The Gates Foundation and its “Strong Arm” Tactics

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Following up on VAMboozled!’s most recent post, about the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s $45 million worth of bogus Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) studies that were recently honored with a 2013 Bunkum (i.e., meaningless, irrelevant, junk) Award by the National Education Policy Center (NEPC), it seems that the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation are, once-again, “strong-arming states [and in this case a large city district] into adoption of policies tying teacher evaluation to measures of students’ growth.”

According to Nonprofit Quarterly, the Gates Foundation is now threatening to pull an unprecedented $40 million grant from Pittsburgh’s Public Schools “because the foundation is upset with the lack of an agreement between the school district and the teachers’ union over a core element of the grant” — the use of test scores to measure teachers’ value-added and to “reward exceptional teachers and retrain those who don’t make the grade.”

More specifically, the district and its teachers are not coming to an agreement about how they should be evaluated, rightfully because teachers understand better than most (even some VAM researchers) that these models are grossly imperfect, largely biased by the types of students non-randomly assigned to their classrooms and schools, highly unstable (i.e., grossly fluctuating from one year to the next when they should remain more or less consistent over time, if reliable), invalid (i.e., they do not have face validity in that they often contradict other valid measures of teacher effectiveness), and the like.

It seems, also, that Randi Weingarten, having recently taken a position against VAMs (as posted in VAMboozled! here and here), has also “added value,” at least in terms of the extent to which teachers in Pittsburgh are (rightfully) exercising some more authority and power over the ways in which they are to be (rightfully) evaluated. Unfortunately, however, money talks, and $40 million of it is a lot to give up for a publicly funded district like this one in Pittsburgh.

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