Bill Gates Speaks at Gates Foundation U.S. Education Learning Forum

The businessman and philanthropist reaffirmed his commitment to improving education in the U.S.

The richest man in the world thinks Silicon Valley is going to shape the future of America.
The richest man in the world thinks Silicon Valley is going to shape the future of America.

Businessman and philanthropist Bill Gates (Image: File)

During a conference keynote speech Wednesday morning, Bill Gates recommitted the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to its current work in supporting the use of high academic standards and helping teachers improve through evaluation systems that provide useful feedback.

[Related: Can Bill Gates Save Our Schools?]

“I believe we are on the right track,” Gates said in prepared remarks at the U.S. Education Learning Forum here. “For today, and for the coming years, this is our vision: every student deserves high standards. Every student deserves an effective teacher. Every teacher deserves the tools and support to be phenomenal. And all students deserve the opportunity to learn in a way that is tailored to their needs, skills, and interests.”

Test scores should be a part of teacher evaluation systems, Gates said, but just a part. Classroom observations and student surveys can also offer meaningful information about how teachers can improve, he said.

In a phone interview, Frederick M. Hess, the director of education policy at the American Enterprise Institute; a conservative think tank and Gates grantee, who was not in attendance, said continuing the current work is not a bad idea for the Gates Foundation.

“I think when you’re doing something that’s complicated and is about deep and sustainable change, it takes a while, and foundations which change strategy or focus every half-dozen years don’t do themselves or the kids any favors,” he said. “American education has far more faddism and short-term bandwagon-jumping than it needs.”

However, Hess said that he hopes that “part of staying the course is backing away from grandiose efforts to make everybody do this right now the same way, and supporting efforts for states, districts, and schools to do these things in smart, nuanced ways.”

Teacher Evaluation Model

Gates first laid out the foundation’s teacher-effectiveness strategy during a similar speech in 2008. Since then, the foundation has been involved in a variety of projects related to teacher quality, including the Measures of Effective Teaching project, in which researchers analyzed 13,000 videos of classroom teachers to try to find patterns among effective educators.

Read more at Education Week.