Dear Bill and Melinda,
Nancy Papas has a few words for you after reading our blog post: Post Scripts: Important voices that we don’t want to leave out – Facebook Comments to Teachers’ Letters to Bill Gates:
“Many of our very best teachers in Indiana are leaving the profession thanks to current education ‘reforms” and the emphasis to standardize students and teachers as robots. Yes students have to learn many socially acceptable behaviors and certain basic life skills that apply to all, but schools should also maximize each student’s individual potential and gifts.
Requiring students who cannot yet speak or understand academic English to take standardized tests in English is cruel and serves no useful purpose other than to unfairly paint the student, teachers, and school as failures. Yet I have to wonder if painting everyone as failures is the agenda to justify profit-making reforms.
In Indiana, schools must purchase expensive standardized tests to PROVE that results from the state’s required standardized test don’t truly reflect achievement. (The state won’t accept any other ‘proof’.) Some schools and grades disrupt up to 140 days of the 180 day school calendar with standardized testing. At even one hour per test, that accumulates to 28 entire days of elementary school instruction lost to testing. We CANNOT afford to lose nearly 6 weeks of instruction to testing. (And if students score too well or too poorly, the teacher is suspected of cheating or incompetence. This is a no-win situation for teachers. No wonder they’re leaving.)
I purchased a computer OTHER THAN MICROSOFT because I’m so angry at Bill Gates for undermining achievement, morale, and the love of teaching and learning. The working conditions in schools are nothing like the free spirited atmosphere in silicon valley where creativity is encouraged, valued and rewarded. Microsoft’s creative employees would leave in droves if they had to put up with teacher working conditions.
Unfortunately, huge class-sizes, testing demands, teacher and teacher aide layoffs, budget cuts, lack of supplies, and more are all ‘rolliing downhill’ onto teacher shoulders. Even politically conservative researchers (Eric Hanuchek) note that a teacher only controls for 10% of achievement while 60% of achievement is controlled by factors OUTSIDE the school. Yet, teachers and schools will receive ALL the blame when abused, hungry, homeless, sick, non-English speaking, special ed., drug abusing, and/or chronically absent students don’t score well on a standardized test that may or MAY NOT test what was taught.
Families with jobs and who could provide middle-class upbringing to their children AND teachers who were allowed to educate – not just train students for test-taking and jobs – enabled America to go to the moon. If our corporate policies will stop driving more and more families into poverty and if education reforms will stop driving our best teachers out of teaching, the sky again will be the only limit to students’, teachers’, and schools’ achievement and success.”
We hope you will reconsider the direction you are taking with education reform. Clearly teachers do not agree with what you and Melinda are pushing into our classrooms.
Teachers’ Letters to Bill Gates