In the News: Bill Gates and ED in 08

Jessica Coffrin-St. Julien, a new teacher in San Jose this year, came across this article about Bill Gates’ efforts to jumpstart the debate about fair education (http://www.edin08.com) and had some thoughts about what it means for what we do. More essential knowledge/water cooler chatter. Definitely worth a read, and please do comment and continue the discussion.

Schooling Bill Gates
By Sarah Seltzer, June 13, 2007
http://www.wiretapmag.org/education/43125/

Jessica’s thoughts:

It hardly seems possible to criticize an effort to bring education reform to the forefront of American political discourse, right? As Breakthrough teachers and, in many cases, products of the American public school system, we are acutely aware that public education in the United States is inequitable and often ineffective. Many would argue that a thoughtful, truly non-partisan dialogue about how best to address these problems is long overdue.

Apparently, two of the world’s largest philanthropic organizations agree. The ED in ’08 campaign, a $60 million project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, seeks “to ensure that the nation engages in a rigorous debate and to make education a top priority in the 2008 presidential election.”

Underlying this goal, ED in ’08 focuses on three areas it deems central to national education reform: the implementation of rigorous academic standards, improvement of teacher quality, and increased time and support for learning.

Understandably, the bulk of the campaign’s media coverage, like this article in the Denver Post, is quite positive. Given the project’s heavy funding and noble intentions, it seems to harbor enormous promise to bring about badly needed education reform on a national scale.

However, this article in Wiretap Magazine calls into question the strategies for educational improvement advocated by the campaign. While its goals certainly sound fantastic, Sarah Seltzer, the article’s author, points out that the strategies advocated for achieving them – namely competitive merit pay, the establishment of uniform educational standards, and longer school days and hours – may be less than ideal.

As teachers, we must think critically about what might constitute truly effective education reform, and the best strategies for implementing it. The articles mentioned here provide a great starting point for that conversation.

Agree? Disagree? Conflicted? Click on the comments link below to share your 2 cents.

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