Can Public Schools be Fixed?

Gates Foundation president Allan C. Golston discusses plans to help solve the education crisis

Golston (second from left) and Melinda Gates (far right) interacting with students


With these studies that you are doing, what are you finding are the keys to producing better teachers?

What I can tell you is what the theory that the research is testing.  It’s all based in teacher value-added test scores.  We do think that while testing can’t be the only measure it has to be a component of it.  The research is anchored around what other variable explains student outcome. There are a couple of things that are surfacing.  One is that students’ perception are definitely predictive of what great teaching and what not great teaching is and the distinction. Within those student perceptions, the teachers’ ability to challenge the student, the teachers’ expectations of the students, the teachers clearly signal that they have high expectations for the student.  Their classroom management skill is surfacing in the perception survey.

What are the three things that you’re looking to do in the near term?

One, is a common set of expectations across every state about what students need to be successful in college and career.  That’s a huge inequity in this country that we don’t expect that you can live in a different state, or different zip code, and that can be a determinate of what type of education you’re getting through what you’re expected to know. So, one goal is to level that out so that we have high expectations regardless of what state, what zip code, what school district you’re in.

The second goal is to have a great teacher for every student.  So, shouldn’t matter if you’re in an urban district or a rural district, or you’re in Massachusetts or Mississippi.  Every student, particularly the ones that don’t get access to a high quality education, which are typically students that are low income, minority, we’ve got to solve that problem so that there is a great teacher for every kid in every classroom.

The third goal is that students not only graduate from high school prepared to succeed but actually go into a post-secondary system and get some type of degree that allows them to get a job and earn a livable wage.

You mentioned before, and Bill Gates said the same thing—that it’s not really about money.  But when you look at some of the schools, particularly in inner cities, the school on Martin Luther King Boulevard does not look like the school in 90210.

Yeah, I think that is absolutely true. But you have to really look at what’s underneath that because people often conclude that that is a spending problem, meaning a money problem in terms of, “Oh, clearly we’re not investing enough in this district.” Or, “We’re not investing enough in the system that this happened.” Actually, in many cases, it’s how the money gets spent and allocated. If you see decisions where resources get siphoned off from many of the more high need schools and moved into the more affluent schools.  What Bill is saying, and what we see across the board is definitely to say, “Look, we have to invest in public education in this country.”  But we can’t conclude that it’s just a spending problem, or an investment of money problem.  Sometimes it’s how the money gets spent and the policies that drive how that gets spent.  Those are really, really key opportunities for us to leverage in this country for the benefit of students.

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  • Malcolm Lockridge

    Public schools can be fixed. The problem is will it be fixed. Honestly (and I could be wrong), but I don’t think that anyone (in the government, at least) cares about public schools. College tuition goes up, but most jobs don’t hire college graduates or students. The value of education is at an all-time low, because the powers that be are caught up with other issues (economy, gay marriage, military defense, etc.) so education has been placed on the backburner.

    What people don’t know is that this is seriously hurting the kids who will be leading the world tomorrow. Because we don’t want to educate them, they suffer. In other countries, kids go to school 6 times a day and end up highly successful. Here, there’s debate on cutting the school week to 4 days in certain states. I’m not even going to go into the issues of schools regarding students vs. authority and the dress codes that are in effect in some areas. Once education becomes a priority, public schools can be fixed.

  • TFT

    Those mired in generational poverty don’t do poorly in school because of bad teachers. How many times can this be pointed out to you jerks (Gates) before you admit it?

    Deal with poverty–SES. Go read some MLK or something.

    You guys (Gates) are fucking up American education.

    Just go away and sell software. Shitty software.