacher's don't have a "boss" in the way of most other professions. Consider, for example, in higher ed where a faculty member may have something that amounts to a dotted line to an administrative dean. That dean may have 50 or more faculty under them, with no intervening layers of management. This is obviously untenable by design. One could go on and talk about the dynamics of student evals, department chairs, and student learning outcomes. For the sake of brevity, I'll just say that evaluating a profession that is as much an art as a science is rather difficult. I'm hopeful MET comes up with a good model.
      • Evaluating teachers is extremely hard to do.

        As an example, I'm very happy with my 4th grade daughter's teacher this year, yet at least three kids have been pulled out of her class by their parents. I'm choosing not to believe that this is because she is black in an area that is excessively white (I'm white for sake of disclosure). Rather, I think it has much more to do with the personality of the teacher, which is very compatible my daughter's personality. My daughter hasn't been compatible with all of h

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Pumpkin Tuna (1033058)

      A lot of what you say makes sense, but you need to rethink the first paragraph. What about all those states, primarily in the South, that have toothless unions or no unions at all?

      I'm in education and I agree that we don't have a good evaluation system. I also agree that unions push too hard against real evaluation systems. But I won't go as far as saying that we know how to evaluate teachers. Gates, Arnie Duncan and their ilk would have us pretty much use test scores. That's not a realistic measure of teac

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Gates, Arnie Duncan and their ilk would have us pretty much use test scores. That's not a realistic measure of teacher ability

        You obviously didn't RTFA, but whatevs. The Proposed Teacher Evaluation and Development Criteria chart on page 2 describes a more holistic system incorportating: rigorous classroom observations, school working conditions, student feedback, and pedagogical knowledge content. Hardly a simplistic test score approach.

        • The problem with "pedagogical knowledge content" is that education, perhaps more than any other profession is polluted with horrific pseudo-science fads and fashions. Good teachers ignore the b*ll*cks in teaching trends and keep doing a good job. This metric would harm good teachers and reward bad ones who're willing to follow the management checklist. Just like in businesses.

          Now that's what education can learn from business: what gets measured gets managed, and nothing of value can be measured, so measu

        • by ryanov (193048)

          He spoke at the AFT convention about a year ago and that's not what he was saying then (he was talking much more about test scores). So, either he got religion or something doesn't add up here.

      • What about all those states, primarily in the South, that have toothless unions or no unions at all?

        They may not have unions in private industry. They still have teachers' unions. And they aren't toothless.

        • Expound on that for me. for example, in NC, the "union" can't negotiate contracts, they can't require members to join, and pretty soon, they might not even be able to allow members to deduct dues directly from their paychecks. The only thing they do is lobby, and they don't do that very well any more. I don't even call that a union.

          • IN VA, the "union" is basically a group-buy for liability insurance and a magazine every few months. It does nothing else.
      • by Quila (201335) on Monday October 24, 2011 @03:32PM (#37823466)

        As you say, Finland accepts only the best, trains them well and lets them do their thing. It does work.

        But the US spends more per child on education than Finland does. We're actually ranked #4 in the world, way ahead of Finland. So saying "more money" without serious reform for quality of education just means throwing more money down a hole where it won't necessarily make anything better.

        • We spend more money because of overhead in administration and technology. The right amount and kind of administration is absolutely necessary, as is the right amount and kinds of technology.

          Unfortunately, in the US, we seem to have lost sight of the "right" part of that statement and substituted "more".

      • by ryanov (193048)

        The states with the least union intervention tend to also have the worst educational systems.

    • by Ironchew (1069966)

      They protect their own, and they have the emotional political/public appeal of the underpaid noble teacher to use if they need to (even though teachers are actually usually very WELL paid)

      [citation needed]

      This is approaching the problem the wrong way.

      Since you're clearly enough of a visionary to say the Gates Foundation's research is a waste of time, what is your approach?

    • by houghi (78078)

      Also there is the issue that in the real world you can expect a promotion once in a while. In Schools not so much. You are a teacher and one of them becomes a director of the school. That means the majority will not ever get a promotion.

      How motivated would you be if the job you took at first would be the same job for the rest of your life? How motivated would you be after 25 years?

      Making this about business, it will be worse for school who already have no money because of the neighborhood. Do we want toddle

      • by elrous0 (869638) *

        I live in a state where teachers get automatic 4% cost-of-living raises every year, where they get automatic *substantial* raises for various certifications, at certain intervals in their career, etc. and where they're virtually bulletproof once they get tenure (pretty much a job for life after just a few years of service). That would certainly motivate me, promotion or not.

    • by tbannist (230135) on Monday October 24, 2011 @03:14PM (#37823102)

      Actually, it is. Frankly most organisations do a terrible job of evaluating the performance of any complicated role. If a job can't be automated, most businesses are unable to reliably evaluate performance. How do we evaluate doctors? Engineers? Software developers?

      This things are difficult to evaluate and when pressed, businesses usually come up with terrible measures of performance. Just look at the games that CEOs play with their bonus requirements. They're often able to hit all of their bonus requirements even while the company struggles along with below market average performance.

      I have no confidence that Bill and Melinda will come up with anything other than another wacky scheme that implodes after the first couple of years when it can be shown that it promotes people who game the system and punishes those who don't. After all, Bill Gates put Steve Ballmer in charge of Microsoft. If that doesn't call his judgement on competency into question, I don't know what will.

    • by msobkow (48369) on Monday October 24, 2011 @03:26PM (#37823344) Homepage Journal

      I agree that there is a real issue with getting rid of a bad teacher over the objections of a union about "seniority", but it can be done. Many of my relatives are or were teachers (most of them retired now), and every one of them had to deal wtih parents who were screaming to the board about how they're a "bad" teacher for failing or reprimanding their precious and flawless child. Some of those parents engaged in rather vicious smear campaigns against teachers they hated. So the union system is needed to protect teachers from arbitrary firing when those outraged parents are on a mission to destroy their careers.

      What Bill is talking about, though, is the actual process of evaluating teachers and teaching techniques fairly. The effectiveness of different approaches in the field have never been properly evaluated before. Some districts "evaluate" a teachers performance by considering how their students do on standardized tests, but such simplistic approaches are white-wash to appease people who are demanding that the teachers be evaluated, not an actual evaluation of the teacher's skills as a teacher.

      Worse, such simplistic approaches don't make any attempt to evaluate why one teacher's students do better on the tests than others. If teachers are to improve, they need that feedback so they know how to improve.

      No matter what the results of the studies are, there will be teachers, unions, school boards, and parents who resist acting on that information. Bill and Melinda are to be commended for tackling the issue when they know full well that it's going to be a battle to get the results of those studies applied to practice.

    • by asylumx (881307)

      It's not that we don't know HOW to evaluate teachers

      Uh, yeah, it is. It is exactly that. There are so many variables and so few ways to measure. Is a student doing poorly because the teacher is bad? Is it because he is dyslexic and nobody has identified it? Is it because he's distracted by the fights going on in his home every night? Is it because he has to take care of his little brother while his single mother is at work, and he doesn't get enough sleep, or enough to eat? There are communities wher

      • Yes, in most cases, memorizing and rote is the wrong way to go about things... AT A HIGHER LEVEL.

        At the elementary school level, in math, for example, rote learning is, IMO, the only way to teach the basics. Kids *need* to know the multiplication tables by heart. When my daughters were learning them, we'd drill... until they could answer anything in the 1-12 table without thinking. To do any sort of advanced math -- and by advanced, I mean basic arithmetic with more than 1 digit, or anything above basic

    • Breaking that cycle requires real money to recruit better teachers, and the shitty schools usually have the LEAST money.

      I agree with the rest of your post, but you miss the point entirely here. The problem isn't that poor schools aren't being funded. In fact, per-student costs in poorer districts is actually multiple times what it is in more affluent areas (if you want a citation, watch the documentary Cartel [thecartelmovie.com] and count the luxary cars found in school admin parking lots in the "poor" school districts of NJ). The problem is that a tiny fraction of that function actually makes it into the classroom. Most of it goes to pens [nationalreview.com]

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      As the son of two retired school teachers I spent a lot of time looking at my public school years from a different perspective. One perspective was as a student and the other perspective was observer listening to teachers to talk outside of work. My father elected to a position in the NEA, so I got to see that side of it as well.

      Not surprisingly, teachers come in all shapes and size: a few are lazy; a bunch are burned out from years of pouring energy into their profession; some are passionate about their ma

    • by dtmos (447842) *

      Poor schools tend to be in shitty neighborhoods where teachers don't want to work, for example.

      That's one theory.

      An alternative theory is that the teachers in both good and bad neighborhoods have equivalent abilities, but kids in neighborhoods with "threats of physical violence" have so many things other than learning on their minds while they're at school -- like surviving the walk home, or protecting their little sisters from street gangs, or trying to understand why Mom didn't come home last night and feed them dinner -- that there's nothing the teacher can do in his/her one hour per day with the

  • Dear Bill,
    Thank you for your comments and concerns but we got this, thanks.
    P.S. Please keep sending the money though
    Sincerely Yours,
    The Teachers Unions


    Sad, but this has been the response for a looooong time now and as my good man Bob Dylan says.....the times they are a changin'
  • That's an easy one (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mvar (1386987)

    Bill Gates On What Business Can Teach Schools

    1) patent
    2) lawsuit
    3) profit!

    • by c0lo (1497653)

      Bill Gates On What Business Can Teach Schools

      1) patent
      2) lawsuit
      3) profit!

      You forgot

      0) lobby

      Errr... apologies... I heard they're calling it "evangelism".

  • by More Trouble (211162) on Monday October 24, 2011 @02:54PM (#37822758)

    Teaching 55,203,000 students, at 132,656 schools. There is no larger group of professionals in the US. So, if you want to improve education in the US, you can pretty much forget about "hiring the best, firing the rest." You need to build a teaching work force that meets your needs.

    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      It should be pointed out that building a teaching work force that's totally awesome means paying teachers rates that are totally awesome. And judging from battles I've seen over school funding, a lot of Americans don't really want to do that - they want top-notch teachers at bargain basement rates.

  • by trout007 (975317) on Monday October 24, 2011 @03:06PM (#37822996)

    Back when Mazda joined with Ford to make cars in the US they had a problem. Ford was building all the parts to spec but the transmissions didn't run as nice as the Japanese built ones. Then Ford ripped apart some Japanese engines and found the parts were made to MUCH tighter tolerances than the specs called for. This was because of Deming's Quality program he taught the Japanese. Basically it is never stop improving quality. Even when you are within specs keep getting better because quality will improve and your customers will be happier.

    This is what needs to happen in education. It's not setting a standard and making sure teachers meet it. It is setting up a culture of excellence and pursuit of perfection even knowing it is unobtainable.

    • by openfrog (897716)

      Again trying to apply business solutions to public institutions. Your suggestion is particularly ironical since what is stated here is that the problem is actually the difficulty of measuring performance.

      What's more, the obsession with measuring performance in education, regardless or resources invested or support for teachers, is getting ludicrous. You want good teachers? Then make taching a profession worth pursuing. The suggestion of trying to measure when real measure would cost more that educating in t

    • This is insightful?
      "We need better quality! In fact, we need a culture of better quality"
      That's great, but how do we do it? This is the sort of thing that motivational speakers spew and that self-help books churn out. Cheezy example and all.

      You could have just as easily used the old and busted razor blade story:

      "blah blah blah, give away the razor blades, make money on the razors.
      This is what needs to happen in education. It's not teaching kids that 1+1=2, it's giving them the framework that synergi
    • So what you're saying is, the key to making great products^H^H^H^H students is throwing chairs at the teachers? Teachers! Teachers! Teachers! Teachers! Teachers! Teachers!
    • by trout007 (975317)

      Reading the article it gives the example of one teacher reviewing her own performance and thinking how she will do better next time. That is what I was trying to convey. You don't HAVE to measure how well the teachers are doing if you have a culture where everyone is expected to improve and given the tools to do it. In the case of the cars the machinists building the parts. They weren't told they had to make parts of a certain tolence or they would be fired. They were given the tools and the education to ke

  • While finding a way to quantify what makes someone a good teacher is all well and good, IMHO it's looking at a symptom and not what, at least what I consider, one of true challenges (problems) in education... That being which persons should and should not get a degree in education. It's stunning how many people think teaching is easy and teaching younger kids is easier. There are too many cases of hey I flunked "insert course here" I'm gonna major in education.

    For one, student teaching needs to occur muc

  • by jellomizer (103300) on Monday October 24, 2011 @03:12PM (#37823070)

    The problem is finding good teacher to improve education is good in a perfect world but it isn't.
    You got suburban schools with most of the parents working at a good middle class job. The students will on the whole do better then the students who live in the slums.
    Also you have the overall culture of the school. Where some schools cultures are setup as an education facility where they demand the students to learn things. Then there are other schools who operate more like a day care that just make sure the kids are safe for when they are there, and they use teaching as a way to try to pacify them.
    School have a hard time separating the slackers from the people who want to do good but are having problems.
    There are parents who put unneeded political pressure on the school to make sure if F+ turns to a D or his C turns into an B+.
    There are parents who do nothing and let their child slide.
    Discussion about politics, religion is forbidden.
    Standardized test make sure every child thinks that everything must have a right answer.

    You take a good teacher and put them in a bad environment they will not perform, or they may get fired very quickly.
    You take a bad teacher and put them in a good environment the students will learn in spite of them.

    I spent my childhood in spite of most of my teachers. I got the message every year from one teacher "There is no way you will be able to make it threw the next level of school" I didn't get this message during Grad school though. Granted I wasn't an A+ student a Solid B+ was my standard. But it let me go by and by no means was I ever in any threat of failing out. The problem is I have a learning disability in writing it is a minor one so it never was considered a disability, however it makes getting my point across difficult.

  • by sgt101 (120604)

    Because, just like in every big company in the world, in teaching it's all down to an individual heroically battling the odds to make a success.

    Reward that hero, beat those who stand in the way, throw them to the dogs or the dole queue.

    What is most important is that those that do what they are told, and tell you how good things are, are rewarded. And you will retire (in 18mths with $40m in the bank) sure in the knowledge that all will be well forever, or at least until the next fucking lunatic with a year o

  • When that happens, we believe that districts will be on the cusp of

    finding a way to fire all the older more expensive teachers and replace them with fresh college grads at the bottom of the salary scale.

    Any number can be gamed, and this once certainly will.

  • by Hentes (2461350) on Monday October 24, 2011 @03:20PM (#37823214)

    You can only understand to full extent what a teacher has done when the kids they have taught grow up.

    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      A good example of this: My second grade teacher taught us all how to use different bases. Her effort helps me to this day in reading and understanding octal and hexadecimal without even thinking. And yet using octal was on no standardized test.

      (Yes, as Tom Lehrer points out, base 8 is just like base 10, if you're missing 2 fingers)

    • by openfrog (897716)

      Most insightful comment in this thread in the least amount of space. Thank you.

    • And if one becomes a Bill Gates, or President; that teacher is a god.
    • by ryanov (193048)

      Which is part of the problem with the whole system, actually. My city (Newark) has a lot of problems with crime and poverty. They affect the school systems, meaning people here likely get a poor education or at least do not succeed... and poor areas seem to have even more children because they are not generally taught to be as careful or have parents that can't or won't supervise them as much.

      The solution to most of this is improved education... but if you were to tell someone "I'm going to fix this city: w

  • Large quantitative HLM studies show that (the variance in) academic success at school is determined more by home life (social capital - upbringing basically, positive self concept) than by any other factor - the school, the teaching or genetics (although they are contributing factors). If governments - or indeed the Bill Gates Foundation - want to raise student results, then the best place to spend the money is to address poverty, domestic violence and healthcare.

  • Measurement is great. However business schools have become obsessed with measurement as they try to emulate science. Wouldn't it be great if you could just have a metric for everything? After all, it makes decisions pretty easy at that point. You just compare numbers.

    However, in anything complex, large scale measurement is difficult... if not impossible. Just like your engineering/it job. How do you measure performance? Lines of code is easy... but stupid. Bug fixed/week... well that doesn't account

  • Teachers should be cooperating with each other, not competing with each other. This is why business practices should not be applied to schools. Schools are already suffering from this kind of thinking, and the teaching ranks are being filled with sociopaths who could care less about students.

  • Forget Bill Gates, in the words of Steve Jobs [pcworld.com]:

    "what is wrong with our schools in this nation is that they have become unionized in the worst possible way. This unionization and lifetime employment of K-12 teachers is off-the-charts crazy."

    "What kind of person could you get to run a small business if you told them that when they came in, they couldn't get rid of people that they thought weren't any good? Not really great ones, because if you're really smart, you go, 'I can't win.' "

  • They will try, but this will fail and here is why:

    Keep in mind I have a 5th grade boy in Oakland Ca Public School.

    • Teachers are to the whims of politicians in the form of:
      • Local School Boards
      • State School Boards
      • Local Curriculum Committees
      • State Curriculum Committees
      • Local text book Committees
      • State text book Committees
    • Teachers have little control over class size
    • Teachers have little control over what students are in their class
    • Teachers have little control over class budgets
    • Teachers have little or no control over
  • I'm not sure about the rest of the country, but the teachers I know are women that barely made it through college and couldn't find a real job so they started teaching. Most of them couldn't pass a high school exit exam and the only education they do know now is the grade they teach. These aren't the top of the class graduates here; they are the minimum level of college education. In college we always joked, well if you can't make it in the private sector you can always teach. This is oh so true. This isn't
  • The recent accomplishments of the Steve Jobs Foundation and the Richard M. Stallman Foundation listed below:

"In the face of entropy and nothingness, you kind of have to pretend it's not there if you want to keep writing good code." -- Karl Lehenbauer

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