WaBATS are Leading a Movement: #EducatingGates Foundation Rally – June 26th!

Dear Bill and Melinda,

Katie and I would like to extend an invitation to both of you to join us at the Gates Foundation in a movement started by teachers and hosted by the Washington Badass Teachers Association on June 26th in Seattle. This is an important event in your lives, one that will be part of your legacy.  Of course it will also be important for you to be there in person to receive our published Teachers’ Letters to Bill Gates in a free printed copy of all of the heart-felt letters teachers have written to you over the first year of our blog to you.

Our blog anniversary date is coming up on June 9th. That day, one year ago, we invited you and Melinda to join us in a dialogue. The day before, Linda Shaw of the Seattle Times wrote this piece: “Gates Foundation looking to make nice with teachers“.

“Five years into the second phase of its mission to overhaul America’s public schools, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is moving to work more closely with teachers, generating interest but also wariness because of past hostilities.”

Irvin made that day: “We’re trying to start a movement,” Scott told the teachers in Scottsdale. “A movement started by you. A movement you’re leading.”  The reforms your foundation has sponsored have indeed started a movement, but perhaps not the one you intended.  There are scores of organizations working to support public schools, to oppose high stakes tests and the Common Core. Even Louis CK has joined in the fight!

So I guess we can say you (via Irvin Scott) were right! You started a movement and we are leading!  With the spirit of that movement, we’d like to celebrate our one year anniversary by inviting teachers from around the world to join us by writing to you and Melinda using weekly topics. These topics will be included in our published letters and hand delivered to you, should you attend this important event. We find the title of the rally fitting: Educating the Gates Foundation Rally, as that is exactly what Teachers’ Letters to Bill Gates movement has been trying to do for the past year.

This rally is an opportunity for all of us to tell you how we feel about the levers you pull. It is also an opportunity for the two of you, and one that we don’t want you to pass up – an opportunity to get educated by the community impacted by your controls.

Anthony Cody, wrote recently about 3 main areas where your influence over corporate reform experiments are failing:

  • Teacher pay and evaluation systems that must give significant weight to test scores and VAM formulas.
  • Unlimited expansion and deregulation of charter schools.
  • Creation of Common Core standards and aligned tests and curriculum.

Over the next seven weeks, we will be collecting additional letters related to these issues, which we will share with you on June 26 in Seattle.   Readers, look for our next blog to be addressed to you with a list of our weekly topic questions.  You can see some of the issues WA BATS take with the Gates Foundation sponsored corporate education reform and their solutions to replace them here:

Educating the Gates Foundation png

Perhaps, you too, could learn from all of us. We hope you will be there to receive our letters, Bill and Melinda.  They may be one of the most important reading you add to your “summer reading list” this year.  Katie and I, on behalf of all those who have written to you at Teachers’ Letters to Bill Gates, formally endorse the Educating the Gates Foundation Rally.  We hope to see you there.


Susan and Katie, Co-Authors of Teachers’ Letters to Bill Gates







Posted in Educating the Gates Foundation Rally, Washington Badass Teachers Association | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Five Hours of Gates-led Kindergarten Common Core MAP Tests! #TESTHearingsNow

Dear Bill and Melinda,

You are making history, Bill and Melinda.  You have now reached a new level of notoriety.  You two can now be known in history books as the American billionaire couple — with your seat on Air Force One and 80 senators in your pockets — who are forcing 5 year olds to sit behind a computer screen taking a Common Core MAP test for 5 hours.  As the richest couple in the world, you have the hubris to think you have that right?

You can now be infamous for pushing a testing system of adaptive Common Core MAP tests down to the early childhood level.  You are accountable because you have used your power and wealth to force feed the Common Core to the Department of Education, the State School Officers, and the state Governors with what amounts to as a whopping $2.3 BILLION as discovered recently by Jack Hassard, noted here by Diane Ravitch.

“We have long known on this site that Bill Gates’  foundation underwrote every aspect of the Common Core standards. Mercedes Schneider has documented nearly $200 million in grants specifically for the writing, evaluation, review, implementation, and advocacy for the Common Core standards.

Jack Hassard, a retired professor of science education, has scoured the Gates search engine and concluded that the investment of the Gates Foundation in the Common Core is actually $2.3 billion.”

You are pushing the inhumane and unnecessary NWEA Common Core MAP tests with major financial backing.  Sara Littman wrote about your $5 million grant to the NWEA MAP tests in Connecticut here.  Seattle Education Blog wrote about the Gates Foundation grants for MAP tests also.

Because of you — despite being in tears, these innocent 5 and 6 year old children — children who used to be finger painting, learning nursery rhymes, engaging in dramatic play with miniature kitchens, role playing with costumes and puppets, and building forts with large wooden blocks — endured FIVE hours of standardized testing.  FIVE hours of standardized testing of 5 and 6 year olds?  Do you really think American parents and teachers are going to allow this testing abuse?

As a kindergarten teacher and special education teacher with 20 years experience in early childhood education, I am outraged!

Every early childhood expert I know will be as well, but I want more than that! I want parents to be outraged! I want teachers and administrators to be outraged! I want them all to call Congress and demand #TESTHearingsNow!

And then I want Congress to be outraged enough to put a gate up between corporations and public education to preserve public education for our children, our parents, our teachers, our communities,  and our very democracy.

So is this test really that bad? Here is a demo of the MAP test for primary grades.  Just imagine being 5 or 6 years old, sitting behind a screen taking this test for 5 hours, then read the details below as written by the Badass Teacher who is sending out the alarm call to stop this madness!

The day my kindergarten took a test called the Common Core MAP


“We had been told to set up each child with their own account on their numbered Chromebook. The Teacher on Special Assignment came around and spent about an hour in each class doing this in the previous weeks.

We didn’t know exactly when the test would be given, just that some time on Thursday or Friday, the proctors would come and test. I set out morning work for my kids today but before the bell rang, the proctor arrived. I quickly swept off the tables and she said we’d begin right away. I went out to pick up my class.


While the proctor set up the computers (disregarding what we had done — that hour the TOSA spent in each class was unnecessary), I went through the usual morning routine.


Parents who happened to be in the room scrambled to unpack the headphones, which had arrived in the office that morning, and distribute the computers. We started a half hour later. The kids were excited to be using the computers. That didn’t last for long.


The test is adaptive. When a child answers a question, the next batch of questions is slightly harder or easier depending on the correctness of their answer. The math and language arts sections each had 57 questions.

The kids didn’t understand that to hear the directions, you needed to click the speaker icon. We slipped around the room explaining.


Answers were selected by drop and drag with a trackpad, no mouse was available. A proctor in one room said that if a child indicated their answer, an adult could help. Other proctors didn’t allow this. I had trouble dragging and dropping myself on the little trackpads.


Kids in one class took five hours to finish. Kids were crying in 4 of 5 classes.

There were multiple computer crashes (“okay, you just sit right there while we fix it! Don’t talk to anyone!”). There were kids sitting for half hour with volume off on headsets but not saying anything. Kids accidentally swapped tangled headsets and didn’t seem to notice that what they heard had nothing to do with what they saw on the screen.


Kids had to solve 8+6 when the answer choices were 0-9 and had to DRAG AND DROP first a 1 then a 4 to form a 14. There were questions where it was only necessary to click an answer but the objects were movable (for no reason). There were kids tapping on their neighbor’s computers in frustration. To go to the next question, one clicks “next” in lower right-hand corner…..which is also where the pop-up menu comes up to take you to other programs or shut down, so there were many instances of shut-downs and kids winding up in a completely different program.


Is this what we want for our youngest children?” ~ Anonymous Badass Teacher

Are people standing by and letting this happen?As it turned out, Jesse Hagopian led the Seattle teachers, parents, and students to protest the MAP tests and won.Last night we organized a Twitter Storm #TESTHearingsNow to call on Congress to hold formal Congressional hearings on the misuse and abuse of standardized testing. Our Network for Public Education #TESTHearingsNow Twitter Storm engaged parents, students, teachers, administrators, education experts, unions, professors emeritus, media, and legislators in this social media activist event.  After the event, this press release went out from Network for Public Education.  One congressman has taken up our call so far:

“Answering NPE’s call, Arizona Representative Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ-3), a member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, responded with a sentiment that has been echoed by parents and educators throughout the United States. The six-term Representative said, “The need for an impartial and transparent hearing on mandatory testing and privatization efforts directed at public education, is critical.  We need to have an open discussion about the dismantling of public education. I hope the leadership of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives will hold hearings that allow our public schools and the families they serve the opportunity to have an open and honest hearing.”  

We trended #1 for several hours, showing evidence of wide support for these Congressional hearings investigating testing abuse. The many horrific examples of the misuse and abuse of standardized testing — like the one above that I read about today on the Badass Teachers Association blog  — become one more important reason we need to support these hearings.Bill and Melinda, it is time to stop this insanity!

We need a firewall between corporate education reform and public schools.  We need a firewall between privatizers and public schools.  We need a firewall between predatory philanthropists and public education!

Readers, it is time to take action!  Join us in calling your Congressmen on Monday, March 24th and demand formal Congressional hearings on standardized testing!  Use this Common Cause link to find your congressmen/women.  And use the Network for Public Education Toolkit to assist you with this campaign.

Readers, it is time to demand #TESTHearingsNow!

Susan DuFresne – Full Day Integrated Kindergarten Teacher and Co-Author of Teachers’ Letters to Bill Gates

Posted in Common Core, Congressional Hearings, #TESTHearingsNow, Kindergarten, Kindergarten Testing, NWEA Common Core MAP Tests | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

NYC teacher: “THIS is what the Common Core is doing to our children; it’s heartbreaking and wrong”



You yourself said the authoritative voice is that of the teachers. Read what this Brooklyn, NY teacher – whom I hold in high regard – has to say about your Common Core package. – Katie Lapham

“Today after school the 3rd grade sister of a student of mine joined the debate team for our practice, as she sometimes does. Afterwards I asked her how 3rd grade was going, and she replied “terribly!” I asked why and she told me that the (New York) state ELA test was coming up in a few weeks and she was afraid she would fail. Her eyes teared up when I asked her why she thought she would fail. “Because I’m an idiot!,” she replied. She was careful to stress that it wasn’t her teacher’s fault, but her very own that she didn’t feel ready. It was heartbreaking. This sweet girl was taking on the entire weight of the testing regime and trying to protect her teacher by blaming herself for what she views as inevitable failure. THIS is what the Common Core is doing to our children. It’s heartbreaking and it’s wrong.”

– Devon Whitham, teacher

Posted in Bill Gates, Common Core, Common Core High Stakes Testing, Corporate Education Reform, End High Stakes Testing, High Stakes Testing, Standardized Testing, Testing, Uncategorized | 13 Comments

This Teacher Can No Longer Tolerate Bill Gates’ Ignorance and Apathy

UnknownDear Bill Gates,

This is now the third letter I am publishing on teachersletterstobillgates.com, a website that, by now, you surely must be well aware exists. There have been over 150 heartfelt and emotional posts published in the nine or so months since its inception, yet you have chosen, thus far, to ignore them all.

And that is the reason for my third letter to you today. I don’t know how I can tolerate your ignorance – your apathy – for much longer. Especially when I read “news” that quotes you as saying, “Maybe we can’t answer every tweet or post, but the authoritative voice on this is teachers.” Do you REALLY believe this, Bill? I doubt it.

Because if you had, you certainly would have at least taken a moment to address its existence.  But you can’t. Why? Because you’re too busy touting your claims of all-knowing excellence to the world and selling your products to fix the public education system in America.

I try to see the good in others; I TRY to believe that you really do think you are doing what is right for America’s public schools. Yet I can’t help but ask myself – after all this time – HOW COULD YOU? How could you think what you are doing is RIGHT? How could you really believe that you – a non-educator with a non-education degree and non-education experience – have all the “answers” to the inequality issues within American schools?

Let me help; you DON’T. The bottom line is, you are making a fortune from these reforms, and people are catching on, but not soon enough. Shame on you.

The reality is, Bill (sorry, but I no longer have enough respect to call you “Mister”), you are sacrificing our next generation for your own personal gain. And why do you even need it? Don’t you have enough?

You want to fix the public schools in America? Talk to Diane Ravitch. If anyone has the answers, she does. And I’m often afraid she’s killing herself trying to spread the word. Talk to people like me, to Katie, to Susan – people who have dedicated their lives to educating children. Yes, we might not have all the answers, but, frankly, we know a hell of a lot more than you do.

I’m tired, Bill. I’m tired of reading the BS that you sell to the media. I’m tired of the fact that, because of this all, I have moved myself and my three little boys to Dubai to escape what’s happening at home. It’s not so easy here, and I am homesick. But their lives, and especially their educations, far surpass what I know what they could get from the Boston Public Schools at this point, and so, for them, I persist in my struggle as angry as it makes me.

It’s time you acknowledge your many, many mistakes in education. You want to fix it? You certainly have more than enough money to do so, but for the love of God, let the TEACHERS direct you in how best to do that (like you pretend so very well that you have been).

And remember – we, the teachers – are involved in education because we have chosen to dedicate our lives to teaching children, a job which has little to no extrinsic rewards.
Why are you in it? Can I ask when you will decide to face the fire? It’s only a matter of time before it turns and burns you in the face, so you might as well do the right – the humane – thing, once and for all, before you ruin this country for good.

Yours Truly,
Jill O’Malley Conroy

P.S. In the future, can you please get the quotes you use to support your efforts directly from the teachers who (supposedly) stated them, and not from your “staffers”? Because, frankly, I don’t believe these people (teachers) exist. Thanks.

These quotes appeared in Bill Gates Comes to the Defense of the Common Core, which appeared on Huff Post Politics on 3/14/14.

“One teacher told a foundation staffer, Gates said, that under the current system, even top-performing kids aren’t prepared for college.”
“Everybody in my school is complaining about the lack of curriculum,” another teacher told a foundation staffer, according to Gates. “Now we have to jump all over the place and find extra materials to make things deeper and richer.”

Posted in Bill Gates, Billionaires, Capitalism, Corporate Education Reform, Edreform, Failing Schools, Invitation to Bill and Melinda Gates to dialogue with Teachers' Letters to Bill Gates, Jill Conroy, Monsters of EdReform, Our Schools Are NOT Broken, Privatization, Schools are not broken, Uncategorized, War on Public Education | 3 Comments

High Stakes Testing, Special Education: A False Picture of Failure


Dear Bill and Melinda,

I am a retired teacher from the Rhode Island School for the Deaf.  I taught English Language Arts in the middle school and high school until retiring in the fall of 2011.

One of the events that precipitated my decision to retire was that the RI Department of Education labeled the RI School for the Deaf a Persistently Lowest Achieving School, based largely on students’ scores on the standardized state assessments.

I’ve been researching the Common Core and high stakes testing for several years. The information from the American Psychological Association in my comment below is from the work a former colleague of mine is doing as part of her responsibilities with the RI Teacher Advisory Council. She is researching the impact of high stakes testing on students with disabilities.

According to information from the American Psychological Association, potential negative consequences of high stakes testing need to be identified and minimized, as well as monitoring the impact, particularly on racial and ethnic-minority students or students of lower socioeconomic status.

Special accommodations may be needed to ensure that test scores are valid for students with disabilities. Test developers should include students with disabilities in field testing and document the impact of particular modifications for test users.  Has this ever been done?

Helen Keller 3

Challenging students, having high expectations for them, encouraging them to reach their full potential, does not mean that they should be able to show the same proficiency in the same time frame on the same tasks in the same format (primarily multiple choice) as students without the various obstacles that students with special needs are dealing with.

Anyone who has ever worked with children would know this. It is a travesty that those foisting these unreasonable and harmful practices on teachers and children not only shield themselves from reality but treat with disdain those who are trying to provide meaningful instruction to all students.

Even with accommodations, the necessary scaffolds are not in place to validly evaluate the learning of many special needs students, due to the sophisticated linguistic demands of the tasks. Also, testing students at their grade level, as opposed to their actual academic level as determined by specially trained teachers and written into their IEP’s, cannot possibly provide meaningful information for teachers to use to benefit the students.

Appropriate diagnostic testing is essential to provide program supports and to challenge the students in their zone of proximal development.

High stakes one-size-fits-all mass administered, grade level testing accomplishes nothing beneficial, and only gives a false picture of failure.

Sheila Resseger,  Retired Teacher

Posted in High Stakes Testing, Special Education | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

A Teacher’s Advice to Bill Gates

Dear Bill and Melinda,

Are you out of touch with those who do not travel in the circles of American CEO’s?

Do we need to do an intervention for you, CEO’s and the rest of the 1% corporate edreformer vulture philanthropists?

We hope you listen to Keith Reilly’s advice.

Thank you, Diane and Keith for posting these great suggestions!

Teachers, what do you think? Is Keith on the right track?

Susan & Katie
Co-authors, Teachers’ Letters to Bill Gates

Diane Ravitch's blog

A teacher sent me this letter offering helpful advice to Bill Gates. He hopes that someone will see it on the Internet and pass it along to Bill.

Dear Mr. Gates,

“I don’t know many business leaders who are satisfied with America’s schools. In fact, just about every CEO I know is worried that this country simply isn’t producing enough graduates with the skills they need to compete globally.” – Bill Gates

I find it ironic that opened your notes with this remark just prior to a story was published about two hundred wealthy and famous Wall Street figures to the Kappa Beta Phi dinner in New York City. It consisted of a group of wealthy and powerful financiers making homophobic jokes, making light of the financial crisis, and bragging about their business conquests at Main Street’s expense. The reporter who witnessed this dinner didn’t mention any CEO’s worried about…

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Ask us how you can help. Don’t tell us what you’d like to change.

Dear Bill and Melinda,

We receive letters to you in many forms.  This one came on our Facebook page:  Teachers’ Letters to Bill Gates.

Please read it below, and we hope you will heed Luann’s requests.


“I worked every possible angle to attend the T&L conference, but it’s not in the cards this year. I was very disappointed that I could not attend, and then I saw the email about Bill Gates as a speaker. I’ve been a long time supporter of NBPTS, having certified in AYA/Science in 1998 when the certificate was first available and renewing in the 2006-2007 cycle. I’ve supported initial cert candidates and renewal candidates, having written the renewal workshop materials for Washington State (WEA). I am working hard to promote certification to potential candidates in Oregon. I was watching the revisions as carefully as an outsider to the process can watch, and was very much hoping that the process would maintain the rigor and standards I’ve known since 1997 when I began the process. Associating Bill Gates with our profession, no matter how much money he might give, has alienated a good many potential candidates and has many of my NBCT colleagues across the nation questioning whether they will bother to renew. We do not want anyone who is not an educator in the position to offer financial incentives for following their decisions about what they believe is best for our profession and our students. I don’t remember a time I’ve been so disappointed in the direction my profession is taking, and it’s not my nature to watch in silence as it’s destroyed.

With that in mind, below is my letter to Bill Gates as he prepares to address my colleagues at the National Board Teaching and Learning Conference on March 14, 2014.

A Teacher’s Letter to Bill Gates

Mr. Gates, I see that you’ve been awarded the honor of addressing a group of America’s most accomplished teachers. I am disappointed that I am unable to attend the conference and thus won’t be able to attend your speech. As a parent of 2 successful, professional young men, I know about raising kids.  As an old, well-educated teacher with many years of classroom success, as one who learns daily from every available source and from my students, I know that I have something to learn from everyone.  Based on what I’d like to learn from you, I have some suggestions for possible topics I’d like to learn about from your speech:

  • You’re an expert businessman. (I respect that. I’ve supported your business by purchasing your products.)  Share your business model. Include what worked and why, and especially, what didn’t work, and why.
  • Share your plans for business and industry in the US. What are you doing to support employment for our students and their families?
  • Describe skills you’d like your employees to have, now, and in the future.
  • What are you willing to learn from us?  After all, you did so as a child, and much of that learning apparently worked.
  • How will you act on that learning? Here are some ideas:
    • Offer up ways that you can support our work, and let us choose what we need. This is how we help our students.
    • Be our partner, not our critic.
    • Be our partner, not our adversary.
    • Be open to working with us on how we might best help students gain these skills.
    • Support us as we build foundations in students so they can accomplish real work later; accept that we know how to do the foundation part.
    • Listen. Listen, listen, listen.

And some pointers to remember as you prepare your speech:

  • Realize that our classrooms look very different from the classrooms you, your wife, or your children attend. We’re not only individuals, we’re NBCTs. Our certification process requires that we make decisions as to what’s best for each student, in our particular setting and moment. We do this, daily. It’s a skill you likely value in your own employees; we need to model this for kids.
  • Remember that you don’t, and will likely never, know our students. More importantly, assume they had no  breakfast, or a bed in their own home in which to sleep last night. Assume they may not know where they will sleep tonight, or if and where they will get a good dinner.
  • You’ve created anger in many of my colleagues. Remember that we’re all in this together. Show this by your actions rather than unkept promises. (You pulled small school funding from my school, contrary to recently collected evidence that it DOES improve attendance and graduation rates.)
  • Ask us how you can help. Don’t tell us what you’d like to change.

I hope that a video or transcript of your speech will be made public. I look forward to hearing what you have to say. I look forward to working with you as a partner, not as an adversary. The choice is yours. Are you willing?”

Luann Lee, NBCT; Ed.D.

You can find Luann’s blog here.

What do you think?  Should you be telling us what you’d like to change or asking how you can help?

Susan and Katie, Co-authors of Teachers’ Letters to Bill Gates

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