In Pursuit of Truth: Bill Gates & Education Reform

Education reform leaders like Bill Gates have disrupted our public schools without considering how their plans disturb the education of children and upset the lives of families. Repeatedly, political and philanthropic leaders force change on our schools without any meaningful open exchange of ideas with parents and educators.

They are in control of education policy. Education policy controls how our public dollars are spent. How our money is spent does matter. Policy — coming down from above — matters. The education reform oligarchs driving their agenda into our laws are the ones ultimately governing our schools.

So it behooves us to look closer at Mr. Bill Gates’ perspective.

Bill Gates’ Views On Public Education Compared To My Perspective — As Just A Parent

Mr. Gates…

From what Mr. Gates said, he sees the philanthropic role as being “to shake things up” and fund pilot programs. He says he sees philanthropy as having a “super-narrow role” because the reality is that the public is footing most of the costs.

But what Gates sees as a primary role for philanthropists I saw, beginning in the mid to late 90’s, as a primary problem.

No one had clarified the concept of what exactly a “pilot program” meant.

In this case, the use of the word “pilot” means that children serve as a “trial unit for experimentation.” … The big question becomes: how many were set up for future failures because of pilots gone wrong? From Education’s Missing Ingredient: What Parents Can Tell Educators

The people piloting failed programs didn’t send in cleanup crews. There were no “Super Fund Site” signs going up at my neighborhood schools. But if a person thinks that little learning is actually going on in schools before they step in, they might consider any harm done as insignificant. That may be the case with Mr. Gates.

“K to 12 is partly about babysitting the kids so the parents can do other things.” Source: The Hill, 2010

Wow! Really!?! And I thought that educated mothers around the world wanted their children to get a good education. I believe that is the major reason parents send children to school.

Parents want their children to enter classrooms where the teachers are happy about doing their job and they are enabled to do it well. … Parents want to have a say in how and what their child is taught. From The Crucial Voice of the People: Education’s Missing Ingredient, 2nd edition

So how do we view the school improvement problem?

Bill Gates believes “The key problem is political will.”

What I believe can’t be so simply stated. I believe in “the political principle” as an ideal that politics has failed at miserably.

The political principle is the belief that when decisions are made affecting you or your possessions, you should have a role, a voice in the process of that decision-making. …

And time and again, politics has proven itself to be an irresponsible driver of educational progress.

That quote is based on statistical analysis of the rigor of standards and their lack of correlation to student achievement.

And while standards-driven, outcome-based education reform was not Bill Gates’ brainchild, he has become the political and financial driver of the movement. He believes “that stronger standards will help more students live up to their potential.”

For decades, the faith in setting standards as a reform is what politicians and much of the nation agreed to spend education reform dollars on — “ever – higher” standards and the tests to determine achievement outcomes. On this topic, I believe in the historical evidence uncovered through my own research and the facts provided by people a whole lot smarter than I.

But ignoring all that, federal and state policies cemented the idea that standards are the necessary first step in education reform without considering the historical and statistical evidence demonstrating that the standards/outcome-based theory is incorrect.

So when did Bill Gates jump into the education reform arena? Exactly? Well, that’s hard to pin down but what is important to know is that by 2006, Mr. Gates had become the most influential person in education reform policy in America.

What probably matters more is who influenced the influencer?

Here’s a brief look at a few major players…

  • 1986 National Governors Association (NGA) meeting, Chaired by then Governor Lamar Alexander, Marc Tucker (from Carnegie Forum on Education and the Economy) made his case for “the necessary revolution in school policy” (p82)
  • 1989 Marc Tucker (National Center on Education and the Economy – NCEE) reached out to President H. W. Bush promoting the restructuring of schools, setting of national goals, and focusing on workforce training “To Secure Our Future: The Federal Role in Education.”
  • 1990 Tucker’s NCEE publication “America’s Choice” continued the push for benchmarked standards in order for the U.S.A. to remain competitive in the global economy. Marc Tucker clearly urged leaders to focus on output measures at the Task Force on Education Workshop chaired by then Governor Bill Clinton (Tucker minute 33:30).
  • 1992 Marc Tucker penned his infamous “Dear Hillary Letter” that became part of Congressional Record (p353) submitted by Representative Bob Schaffer in 1998. (Here is an easier to read copy.)

With political figures including Bill and Hillary Clinton on board with the Outcome-Based Education Reform Movement and then Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander cheering the first federal funding earmarked for World Class Standards/Academic Achievement Tests (p93), the federal role in education expanded.

  • 1996 The Education Summit brought together governors and business with education and community leaders. Their mission: To start a national effort to establish high academic standards, assessments, accountability and improve the use of school technology as a tool to reach high standards. As the story goes, this meeting gave birth to Achieve, Inc.
  • 1997 Lamar Alexander & Bill Gates address the NGA Lamar Alexander mused about how it could be that, after all the years of trying, with the governors “leading the charge” and pouring money into “their plan,” charters and standards had not improved education. Alexander’s answer: “We have been too timid.”
  • Bill Gates talked about “digital nervous systems” able to improve the quality and efficiency of public services and provide citizens with access to more knowledge in the “Information Age.”

Bill Gates Steps In — Officially

1999 Gates co-founds the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Among many other things, they provided funding for Achieve, Inc.

The Gates Foundation became a continuing financial supporter of Marc Tucker’s projects at NCEE.

2001President George W. Bush signed No Child Left Behind into law.

2005 Bill Gates co-chaired the National Education Summit on High Schools. Gates emphasizedthere is crisisour schools are obsolete—and a new design is required.

Influence & The Gates Foundation Agenda

One author put it this way…

The Gates agenda is an intellectual cousin of the Bush Administration’s 2002 No Child Left Behind law.

In 2006, with Bill Gates viewed as more influential in education policy that President Bush, the only two government institutions on equal footing with the Gates Foundation were the U.S. Department of Education and Congress…..NOW?

Some players have changed. Who governs is the question.

For Gates to amplify his philanthropic influence, all he needed to do was gain control of Congress and the U.S. Department of Education. … With Marc Tucker as one collaborator, education leaders were trained and placed in the U.S. and many State Departments of Education.

Influencing Congress? It only requires the multiplication of think tanks, organizations and their lobbying efforts.

Now, if you look back at the video clip at the top of this blog (minute 3:18), Mr. Gates chuckles about philanthropy being “so big we could take” over.

  • 2006 The Data Quality Campaign Launched at the Data Summit — supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The campaign promoted their “ten essential elements” of a longitudinal data system, which included the ability to match student records between the Pre-K and post-secondary systems.
  • 2009 Bill Gates explained at the National Conference of State Legislatures that a thorough data collection system is the best way to track student success. And people, like Parkway, Ohio school board member, Ryan Thompson believe…

“It would be very hard to identify a particular student.”

You be the judge. The following screen shots come directly from documents about data collection and sharing pilot programs put in place simultaneously with Common Core Standards. 

SOURCE Department of Labor: It clearly states (middle of 2nd paragraph), “Ultimately, databases developed through WDQI should be linked to education data at the individual level.”

The years between 2009 and 2014, the Common Core years, created murky waters in the swamp.

Exactly when and how the Workforce Data Quality Initiative (WDQI) arose is probably a story for another time. What is important to know is that real concerns exist for all citizens, particularly for parents wanting to protect their children’s data.

Is the Department of Education addressing parent concerns? How about Congress?

The bill before Congress known as the “Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking” (FEPA, H.R.4174) was pushed through the House without debate. The foundation it puts in place is a mega federal database without mention of education data — but that is the plan. Next up will be the College Transparency Act (CTA) which overturns the ban on a federal student record system.

This is the Gates agenda. But go back and read the Dear Hillary Letter. This is the Marc Tucker plan. Is this America’s choice?

“It is not unfair to say that the Gates Foundation’s agenda has become the country’s agenda in education.” Michael Petrilli

To date, leaders have brushed citizen concerns aside and done what they want. That leaves me wondering; is it too late to regain control of schools through civil disobedience? Will that work against an oligarchy?

One thing is certain; our representatives are driving policy while under the influence.

The Data Monster Ate Your Baby

Will we one-day look back and wonder why we let Big Data devour our children’s lives in bits and bytes?

Will we scratch our heads in confusion over why we let data become a major driver in so many aspects of our lives?

Surely we can see that the tech giants are profiting while the greater society suffers? Maybe not.

But we do know that Americans care about their own right to privacy.

“The issue of who is gathering information and what information is being gathered is considered to be an important dimension of privacy control by nearly all American adults.” Pew Research Center  (Views About Data Collection and Security)

But I wonder, why don’t Americans care about protecting children from the BIG DATA Monster?

When the biggest concern directing the nation is the workforce/military supply-chain for the global economy, it makes perfect sense to allow the tech industry to have access to all education, health, employment, and income records. And what could go wrong with that?

What the data breaches mean for children and families may not be immediately apparent. SOURCE of statistics: Data Breach Statistics

But the economy — the development of a global workforce — isn’t what we people see as our most important problem. Actually, dissatisfaction with government is the problem most important to us.

So Americans are not sacrificing children to the Big Data Monster because of the economy. …  We just don’t care enough about education. Honestly, we care more about other things. And in way too many towns and cities, schools have become distanced from the communities in which they are located. Education may not be seen or treated as “a community cause.” This is what we care about…

So let me put it to you this way.

We are a nation up to our eyeballs in debt. State financial situations vary.

“Nationwide, state governments collectively spend almost 30 percent of their budgets on education.” Washington Examiner

When money is spent that profits an education industry rather than individual children, it’s a double whammy. That money cannot be used for the things that Americans do care about and lack of money for essential educational resources does negatively impact children. But politicians and business leaders see things differently.

This was a meeting of the nation’s governors (NGA) and business leaders. Source: Achieve archives

To say back then that technology is a great education equalizer was pure speculation. Now, it is propaganda.

Decades ago, those seeing the “standards, testing, accountability, and technology” package as a costly ruse were seen as conspiracy theorist. But since then, two major theories became reality: children in the public education system are being looked at as  the human capital for supplying our military and workforce AND the technology industry is driving up the cost of education.

From Insidious To Obvious

The talk of human capital development for the global workforce is commonplace.

Source: Missouri Education Watchdog, Childhood Lost: Schooling a Workforce

Sure, it happened slowly, at first. But bit-by-bit laws and rules moved us to adopt the idea that using the public schools for the sole purpose of workforce training was the best thing “for those kids.”

But when did tightly monitoring the workforce pipeline become the primary and acceptable function of the pre-K to college-or-career education system?

******SOURCE: SLDS [State Longitudinal Data System] Issue Brief: Building a Centralized P-20W Data Warehouse 

 

And when did it become the federal government’s duty to centralize and control the sharing of every citizen’s “data” from birth to career?

Just take a look….

“Too many voices can slow progress…” SOURCE: State Longitudinal Data Systems (SLDS) Best Practices

Once the country invested BIG MONEY in propping up Wall Street during the Great Recession, then it simply became a matter of working quickly by making damn sure the public didn’t hear what was happening.

Without regard for Americans wanting to know who is gathering information and what information is being gathered,” officials felt it was more important to rush information gathering systems into place. To hell with the Family Educational Rights and Student Privacy Act (FERPA). And a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), a written agreement to share personal information between departments of government was good enough and quick enough to put the pieces in place. ….. No outcry from parents? Who knew?

FERPA was NOT changed for the better as anticipated in 2011. So where FERPA once required parental consent to collect student data, now this “Privacy Law” allows sharing of data with THIRD-PARTY PRIVATE PROVIDERS and researchers — without parental consent OR notification. FERPA is not protecting students from digital data collection and sharing. Are we to believe that any of us will fair better?

The Plan Moved Forward Aided By Multiple “Organizations”

“Ten national organizations have signed on as Founding Partners in the [Data Quality] campaign…”

The Data Quality Campaign is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and managed by the National Center for Educational Accountability (non-profit, business-minded, TX group). … Add in Common Core National Standards, the Common Education Data Standards (CEDS) and the Workforce Data Quality Campaign. … and the education/labor system “links” together without our consent … through the use of MOU’s.

And data was further exchanged between states in various programs across the country.

But Don’t Stop at Linking A Few States Together: Go Big!

Bring in the feds! Just like our federal government was used to push through the state longitudinal data systems, a Workforce Data Quality Initiative (WDQI) went forward “for customers and stakeholders of the workforce system.”

“WDQI funding is made available through competitive grants administered by DOL [Department of Labor]  in support of a parallel and much larger effort, the Statewide Longitudinal Data System (SLDS) grants administered by the U.S. Department of Education. … Ultimately, databases developed through WDQI should be linked to education data at the individual level.”

SOURCE: Council of Chief State School Officers recommendations for ESEA (NCLB) reauthorization.

“Ultimately”? Well, ultimately the plan was always to centralize all student data.

But when it didn’t work to get Big Data collection into education law (ESEA), Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senator Patty Murray (possibly with a little push from the Tech Giants?) devised another way. They started with authorizing a commission to study how the feds should collect, secure, and share “evidence.”

Three years later, the commissions report is final. The Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act is written, sponsored, co-sponsored and being fast-tracked through Congress. Speaker Ryan appears to be following the conventional wisdom of “Do not engage in large-scale, open forums.” He doesn’t think it even needs a roll call vote. Just pass it.

Supposedly this move to collecting, sharing, and linking massive amounts of data at the federal level is required in order for Congress to make good policies. And they have plenty of swamp land for sale also!

Do they need more data to know WE ARE IN DEBT? Do they comprehend what it means to the federal BUDGET to require ….

Improve data quality, integrity, and security by updating laws to require risk assessments for data releases, embracing cutting-edge technologies, and prioritizing data stewardship and the public trust. SOURCE: The Promise of Evidence-Based Policymaking, final report of the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking….?

We think it is essential RIGHT NOW to push for more data centralization so more data security is required from the federal level?

I think we can all see how some people might benefit.

BIGGER the data base, BIGGER the risk. …. but BIGGER the profits in the tech industry to fix a problem of our own creation. And the reason for the law makes no sense.

Congress has not demonstrated any ability to use the evidence we already have. And they have broken the public trust repeatedly.

Maybe society doesn’t care about parents and children’s privacy rights, but this law is set to affect us all. And, we will never fix our BIGGEST problem if we continue to allow lawmakers to make laws without our knowledge and therefore without our consent.For the sake of all Americans, contact your House representative today (after 11/15 could be too late). Tell them to vote “NO” on H.R. 4174. Phone 202-224-3121 for the main switch board or find your House members direct phone number here. (UPDATE: The HOUSE pushed it through without a roll call. CONTACT your Senator and the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs where the bill is currently 1/16/18.)

Tell Congress that privacy matters and for the sake of children, FERPA needs to be restored. Childhood needs to be preserved. Children need to be protected.