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Education The Almighty Buck

Bill Gates Still Trying To Buy Some Common Core Testing Love 284

theodp writes: "Bill Gates famously spent hundreds of millions of dollars to develop, implement and promote the now controversial Common Core State Standards," reports the Washington Post's Valerie Strauss. "He hasn't stopped giving." In the last seven months, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has poured more than $10 million into implementation and parent support for the Core. Strauss adds: "Gates is the leader of education philanthropy in the United States, spending a few billion dollars over more than a decade to promote school reforms that he championed, including the Common Core, a small-schools initiative in New York City that he abandoned after deciding it wasn't working, and efforts to create new teacher evaluation systems that in part use a controversial method of assessment that uses student standardized test scores to determine the 'effectiveness' of educators. Such philanthropy has sparked a debate about whether American democracy is well-served by wealthy people who pour part of their fortunes into their pet projects — regardless of whether they are grounded in research — to such a degree that public policy and funding follow." If you're still on the fence about Common Core after viewing it, the Onion just came out with a nice list of the pros and cons of standardized testing that may help you decide.
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Bill Gates Still Trying To Buy Some Common Core Testing Love

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  • by damn_registrars ( 1103043 ) <damn.registrars@gmail.com> on Wednesday May 13, 2015 @09:49AM (#49681207) Homepage Journal
    Common Core appears to have become controversial primarily because the conservative media told us it is. Apparently they were hoping that the new standard would also find a way to further reduce teachers' salaries and career opportunities, and as it did not do that it needed to be destroyed at all cost.

    Granted Common Core has some faults, for sure, but at least it is an attempt by someone to do something. So far we have seen lots of lip service on the education system in this country and very little action. I'd be more impressed with the arguments of those calling it "controversial" if they actually proposed a meaningful fix instead of just attacking the fix that we have.
    • by Njorthbiatr ( 3776975 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2015 @10:01AM (#49681327)

      They do have a fix. It's called privatization.

      In other words they want the system to keep failing so they can push private schools.

      • by LordLimecat ( 1103839 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2015 @11:21AM (#49682023)

        Excuse me, Im looking for strawmen and someone told me this thread would be a great place to find them.

        • Excuse me, Im looking for strawmen and someone told me this thread would be a great place to find them.

          LordLimeCat, I see you have procured the strawmen, but don't forget the margarita salt.

      • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2015 @12:00PM (#49682371)

        The opposition to Common Core is easy to understand. Basically, the Republicans wanted testing to be controlled by the states, not the federal government. So they designed a system to do just that. The Democrats didn't like it at first, preferring something more centralized and bloated, but figured it was the best they could get, so they were eventually won over. Then the Republicans noticed that the Democrats no longer opposed their program, so they switched sides and decided if the Dems were for it, they needed to be against it. Rabid opposition to Common Core is now considered a rigorous requirement for Republican presidential candidates. Only Jeb has stood by it.

        For another splendid example of "Republicans opposing their own ideas" see {Romney|Obama}care.

        • by Jason Levine ( 196982 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2015 @12:13PM (#49682501)

          The Common Core opposition isn't just coming from Republicans. My wife and I have been fighting over New York's horrible implementation of Common Core which includes scripts for teachers that they aren't allowed to deviate from, high stakes testing, and most recently tying said testing to teacher jobs. We're definitely not Republicans. Around 300,000 students refused the tests in NY. (Before someone says "well, they're just hard tests", the 6th grade tests had college level reading material on them.) Bill Gates, Pearson, and others are pushing this to make money off students - not to help students succeed.

          • by Oligonicella ( 659917 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2015 @01:37PM (#49683309)
            Actually, you should have bolded Pearson Those people produce horrid tests.

            About a decade ago I wrote science essay tests for them. I quit because they kept asking for dumbing down. Example: They insisted that an essay on hot air balloons tell the reader what a basket was and what it was for on the balloon. The what it was for was already described functionally in the text. They wanted an explicit, dictionary type description. It was very much worse on the non-technical essay tests. Enough so that so many writers stopped, Pearson used their own editors to write the essays.

            Short of it is, those are the people producing the bulk of the terrible test examples you'll find in complaints; 'Indicate the box that is correctly shaded.' with none of the boxes shaded, 'Lincoln was a Democrat.' , etc.
            • Not just producing horrible tests, but grading horribly. They employ near-minimum wage people to grade the exams and then tell them just how many of each grade they should get. Too many high scoring tests? You've just got to "see" that 5 out of 5 test as a 4 and that 4 out of 5 test as a 3.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by thaylin ( 555395 )

      Exactly, the media, particularly the conservative media, has a hard time seperating that there are 3 independant things to common core, the standards, the implimentation and the testing.

      Common core is just a set of standards that says you need to know X before you move to the next grade.

      Implimentaiton is how the teachers do it, however the books used, if any, while designed to teach that standard are not required. Teachers can use the books, develop their own lessons or any combiniation of the two. This is

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Every time the educational establishment has tried to "improve" education, they've fucked it up even more.

        • by HiThere ( 15173 )

          Not every time, but frequently enough to cause one to wonder about their goals.

          OTOH, if the parents don't respect education, there isn't going to be much that a teacher can do. But it should be possible for the teacher to get them out of class if they are disruptive as well as invincibly ignorant (which doesn't mean stupid, it means believing that education isn't worth the bother).

      • I would disagree, standards are part of the problem. They don't simply indicate that you need to know addition. They indicate knowing addition via these five different methods. A lot of common core opponents will point out how inefficient/impractical these methods are but if you understand math you will understand why they are presented. They are presented to help children understand place value and how numerical systems actually work. Here's the problem. Instead of making this knowledge part of the i
        • by thaylin ( 555395 )

          Where do you get this from? Can you point a link to said standard?

          • Where do you get this from? Can you point a link to said standard?

            That's part of the problem. Where ARE the links? I'd like to look at them.

    • by kaizendojo ( 956951 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2015 @10:12AM (#49681425)
      It's controversial because it takes away time from teaching anything but the test, associated implementation and support costs are enormous and the only ones truly benefitting from this are the test manufacturers like Pearson... who also make the books for studying and the certifications for the teachers and even the GED certs so they have you one way or the other. Full disclosure; I am an independant consultant who works in IT a few days a week for a major school district and I am seeing this from the inside. If you'd like another perspective, I suggest going to YouTube and searching on John Olver's take. Funny, but at the same time chilling.
      • by thaylin ( 555395 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2015 @10:46AM (#49681739)

        Common core does not teach to the test, no child left behind does. Common core does not meantion in any way testing, or how a student must learn. Schools in my area do not buy any books, they make the common core lessons themselves.

      • by sycodon ( 149926 )

        Don't forget, it's also a gravy train for legions of educators who (re)write the curriculum, text books, and tests.

        It happens every time they change some standard, millions and millions are spent rewriting, repurchasing, etc. teaching materials.

      • There's also no transparency. Pearson makes the test, owns the test, and anyone releasing questions from the test can get in big trouble. The questions that were leaked show that 3rd grade tests had 6th grade reading materials and 6th grade tests had college level materials. This also means that the tests were likely designed to fail the students. (Pearson can sell more to students who fail than to students who pass.)

        John Oliver's take was spot on. It was somehow funny and sad at the same time.

    • Common Core appears to have become controversial primarily because the conservative media told us it is.

      I love the way the summary frames it as "rich guys pushing crazy agendas vs. the public interest," when in fact this is much more a case of "rich guys pushing crazy agendas vs. another group of rich guys pushing different crazy agendas."

      On one side you have Bill Gates pushing Common Core, on the other side you have the Koch Brothers pushing school vouchers so that people like them get a big tax rebate for sending their kids to schools where your commoner kids will never be allowed to go.

      • The nice thing about the US is that the states should be independent of one another when it comes to education and most other things. We can have some states institute a version of common core and other push solutions they feel to be more rational and see which yields the better result.
        • by damn_registrars ( 1103043 ) <damn.registrars@gmail.com> on Wednesday May 13, 2015 @11:20AM (#49682011) Homepage Journal

          The nice thing about the US is that the states should be independent of one another when it comes to education and most other things.

          We've tried that, and it turns out that it doesn't really lead to independent states in education. Look at all the textbook debacles that start in Texas, for example. Why would textbooks in Texas matter if you live in a different state? They matter because the companies that publish textbooks don't want to publish different versions for each state, they want to publish for the largest states (population wise) first and then try to sell the same texts to other states.

          This results in textbooks going in to non-nutter states that include discussions on intelligent design and other rampant bullshit. The states only have the flexibility to get textbooks of their own choosing if they exist (as few states have the time and money to go about preparing their own textbooks) so they end up with what the boards in Texas approve.

          • What you are saying is true but my nephew for example attends a small private school with less than 40 children. The teachers there create their own curriculum from several sources and the school charges like 2k a year for attendance. I guess I would argue that if Texas wants to push for certain curriculum for their schools other schools should still be able to educate their children in any way they see fit either using other materials or creating their own.

            .

            I mean the a public school employees dozens t

          • by satch89450 ( 186046 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2015 @12:33PM (#49682695) Homepage

            We've tried that, and it turns out that it doesn't really lead to independent states in education. Look at all the textbook debacles that start in Texas, for example. Why would textbooks in Texas matter if you live in a different state? They matter because the companies that publish textbooks don't want to publish different versions for each state, they want to publish for the largest states (population wise) first and then try to sell the same texts to other states.

            This results in textbooks going in to non-nutter states that include discussions on intelligent design and other rampant bullshit. The states only have the flexibility to get textbooks of their own choosing if they exist (as few states have the time and money to go about preparing their own textbooks) so they end up with what the boards in Texas approve.

            In my high school in downstate Illinois, several of my classes were taught using locally published material. Oh, we had the standard textbooks, but we were tested on the material in the local material. Chemistry was taught from a locally-written textbook, and my father (a research chemist) thought that home-brew textbook was better than some of the college textbooks on his shelf. This wasn't restricted to just one state: in Oklahoma we had a textbook written by an in-state college professor about the history of the Native Americans, from Columbus through to then-present day. I'm not aware of any Texas textbook that does more than scratch the surface about the "Trail of Tears." And the state didn't publish the textbook.

    • Granted Common Core has some faults, for sure, but at least it is an attempt by someone to do something.

      Perhaps our federal education standards should put emphasis on teaching children about the politician's syllogism [wikipedia.org] so we don't just 'do something' even if doing something makes things worse.

    • by scamper_22 ( 1073470 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2015 @11:11AM (#49681947)

      I'd like to know why people think there is an education system problem?

      I'm in Canada, so maybe the situation in the US is vastly different, but even in Canada we always have people trumping the education crises.

      Over the past 30-40 years we've tossed money after money in the education system, reforming this and that, and can anyone say we've done any better that just having a teacher in a classroom doing their thing?

      Heck, does anyone find the irony that people trump up Asian/Indian education, when many of these places don't really spend a lot on education or have 'advanced pedagogy'.

      For all the gripes about education system, we somehow still manage to raise some brilliant people. We somehow manage to have people keep doing their jobs and life keeps going.

      I would humbly suggest that most of the problems people are trying to solve via the 'academic education' system are the wrong place.

      We do have a lot of problems with behavior/family... I experienced this when I was a teacher. Really, what do you do with a kid whose parents don't even answer the phone from the school. Is it any surprise the kid doesn't really care about school?

      This is much better addressed through social services and policy changes like empowering teachers run their classes with some discipline.

      In all honestly, and this is purely anecdotal, the only difference from when I was a student to when I was a teacher is we lowered the class discipline and became paranoid.

      The kids aren't any smarter, they don't think more critically, our lesson plans are fancier, but the output is the same, if not worse. I'm being generous here to the current system :P Sure, math is my day was mainly taught via the textbook and problems. Today, they're almost taking the math out of math. But the new way is more 'advanced' and has more 'pedagogy'

      Similarly, most of the workplace/industrial issues are much better dealt with outside of k-12. Training of workers, retention of knowledgeable workers, pursuing advanced degrees... all have little to do with k-12 education and more to do with industry issues.

      Why we even concerned with bringing more people into STEM, when I've seen very good STEM people leave the field. Some have become lawyers. Others into project management. Ponder that.

      Just what is the education crisis? I just don't see it. As I said, I don't think we've advanced more than have a teacher in a classroom.

      • Just what is the education crisis? I just don't see it. As I said, I don't think we've advanced more than have a teacher in a classroom.

        It's an invented crisis so that Pearson can sell more, Charter schools can push out more public schools, and politicians can get more power by blaming teachers and implementing "assessments" that don't really test anything.

    • "Some faults". You obviously don't have a kid in school. The only benefit of Common Core is that it's not the cancer that is Everyday Math
    • The big issue I think isn't what common core is, but how it was implemented.
      New York implemented by stating all grade levels needed to start using common core. Not starting kindergarten and going up. So Highschool students who have been learning the old way needed to change their methodology.

    • Doing "something" just for the sake of doing something is in no way good. The education system is broken, but I'd rather my kids breeze their way through a far-too-easy education system than fight to stay afloat in a stupid one that teach useless and sometimes outright wrong things. At least in the former case they can spend all the free time they have from not doing homework and test prep to play with legos, robotics kits, computers and doing other things that will actually prepare them to survive in the 2

  • The Onion? (Score:3, Funny)

    by wheeda ( 520016 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2015 @09:49AM (#49681209)

    Let me be the first to point out... the Onion?

    • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 )

      Let me be the first to point out... the Onion?

      It actually has some good points to it. For example, one of the Cons is "There are easier ways to measure parents’ income". Students of wealthier families tend to do better due to a number of factors such as access to tutors, parents home more often(dont work 2 jobs/work normal business hours/etc), and just generally more stable family life. A "Pro" is the exact mirror of this: "Only biased against kids who couldn’t afford college anyway". Poorer kids (who would be less likely to afford to go

      • by itzly ( 3699663 )

        Students of wealthier families tend to do better

        Also, and perhaps more important, families who do better in school tend to end up wealthier.

      • by Ichijo ( 607641 )

        If a student starts the year at the 30th percentile and ends the year at the 40th percentile, then the teacher was probably pretty effective, even though the student is still under-performing.

        If students from wealthy families score better than students from poor families, then that will be reflected in the evaluation at the beginning of the year, so this "value-added" methodology corrects for family backgrounds.

        So we can glean some useful information about teacher effectiveness from student test scores.

        • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 )

          If a student starts the year at the 30th percentile and ends the year at the 40th percentile, then the teacher was probably pretty effective, even though the student is still under-performing.

          If students from wealthy families score better than students from poor families, then that will be reflected in the evaluation at the beginning of the year, so this "value-added" methodology corrects for family backgrounds.

          So we can glean some useful information about teacher effectiveness from student test scores.

          But how to you discern whether that 10% improvement is due to the work of the teacher or due to the work of a paid tutor outside the class? The poor kid might be stuck at home by himself watching tv and eating a McDonalds value meal while his single mom is working her 2nd shift job; meanwhile the rich kid is getting facts crammed into his head for 3 hours a day after school while his parents' personal chef is cooking a scientifically designed, nutritionally balanced dinner. It is pointless to base teacher

          • by Ichijo ( 607641 )

            But how to you discern whether that 10% improvement is due to the work of the teacher or due to the work of a paid tutor outside the class?

            If one student improves by 10% due to the addition of a paid tutor, and another student regresses by 10% by dropping a paid tutor, they cancel each other out. If all students got paid tutors, then their percentiles would not change.

            The poor kid might be stuck at home by himself watching tv and eating a McDonalds value meal while his single mom is working her 2nd shift

    • The best sarcasm requires good research. The Onion actually did a good job of presenting the major issues, even if its intent is to entertain.
    • Sadly enough, satirical news is generally better than mainstream news.
      • Which is why studies have shown people who watched The Daily Show and Colbert Report were, on the whole, more informed about world events than those who watched Fox.

    • by Amouth ( 879122 )

      Because other news outlets are less bias?

  • by QuietLagoon ( 813062 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2015 @09:53AM (#49681239)
    Mr. Gates is still trying to buy his way into history remembering him in a good light.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Yeah, fuck him and his charitable pursuits of providing accessible healthcare, education and reducing poverty for millions!

    • There are worse things he could be doing with his money than philanthropy. Standardized testing may (or may not) be counterproductive, but I'm not going to fault someone for making a good faith effort, and the Gates Foundation has done a lot of other great work. It's more than can be said for Jeff Bezos, Rupert Murdoch, or the late Steve Jobs. There are plenty of billionaires who don't do shit except hoard huge piles of cash. There are plenty of things not to like about Bill Gates, but philanthropy is n

      • I will fault someone for making a good faith effort if that effort ultimately proves to be a net harm. After all, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
  • by Roger W Moore ( 538166 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2015 @09:58AM (#49681291) Journal
    Thinking about standardized testing reminds me of the Churchill quote: "Democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others.". Standardized testing has its problems but these are no where near as significant as the problems with everything else which has been tried.
  • by Guy From V ( 1453391 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2015 @10:27AM (#49681563) Homepage

    The Common Core Standards Initiative method has been copyrighted.

  • by theodp ( 442580 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2015 @10:29AM (#49681581)

    The presence of a BillG look-alike kid [staticflickr.com] in the pro-Common Core ad [youtube.com] made by recent $3.7M Gates Foundation awardee [gatesfoundation.org] the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation is a nice touch!

  • by ErichTheRed ( 39327 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2015 @10:44AM (#49681725)

    My state (New York) which had semi-decent education standards to begin with, recently switched to the Common Core curriculum and it's really stirring up a mess. Partially, it's the mandatory testing that parents are opting their children out of, but it's also being tied to a bunch of other things. For example, teachers now have to deal with the same BS performance evaluations that corporate employees do, and a huge chunk of their rating is based on these test scores. They were evaluated in the past, but it was understood that there was no objective way to evaluate teacher performance with variable student performance. Now, new teachers will lose their jobs if their classes don't do well on these tests, with no regard for whether the teacher has a bunch of losers or geniuses in their class. I'm not a teacher, but I'm definitely on the teachers' side in this case. I would hate to spend the time to get a teacher certification (not impossible, but harder in NY than many states) and have my job be at risk due to factors I can't control. For example, most new teachers can't get jobs in the nice affluent school districts because there are tons more qualified applicants who want to work there, so they usually have to start off teaching in a crappy school district. Crappy districts tend to have kids who have crappy parents. (And yes, affluent districts have helicopter parents that make teachers' lives miserable, but that's another story.) If you have a class full of students who have bad home lives, parents who don't care, or have been socially promoted for years, they're going to do badly on these standardized tests and your performance rate will suffer through no fault of your own.

    The other thing I've seen is that the material used to teach the common core curriculum is really different from stuff we saw in earlier times. I think that's another big thing -- parents feel they can't help their kids with homework. However, it's the material, not the curriculum itself. Blame the educational publishers for that, not the standards.

    One thing I definitely don't agree with Bill Gates on is his love of charter schools. These just suck more money away from the public system and funnel it into corporate interests' pockets, making the public system weaker. What Gates or anyone doesn't understand is that education won't improve until it's valued by everyone. The reason China, India, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, etc. are ahead of us in test performance isn't the curriculum -- they push their students like crazy from both directions (teachers and parents.) Kids in these countries spend many more hours in school than US kids, and have information drilled into their heads. That's what needs to happen if we want to compete with these countries in the future. In the case of India and China, school performance is basically some kids' only ticket to a better life given the population and structure of society. Things might be a little different if students in the US who didn't excel in school were permanently doomed to a life of poverty...I think the parents might care a little more.

    • Parents can't help with homework? I took trig, calculus, physics, chemistry and biology in high school. My parents couldn't help me with any of it. You can't limit teaching to what your parents know. The world won't progress.
      • Parents can't help with homework? I took trig, calculus, physics, chemistry and biology in high school. My parents couldn't help me with any of it. You can't limit teaching to what your parents know. The world won't progress.

        I am assuming the problem is the one you ALWAYS have--that they change the terms and it's pretty ridiculous. Back in the 80s every math book for grade school made up lots of terms that no parents would know, so you had to learn a whole new language if you wanted to teach your kids. But at the end of the day it's just math and those definitions usually hurt more than they help. They could easily pick one set of definitions and stick with them--ideally a set that is empirically verified as the one that stu

        • From what I've seen, especially with math, the terms have changed but the entire way it's presented has also changed. For example, I have always been a poor math student unless what I'm learning can be applied to something real-world -- I have more of an engineer's brain than a mathematician's. All the algebra, trig, etc. that was force-fed into my brain in high school only started making sense when I started struggling through my college chemistry curriculum and finding out that it was actually useful for

      • An issue with CC was they took the opportunity to go in a new direction. Having a 5th grader I can tell you math is not about getting it right anymore but the process in the CC that my sons school uses. They use some very dubious methods lots of guess and check that they teach and are pushed to grade to. Problem is that process looks nothing like what we remember.

    • One thing I definitely don't agree with Bill Gates on is his love of charter schools. These just suck more money away from the public system and funnel it into corporate interests' pockets, making the public system weaker.

      Supply and demand. We would probably be better making the public schools open to all certified teachers to teach their subject--more of a community learning center. But charter schools are another market-based solution that makes more sense than the current system. Subsidizing a supplier is just a bad idea from an economics perspective and prevents *choice* from shaping better education. The public schools are so terrified of lawsuits anyway that they really don't bring a lot more to the table, it's jus

    • I'm from NY too and agree with you on all of this. We've refused the tests for our oldest for three years now. Our youngest will have his first refusal next year. Meanwhile, Cuomo has come out saying that the tests mean nothing for the kids but will be used to evaluate teachers. Do you really think kids are going to try hard on difficult exams that "mean nothing" to them?!!! Just because their teachers' jobs might be at stake?

    • "parents feel they can't help their kids with homework."

      That's true, but also a bit by design from what I've seen. The cc methods tend to take multiple approaches, realizing that not every child learns the same way and, in a way, shotgunning the approach in hopes of finding a method for everyone. Some of the math - the stuff which has be severely ridiculed by (mostly) politically conservative groups - happens to be exactly the way I do math very quickly in my head. It's not any method that's typically taugh

  • The main problems with common core aren't the standardized testing, though that is a problem.

    Put on your developer hats and think about it like a software project:
    The problem with common core is the requirements were written by people who have no idea about requirements development. Not only didn't they know how to write the requirements that had no input from any stakeholders, or users.
    These fatally flawed requirements were then implemented by publishers of curriculum that do not know how to do a requi

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