About

Our mission is to create a dialogue with Bill and Melinda Gates in order to achieve a democratic influence on public education through the voices of education researchers, professors of education,administrators, school board members,  professional teachers, parents, students, and community members.  We would appreciate Bill and Melinda’s feedback and want to influence their education policy and financial decisions by adding democratic voices to create meaningful relevant education for children.

While the Gates Foundation pours billions of dollars to influence public education policy that impact “other peoples’ children”, there hasn’t been a dialogue to share how these policies impact children, teachers, schools, and communities.  This page is designed to give teachers, parents, and students a chance to share the impact of foundation and education reforms on them.

We are public school teachers. We are teacher leaders.  We are teacher activists.  We are activists for social justice through public education.    We are teachers with questions.  We are teachers who no longer want to live behind the Gates.  We are teachers who are not funded by the Gates Foundation.

We invite you to write to Bill and Melinda Gates and we invite them to engage in dialogue with real public school teachers here.

Please comment here: Comments to this page will be collected and sent to the Gates Foundation.

Sincerely,

Teachers’ Letters to Bill Gates

P.S. Teachers’ Letters to Bill Gates is not responsible for grammar or spelling errors of other teachers.  We do not edit for grammar or spelling errors.  The voices of teachers are human voices that have been silenced far too long.  They are no longer silent here.  Please forgive minor errors and listen to the content of their messages instead. Thank you.

70 Responses to About

  1. artseagal says:

    This “lettter to Gates” series is truly significant and both the husband & wife Gates team needs to read each one of these letters! Here is mine:

    I read Katie Lapham’s letter first & so understand where she is coming from having been there in the exact same position myself several years ago. I now teach art. What I notice is HOW STARVED the students are for art class. They do not get art weekly & are very vocal about how they want more art. I see them in the hallways & am ALWAYS asked, “When are you in our class next… can you please come to our class today… why can’t you come more often…?” Our nation’s students are STARVED for creative process. Why? Well you know the answer to that Mr. Gates. The results of your policies are driving out any possible creative endeavor in a child’s day in the name of your imposed “holy grail”… testing for the purpose of data collection. I have been involved in the arts for as long as I can remember. Even before I was teaching in public school, I was teaching art to children in a high quality after-school program. What I am noticing now is that students are indoctrinated into believing that “there is one way” to solve any problem & that they better learn how to “know what that way is”. The constant “testing of knowledge” through high stakes tests teaches them this. They “know” that one of the bubbles A-D is correct & that “learning” will… “help them know” which of the letters is correct.

    How does this effect me as an art teacher? I now see more & more children who fear taking risks… who fear exploring to see what happens. They see “the unanticipated” as a failure rather than a means of looking at something in a new way. They look to the perceived “smartest kid in the room” for that ONE CORRECT answer. Who is the perceived “smartest kid”? The kid who does best on the high stakes tests! I also taught in a former communist country & the students were indoctrinated into this “find the smartest kid in the room” & copy mentality. This kind of thinking is not what will produce human beings who are intellectually curious & see learning as a joyful process.

    Now with RTTT holding title one school systems hostage to high stakes testing & “data-driven education” & with the newest enforcement.. Common Core… the Arts are now going to be “data-driven” & “quantified”. While this reads like a title worthy of the newspaper, “The Onion”, it is a sad truth and your policies are enforcing this! Would Picasso have been seen as a genius if some art teacher followed him around with a rubrik check-list with questions that did not address his innovations? What, this face distorts perspective… FAIL! What, this face is not painting in the right colors…FAIL! Chuck Close was an unknown artist for most of his early adult career. His spinal virus forced him to hold his brush differently if he wanted to continue painting & resulted in an amazing new approach to his art (which he is now so famous for). If he had spent a life-time under NCLB & RTTT he would have been likely to just give up painting because he could no longer “hold the brush the right way”. Spending formative years being educated by “rubrik” stifles creative process! This is what I am seeing & trying my best to counter-act! But next year, I am going to be going to workshops which TEACH ME HOW TO QUANTIFY CREATIVITY. I promise you that I will use every creative cell in my brain & body to defy this quantification process. Because of my creative bent (not in spite of it), I will on the surface appear to be conforming. But make no mistake, my students WILL BE ABLE TO BREAK ALL YOUR MIND-DEADENING RIGID RUBRIK-CHECK-LIST RULES if it is at all in my power to enable them to do so! Mr. Gates you need to revisit some literature .. perhaps you could start with “Brave New World”. Which characters do the readers see as the heroes? The villains? Ask yourself why? Please allow experienced educators to help you redirect your funding for the benefit of education .. not the destruction of it.

  2. Norma says:

    Dear Bill & Melinda,

    A special education teacher in my school with 21 years of experience told me the other day she is calling it quits. She said she can no longer, in good conscience, administer useless standardized tests to her students knowing full well that they will never pass them—not because she is a ‘bad teacher’. On the contrary, she is an exceptional one. I have seen her work miracles with students who were violent, extremely low-functioning, or whose parents were apathetic or confrontational.

    No, these students will never pass these tests because their brains are not wired for standardized tests. Many of them will never get beyond a 4th grade reading level in their adult lives. Not because they have a ‘bad teacher’, but because their brains are wired differently than yours or mine. And holding their teacher accountable for their success or failure on a standardized test is like holding the doctor of someone born without legs responsible for them not walking.

    She is very upset. She does not want to leave teaching. She loves her students and our school, but she cannot continue to administer ‘bad medicine’ to good kids, and the education reforms that your foundation sponsors are very bad medicine indeed.

    If your reforms are the cure to all that ails this country, if they truly are going to make this next generation of children ‘college and career ready’, why don’t your own children attend schools that must implement them? Why don’t your children attend schools with increased class sizes, slashed budgets, more standardized testing, less emphasis on the arts, foreign languages and physical education? Why don’t your children attend schools where teachers have had to take pay cuts or freezes, or been subjected to mass layoffs and closures? Why don’t your children attend schools where teachers’ Value Added scores are published in the local papers, or they spend more time teaching to the test instead of to the students?

    These are not rhetorical questions. I would really like answers. If you want to change the world, shouldn’t you start at home?

  3. Lisa M says:

    How can I share my letter on this blog?

    • livingbehindthegates says:

      You can type or cut and paste it right here. Please include the state where you teach. Thank you!

      Teachers’ Letters To Bill Gates

      • “Bill Gates:Experienced Educator!($50 Million Dollars Doesn’t Lie)”
        Delaware
        This is an edited version of a blog post I wrote January 12, 2013. It would be wonderful if Mr.Gates would actually read it.

        Given all the evidence above, I have to believe that Bill Gates knows nothing about education, nothing! Yet, this man has been allowed to shape what education should look like.

        I truly believe that one day Mr. Gates was bored out of his mind. Hence, he thought of a magical place where he could invest millions of dollars, change the world, and in the process, have millions of people revere him for his magnificent work. He brushed off the fact that he knew nothing about education, because, after all, he has millions of dollars!

        So he picked up his Louis Vuitton gauntlet, and, began his quest to change the world of education in his image.

        His latest educational feat, fiasco, is his $50 million dollar study that states, and I’m paraphrasing here, “You can stick a good teacher anywhere and she/he will be “successful.”Of course, you need to understand that “successful” is synonomous with “high test scores.” As an educator of 28 years, can I give a resounding “bull…!?” (Excuse my language) Standardized testing should be abolished! And tying whether or not I can teach, to a students’ test score, is equally ludircous!

        I’m not going to waste any more of my time discussing his study, because $50 million dollarshas already been wasted. I can’t tell you how to spend your money Bill, (although you have no problem telling educators how to do their job), but I would like to make a few suggestions about what you could have done with that money.

        Purchase books: Not textbooks so that multimillionaire companies could make a profit. Books. Novels, chapter books, picture books. Give us a way to instill a love of reading that doesn’t require filling in a bubble.
        Food and clothing: A warm, well-fed child, is so much more productive than a child who comes to school wondering where their next meal is coming from.
        Computers: Ipad, laptop, software, smartphones. All the items we can use to integrate technology into our classrooms and engage students who see life through their telephones and video games.
        Training: Provide training for teachers so that they are able to use these items in their classrooms.
        Basic building essentials and supplies Because there are so many schools that are lacking paper, notebooks, pencils, desks, etc…
        The list is endless…

        Bill, if you really want to help. Climb out of your multimillion tower of “all-knowing”. Visit real schools, not faux “celebrity” schools. Schools where teachers, wonderful, hard-working, teachers, have dedicated their lives. Ask them what’s best for the kids. They won’t all be right, but at least they have the experience to know what they’re talking about.

        Cmon’ Bill. Put you money where your mouth is. Listen to “real”educators, you’d be surprised at how much you can learn from us!

  4. Laura says:

    Really like your site. I couldn’t find a link to a facebook page. Do you have one? I did join your twitter feed, but I rarely go to twitter. Thanks, Laura

  5. timmcfarland says:

    6/24/2013

    Dear Bill,

    I’ve read just a bit about your early life in Seattle – not enough to know how you dealt with economic downturns in those years, but enough to guess that, as one whose father was a lawyer and whose mother was on the board of a bank, it’s possible that you have not had to weather the full impact of recessions in the same way that my students have in Salem, Oregon.

    The issues I have with you involve your views on testing, teaching, and the effects that large class sizes have on the education and well-being of children.

    Truly, it is an amazing phenomenon to see the effects of a recession. What starts as someone you know losing a job and on statistics being reported in the news translates into ripple effects throughout society that impact our most vulnerable, our children, the greatest.

    I am a special ed. teacher, and I have found the following:

    During times of economic crisis,
    more parents are out of work.
    This puts more pressure on families, and sometimes results in separation or divorce.
    More children have instability at home, regarding housing, food, emotional support, or all three.
    More children are at risk for abuse or neglect.
    More children are at risk for being homeless.
    More children are at risk for having their parents engage in substance abuse or domestic violence.
    More children have their education impacted in a negative way, because of factors outside of school.

    At the same time, schools have fewer resources to deal with the above problems.
    Counseling positions are cut, at a time when more students need this support at school.
    Student/teacher ratios increase, at a time when more students needs individual attention.
    Turnover in staff at schools increases, at a time when students need more stability.
    Special education programs can’t expand quickly enough to meet the demands of kids with greater needs.

    In every case, in every way, children are the losers, because they are the most vulnerable.

    If a realistic picture of the present situation could be painted, it would not simply be, “We are trying to do more with less,” or “We’ll make it work, somehow.”

    And, it sure as heck wouldn’t be, “Let’s raise standards! More testing! Greater accountability! More rigor!”

    The picture would be the American Flag flown upside-down, a signal of distress.

    It would be a child crying in the hall, because he doesn’t know if he will eat that night, or where he will sleep.

    It would be the kid who says, “Daddy lost his job. He hits mommy. Mommy and I are living with grandma, for now.”

    And, for too many, it will be a white flag. “I surrender.” “I do not know what to do, and there is nobody here to help me.” “Where is Miss Smith? She was here last year, but now she’s not. I miss her.”

    Too many children are waving white flags right now.

    Help.

    Bill, you have the power to help. What you are doing, however, is using your billions to put a greater burden on those who are trying to make a positive difference in children’s lives, while they are being attacked on all sides by the ignorant and the powerful. I would, respectfully, suggest that you listen a little less to Michelle Rhee, and a lot more to Diane Ravitch. Here’s a start:

    “Our schools will not improve if we expect them to act like private, profit-seeking enterprises. Schools are not businesses; they are a public good. The goal of education is not to produce higher scores, but to educate children to become responsible people with well-developed minds and good character. Schools should not be expected to turn a profit in the form of value-added scores. The unrelenting focus on data that has become commonplace in recent years is distorting the nature and quality of education.”

    – Diane Ravitch, The Death and Life of the Great American School System – How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education

    Powerful words, Bill. Please heed them.

    Sincerely,
    Tim McFarland

    • Teachers'LettersToBillGates says:

      GREAT letter, Tim! Will post shortly… Thank you!

      Teachers’ Letters to Bill Gates

  6. Stephanie says:

    Dear Bill and Melinda,

    I can probably help you out with your research regarding student engagement.

    If the student is asleep because he stayed up all night listening to his father beat his mother, not engaged. If a student is randomly filling in the circles of a standardized test, not engaged. If a student is actually trying on a standardized test, not engaged. If a student is spelling his city’s name 10 times, not engaged, but who cares, he needs to learn how to spell it. If a student is reading quietly without noticing movement in the classroom, engaged. If a student is diligently collaborating on a group project, engaged. If a student is reading carefully to earn a good grade on a TEACHER MADE TEST, engaged.

    I could go on, but I think you get my point.

    You can send a half a million dollars my way any time for my classroom based observations to support your research interests. Teacher paychecks keep dropping and the community can’t afford much anymore. My school could use an auditorium for the 100+ students that take band and choir each year. (We are a small school in a rural area.) We can also use the money to send students to academic competitions. That is much more engaging than a standardized test. And I guarantee you that I can make that observation without bracelets!

    Imagine what a half a million dollars would do for a school instead of simply supporting a couple of researchers at a university designing bracelets that measure engagement!

    Sincerely,

    Engaged Teacher
    Virginia

  7. jillconroy says:

    Dear Melinda,
    
I’ve decided to go against the grain here and write to you instead of Bill, in hopes that, as a woman & more importantly as a mother, you will hear what I’m saying, & do something about it before it really is too late. The damage that I have witnessed in Boston over the past decade is alarming; YOUR ED REFORM IS HURTING CHILDREN. As a mother yourself, are you prepared to ignore this message that I, and 99% of America’s public schoolteachers are so desperately trying to convey to you and the rest of your people who have become the sole decision makers of public education?
    It’s clear that the underlying presumption made about us (teachers) is one that we are objecting to your “Reform” measures because we don’t want to be held accountable for what we do in our classrooms. This notion is the polar opposite of our reality. In 1998, when I was about to graduate with my Master’s Degree from Wheelock College, I presented my thesis to a panel of educators as part of the final step in determining my eligibility to be awarded this degree. My thesis was, simply, my Philosophy on Education: every child can learn. I nervously stood (not sat) in front of this handful of well-established and well-respected educators and education experts from the field, & spent 40 minutes defending my stance, convincing them that I had successfully acquired the ability to teach any & every kind of learner who may come my way. They’d challenge me by presenting scenarios that I could someday face; I’d respond accordingly, proving that I had been sufficiently educated to meet the needs of children with every possible style of learning by adapting and modifying my craft, & relying on proven educational theories or Bloom’s Taxonomy or the like to do so. I’d support my statements with tangible evidence of lessons and activities I’d created & included in my 30+ page portfolio that were designed to address every learning style.

    My Philosophy wasn’t just something I’d written for the purpose of this final step in my Master’s program. My Philosophy was something I’d truly & wholeheartedly believed, & it was the driving force behind my teaching from the very 1st day I set foot in front of my own classroom, a decade and a half ago. Most importantly, My Philosophy was based – more than anything else – on my own accountability as a teacher. I was constantly self-evaluating and self-assessing. If a particular method wasn’t working for one or more of my students when presenting a new concept, I’d try something else. If that didn’t work, I’d try something else. Some concepts would require 5-6 completely different methodologies before a child grasped material, & sometimes things took longer than expected or other things may have to be put to the side while I searched for ways to effectively reach every student. & I did. I did, because the single most important motivation I had as a teacher was each students’ ultimate success.
    In 2000, I had a student named Tishawna in my Resource Room. I will never forget Tishawna; she was (&has proven since to be) the most challenging student I’ve ever encountered, in terms of her ability to learn and retain material. Tishawna was the most eager, motivated, and endearing 2nd grader. & while she came from a poverty-riddled neighborhood in Boston, living in a poverty riddled household, she was one of the few students whose mother did value education, who did read to her children, who did attend parent conferences and IEP meetings, who did care about her oldest daughter’s academic achievement. Unfortunately this was not enough. Tishawna had the most unique yet severe Learning Disability I had yet encountered, & psych testing indicated an IQ that fell solidly in the MR range.
    I knew that Tishawna was grossly misplaced in a Resource Room; I knew she needed a more restrictive setting where her needs would be better met. But until that happened, I was her teacher. And MR or not, illiterate or not, while she was my student it was my job to do whatever it took to find a way to reach her. & after months and months of trial and error, & with hours spent researching possible methods to use with her, she finally had a breakthrough. & when the light bulb went off that cold January day finally, & when, for the 1st time in her 8 years she was finally able to read a word, then a sentence, then a passage, this scrawny little girl with her thick eyeglasses looked at me with tears of joy streaming out from behind them, & threw her bony arms around my neck like I’d just given her the very best present she ever could have hoped for. & in hindsight, maybe I had.
    The best part of it was, once Tishawna finally “got it”, there was no stopping her. Between January and June, Tishawna had made almost TWO AND A HALF YEARS of gain in her reading skills, formal assessments showed. It was truly amazing, & as I had surely done for her, so did she effectively provide for me a confidence that I had not yet realized within myself, in my case regarding my teaching. She gave me enough intrinsic motivation to last me a lifetime. Or so I thought. & while it’s unlikely that people whose careers have been driven my externally motivating factors can’t fathom the reality of this, INTRINSIC MOTIVATION IS THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT FACTOR that calls teachers into the field. At least it is for teachers like myself, who don’t need the promise of incentives like tuition reimbursement, a free Master’s, a guaranteed job and for a guaranteed number of years, or excessive praise and adulation for their missionary-type work. I wish you would understand that, instead of encouraging the popular opinion that paints the picture teachers as being selfish, lazy, greedy, and unaccountable “un”-professionals. Because that’s just pure wrong.
    Teachers want to be held accountable for ensuring academic growth and success in each and every child, bc THAT IS EXACTLY WHY WE ARE TEACHERS!!
    You want to know why so many teachers are leaving the field in droves these days, Melinda? You want to know why those who are, are almost always those who have been in the classroom at the onset of, or more likely before your toxin named NCLB was unleashed? Do you care that the majority of them are also indisputably some of the best teachers in the nation?
    I’ll tell you why, & i really hope you do the right thing for our country’s children, & LISTEN. Teachers are leaving because YOUR ED REFORM IS HARMING CHILDREN. & they can’t, in any good conscience, be part of purportrating that harm every day. Not only that, but you have effectively removed any and all intrinsic motivation from our classrooms by telling us not just what to teach, but exactly WHEN to teach it (oftentimes down to the very day, or dictating the very NUMBER OF MINUTES we’re allowed to spend on it. & worst of all, by telling us HOW TO TEACH IT. regardless of whether or not it’s the right, or even a good, way to teach it. Regardless of whether by following orders we’re affording only a fraction of our students THE RIGHT TO LEARN it!!!! {Melinda, while I’m on the topic, can I ask the question that makes the least sense of all in this illogical world you’ve created? WHAT MAKES YOU LEADERS OF THIS REFORM FIND IT WITHIN YOURSELVES TO DECIDE YOU’RE THE EXPERTS? TO DECIDE THAT YOU KNOW BEST? }
    I would not have been able to teach Tishawna like I had, if she were in my class in 2010 & not 2000. Tishawna would not have been able to LEARN, if she were in my class then, either, I have no doubt about that. Why? Bc ED REFORM IS HARMING CHILDREN, & you wouldn’t have “let” me. We know that what we’re doing, & how we’re doing it, isn’t working. We KNOW that these children will continue to FAIL, if we continue to be so grossly and negligently and inappropriately continue to be bound by the conditions that you force us into lest risk being punished somehow. But that remains secondary to the main problem your “solutions” have created…that YOUR ED REFORM IS HARMING CHILDREN.
    WHY AREN’T YOU LISTENING, MELINDA?? YOU ARE HARMING CHILDREN.
    Sleep on that. Sooner or later, you’ll have no choice but to realize the truth in my words.

    Just as I was one of the aforementioned teachers who had no choice but to realize the truth in knowing that I was harming children myself by complying with your ridiculous rules and mandates. & that fact ate away at me for the past 2 years very seriously, & I’ve had too many sleepless nights trying to ignore the toll that was taking on my psychological well-being., let alone every other part of my life. This past spring the reason for my own personal compliance – the fact that I am a single mother of 3 little boys, who had been living paycheck to paycheck & thus needed to continue to report to school regardless of what I was forced to do when i got there – stopped being enough to keep me going back each day. I resigned.
    You & your Ed Reform have left me faced with a very unstable and concerning future, especially in terms of my financial future. Having been denied UI (bc I “resigned”), I’ve been living on my retirement. Hopefully my appeal will be granted, but even if it’s not, I stand by my decision as being the ONLY one for me at this point. & for me, being able to sleep at night far outweighs any financial incentive, even stability. I will make it somehow. I haven’t a clue how, & am hoping for a lottery win bc I fear my options are limited, but I Have not one regret about the choice I’d made.
    Because I long to someday remember what it feels like to “teach” again, & especially bc I have 3 little boys who are only starting out on their educational paths (which unfortunately i cannot afford to provide anything but a public one for them to take), I have committed myself to doing whatever I can to help stop this insanity you’ve created. Like so many others, I have, upon resigning, spent my “working” hours blogging (theindignantteacher.wordpress.com), creating/maintaining a FB grassroots organization, & testifying before the MA Joint Ed Committee at the State House regarding Ed Reform bills.
    It doesn’t matter that my efforts thus far have been in vain. It doesn’t matter that I’m doing it for free. Melinda, do you really believe that if i were really this selfish, lazy, greedy, and unaccountable “un”-professional in your “picture”, I’d spend HOURS DOING THESE THINGS still?? Of course I wouldn’t! Nor would the growing numbers of teachers who have been called OUT of the classroom as strongly as they’d once been called INTO it, like me, are doing!!
    Are you listening YET, Melinda? YOUR ED REFORM IS HARMING CHILDREN!!!
    I’d still be teaching if that weren’t true. & I would gladly go before anyone who argued differently and debated the reality of that assertion. Just as I would gladly open my classroom door to any AUTHENTIC & FAIR evaluation & accountability determination.
    Let me go back to the classroom and show you & the rest of your Reformers exactly that. Let me get back into the classroom and TEACH. Let me make a positive impact on the lives of my students, Melinda. Please. It’s what I was put here to do, & it’s what I can do well. But it’s up to YOU to do what it takes to let me.
    & it starts with Reforming this Reform. Please read my blog, Melinda. 15 minutes of your life is, I think a fair trade off for what you have done to mine, & the millions of others.
    theindignantteacher.wordpress.com
    Then please read the blogs of others like myself. Try to ignore the message we’re so desperately trying to send you: YOUR ED REFORM IS HARMING CHILDREN!!! Ask yourself why you are so resistant to listen to those words. You’re a mother like me, Melinda. You know what it’s like to have your heart walking around outside your body, like I do. Like the mothers of every child (well, most) who ED REFORM IS HARMING do. Surely the day will eventually come when you do what you have to know what is right, & get your husband (@least) to STOP.
    Have some faith in America’s public schoolteachers. Let us tell you where to put the money. Let us do what we have dedicated our lives to doing. Let us teach, Melinda. & watch what happens. Or go before the country and explain what right you have NOT to.

    Sincerely, & in good faith & hope,
    Jill O’Malley Conroy
    Boston Public Schools, 9/1/1998 – 4/1/2013
    Graduate of Boston Latin School, 1991
    BA, Sociology, UMass/Amherst, 1995
    MS, Special Education, Wheelock College, 1998
    MA State Certification, Special Ed (preK-9), Elementary Ed (1-6)

    • Teachers'LettersToBillGates says:

      Hi Jill,

      We LOVE that you wrote to Melinda & the heartfelt tone of your letter. Do you mind if we work with you to edit it then send it back to you for your approval?

      It needs a few tweaks here and there is all.

      We would love to post it on our blog.

      Thank you,

      Susan & Katie
      Teachers’ Letters to Bill Gates

  8. jillconroy says:

    I’d love it if you would!! Thanks & I look forward to seeing the changes! :)

    • Teachers'LettersToBillGates says:

      We will edit soon, send to you for approval before posting. You can choose to cut/paste into your log to edit there. I have not approved your comment yet… We can edit that too if you approve. No worries, Katie and I use each other as peer editors too! It is good work!

      Susan

      • jillconroy says:

        Awesome thanks

      • Teachers'LettersToBillGates says:

        Editing will be ready tomorrow sometime… Will post to you here by comment first. Thank you for your patience!

        Susan

      • Teachers'LettersToBillGates says:

        Jill, please get back to us and we will post this edit with your approval. Thank you, Susan and Katie

        Dear Melinda,
        I’ve decided to go against the grain here and write to you instead of Bill, in the hopes that, as a woman and more importantly as a mother, you will hear what I’m saying and will do something about it before it really is too late.
        The damage that I have witnessed in Boston over the past decade is alarming. YOUR ED REFORM IS HURTING CHILDREN. As a mother yourself, are you prepared to ignore this message that I and many other public schoolteachers are so desperately trying to convey to you and to those who have become the sole decision makers of public education?
        It’s clear that an underlying presumption made about us (teachers) is that we are objecting to your “reform” measures because we don’t want to be held accountable for what we do in our classrooms. This notion is the polar opposite of our reality.
        In 1998, when I was about to graduate with my Master’s Degree from Wheelock College, I presented my thesis to a panel of educators as part of the final step in determining my eligibility for this degree. My thesis was, simply, my philosophy on education: every child can learn. I nervously stood in front of this handful of well-established and well-respected educators and education experts from the field and spent 40 minutes defending my stance, convincing them that I had successfully acquired the ability to teach any and every kind of learner who may come my way. They challenged me by presenting scenarios that I could someday possibly face. I responded accordingly and proved to them that I had been sufficiently educated to meet the needs of children with every possible learning style by adapting and modifying my craft, and by relying on proven educational theories such as Bloom’s Taxonomy. In my 30+ page portfolio, I supported my statements with tangible evidence of lessons and activities I’d created that were designed to address every learning style.
        My Philosophy wasn’t just something I’d written for the purpose of this final step in my Master’s program. My Philosophy was something I truly and wholeheartedly believed in, and it was the driving force behind my teaching from the very first day I set foot in front of my own classroom a decade and a half ago. Most importantly, My Philosophy was based – more than anything else – on my own accountability as a teacher. I was constantly self-evaluating and self-assessing. If a particular method wasn’t working for one or more of my students when presenting a new concept, I’d try something else. If that didn’t work, I’d try something else. Some concepts would require five to six completely different methodologies before a child grasped the material. Sometimes things took longer than expected or other things would have to be put to the side while I searched for ways to effectively reach every student. And I did. I did because the single most important motivation I had as a teacher was ensuring each student’s ultimate success.
        In 2000, I had an unforgettable student named Tishawna in my Resource Room. She was (and has since proven to be) the most challenging student I’ve ever encountered, in terms of her ability to learn and retain material. Tishawna was the most eager, motivated, and endearing 2nd grader, and while she came from a poverty-riddled neighborhood in Boston, she was one of the few students whose mother did value education. She read to her children, attended parent conferences and IEP meetings, and cared about her oldest daughter’s academic achievement. Unfortunately, this was not enough. Tishawna had the most unusual and severe learning disability I had encountered, and psychological testing indicated an IQ that fell solidly in the mental retardation (MR) range.
        I knew that Tishawna was grossly misplaced in Resource Room. I knew she needed a more restrictive setting where her needs would be better met. But until that happened, I was her teacher. And MR or not, illiterate or not, while she was my student it was my job to do whatever it took to find a way to reach her. After months and months of trial and error, and hours spent researching possible methods to use with her, she finally had a breakthrough. When the light bulb finally went off that cold January day and when, for the first time in her eight years she was finally able to read a word, then a sentence, then a passage, this scrawny little girl with her thick eyeglasses looked at me with tears of joy steaming down her face. She threw her bony arms around my neck as if I’d just given her the very best present she ever could have ever hoped for. In hindsight, maybe I had.
        Once Tishawna finally “got it”, there was no stopping her. Between January and June, she made almost TWO AND A HALF YEARS of gains in her reading skills, formal assessments showed. It was truly amazing. Like I had surely done for her, she provided me with a confidence in my teaching abilities that I had not yet realized within myself. She gave me enough intrinsic motivation to last a lifetime. Or so I thought. While it’s unlikely that people whose careers have been driven by externally motivating factors can fathom the reality of this, INTRINSIC MOTIVATION IS THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT FACTOR that calls teachers into the field. At least it is for teachers like myself, who don’t need the promise of incentives like tuition reimbursement, a free Master’s degree, a guaranteed job for a guaranteed number of years, or excessive praise and adulation for their missionary-type work. I wish you would understand that instead of perpetuating the popular opinion that paints the picture of teachers as being selfish, lazy, greedy, and unaccountable “un”-professionals. Because that’s just wrong.
        Teachers want to be held accountable for ensuring academic growth and success in every student because THAT IS EXACTLY WHY WE ARE TEACHERS.
        Do you want to know why so many teachers are leaving the field in droves these days, Melinda? Most have been in the classroom since before and at the onset of the toxic No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Do you care that the majority of them are also indisputably some of the best teachers in the nation?
        I’ll tell you why, and I really hope you do the right thing for our country’s children. Teachers are leaving because YOUR ED REFORM IS HARMING CHILDREN, and they can’t, in good conscience, be part of perpetuating that harm every day. Not only that, but you have effectively removed any and all intrinsic motivation from our classrooms by telling us not just what to teach, but exactly WHEN to teach it (often down to the very day, or dictating the very NUMBER OF MINUTES we’re allowed to spend on it), and worst of all, by telling us HOW TO TEACH IT. Regardless of whether or not it’s the right, or even a good, way to teach it. Regardless of whether, by following orders, we’re affording only a fraction of our students THE RIGHT TO LEARN it!
        Melinda, while I’m on the topic, can I ask the question that makes the least sense of all in this illogical world you’ve created? WHAT MAKES YOU LEADERS OF ED REFORM THINK YOU’RE THE EXPERTS, THAT YOU KNOW BEST?
        I would not have been able to teach Tishawna like I had if she were in my class in 2010 rather than in 2000. I have no doubt that Tishawna would not have been able to LEARN if she were in my 2010 class. Why? Because ED REFORM IS HARMING CHILDREN and you wouldn’t have “let” me. We know that what we’re currently doing, and how we’re doing it isn’t working. We KNOW that these children will continue to FAIL if we continue to be so negligently bound by the conditions that you force us into, lest risk being punished somehow. But that remains secondary to the main problem your “solutions” have created…that YOUR ED REFORM IS HARMING CHILDREN.
        WHY AREN’T YOU LISTENING, MELINDA? YOU ARE HARMING CHILDREN. Sleep on that. Sooner or later, you’ll have no choice but to realize the truth of my words.
        I was one of the aforementioned teachers who had no choice but to realize the truth in knowing that I was harming children by complying with your ridiculous rules and mandates. That fact ate away at me for the past 2 years, and I’ve had too many sleepless nights trying to ignore the toll that it was taking on my psychological well-being and on every other part of my life. This past spring the reason for my own personal compliance – the fact that I am a single mother of 3 little boys living paycheck to paycheck and thus needed to continue to report to school regardless of what I was forced to do when I got there – stopped being enough to keep me going back each day. I resigned.
        You and your ed reform have left me faced with a very unstable and worrisome future, especially in terms of my financial security. Having been denied UI (because I “resigned”), I’ve been living on my retirement. Hopefully my appeal will be granted, but even if it’s not, I stand by my decision. Being able to sleep at night far outweighs any financial incentive, even stability. I will make it somehow. I haven’t a clue how and I’m hoping for a lottery win because I fear my options are limited, but I have no regrets about the choice I made.
        Because I long to someday remember what it feels like to “teach” again, and especially because I have three little boys who are just starting out on their public educational paths, I have committed myself to doing whatever I can to help stop this insanity you’ve created. Like so many other teachers, since resigning I have spent my “working” hours blogging (theindignantteacher.wordpress.com), creating and maintaining a Facebook grassroots organization, and testifying before the Massachusetts Joint Ed Committee at the State House regarding Ed Reform bills.
        It doesn’t matter that my efforts thus far have been in vain. It doesn’t matter that I’m doing it for free. Melinda, do you really believe that if I was really this selfish, lazy, greedy, and unaccountable “un”-professional in your “picture”, I’d spend HOURS DOING THESE THINGS? Of course I wouldn’t! Nor would the growing number of teachers who have now been called OUT of the classroom just as strongly as they’d once been called INTO it.
        Are you listening YET, Melinda? YOUR ED REFORM IS HARMING CHILDREN!
        I’d still be teaching if that weren’t true and I would gladly go before anyone who argues differently and debates the reality of that assertion, just as I would gladly open my classroom door to any AUTHENTIC and FAIR evaluation and accountability determination.
        Let me go back to the classroom and show you and the rest of your reformers exactly that. Let me go back into the classroom and TEACH. Let me make a positive impact on the lives of my students, Melinda. Please. It’s what I was put here to do and it’s what I can do well. But it’s up to YOU to do what it takes to let me, and it starts with reforming this reform. Please read my blog, Melinda. 15 minutes of your life is, I think, a fair trade off for what you have done to mine and to millions of others (theindignantteacher.wordpress.co
        m).
        Then please read the blogs of others like myself. Ask yourself why you are so resistant to listen to our message that ED REFORM IS HARMING OUR CHILDREN. You’re a mother like me, Melinda. You know what it’s like to have your heart walking around outside your body, like me and like the mothers of most children harmed by child ED REFORM. Surely the day will eventually come when you do what is right and get your husband (at least) to STOP.
        Have some faith in America’s public schoolteachers. Let us tell you where to put the money. Let us do what we have dedicated our lives doing. Let us teach, Melinda, and watch what happens. Or go before the country and explain what right you have NOT to.
        Sincerely and in good faith and hope,
        Jill O’Malley Conroy
        Boston Public Schools 9/1/1998 – 4/1/2013
        Graduate of Boston Latin School, 1991
        BA, Sociology, UMass/Amherst, 1995
        MS, Special Education, Wheelock College, 1998
        MA State Certification, Special Ed (preK-9), Elementary Ed (1-6)

  9. jillconroy says:

    Jeez I wish I didn’t already post it on my blog and pin it alrdy lol, Is it terrible?? I’m the most tangential person ever & the fact that I’ve SO much to say abt it all that when I’m satisfied I’ve finally been satisfied w my hours of revisions that I put it everywhere lmao

  10. jillconroy says:

    Love it!! Thanks for taking the time, and thanks for having such a GREAT idea!!! Something’s gotta work, right? :)
    Take care,
    Jill

    • Teachers'LettersToBillGates says:

      I will give you a minute to update your own blog because we will link it. Then I will post ours after I hear back that yours is updated.

  11. jillconroy says:

    all set!
    thanks again!!

  12. Mr. Salem says:

    Dear Mr. and Mrs. Gates,

    My genuine belief is that you both have the best of intentions. I believe you want education to improve. I believe you are convinced from your personal education experiences that what you propose changing in education will make a positive change. You have experienced immense success in your lives and want to pay it forward to future generations. So far, I’m concerned you’re spinning your wheels.

    In Tennessee, I’ve changed from a profitable career in financial services to a personally fulfilling one in education. With insurance agency, the structure of my profession was clear. If a change to the profession became necessary, it was addressed by the profession. I have found in the process of changing careers that the “profession” of education is hardly treated like a profession at all.

    My wife is a lawyer. In the legal profession, the local bar addresses matters of accountability. The law governs, and changes to it happen when many of the most knowledgeable members of the profession hand down a decision to be recorded in law. An acquaintance of mine in music is a doctor. He is bound by the ethics of his profession to treat his patient regardless of what anyone who is not a doctor says. Even in the smallest way, the teaching profession in no way resembles what I would consider the most fundamental standards of a profession.

    You both could have some of the most absolute, world-changing reform ideas. Before those can even be credibly explored, should we not first address the importance of establishing a standard for this career path that raises it to even a mildly respectable level to be called “a profession?” And shouldn’t this begin with teachers, especially our most knowledgeable and experienced educators in every subject area and in each state? A number of teachers I know have unequivocally agreed with this notion of strengthening the profession. We, however, are not high-income earners. We lack the financial resources to take the risks necessary to organize our profession in such a way that grants us an absolutely vital voice in the public discourse of reforming education.

    We need that voice, and I believe you both have the ability to help us rise to that occasion as reputable members of American society. And in my work experience, one of the most valuable lessons I learned was in restaurant management. My mentor, John, once told me, “Your best work happens when no one realizes you’ve done anything. When you’re a silent partner in another person’s success, that’s when you’re exceptional.” This is what I believe we need now as teachers. We need silent partners willing to invest in the infrastructure of our noble profession. Once a qualified board of educators exists, much like a state bar of lawyers, funded in equal parts by educators and states, our profession gains a foothold in the decisions that should be addressed by teachers first.

    We need such a board to balance the scales in holding testing companies accountable – which they are currently held accountable to no one. We need such a board to balance the scales against political posturing at the highest levels of government so that teachers in fields like science are granted the autonomy to teach evolutionary theory alongside teachers of religious studies who can explore creation – because neither of these should be left to the whim of a politician attempting to earn votes in an election. We need such a board to help collaborate with well-meaning individuals like you, because in a professional environment, we can accomplish so much good on a much larger scale.

    I urge you both to refocus your efforts in a more subtle, but much, much more significant way. Our profession has been all but lost in this latest effort to reform education. Your teachers are here, ready to nurture learning and creativity in the classroom. We need a voice, and with just the most subtle efforts on your part to lay the foundation for a professional board of educators, you may find it to be the most exceptional step you will ever take to bring about positive change in education since it became open to the public only a few decades ago. Please give this request your most earnest and thoughtful consideration.

    Respectfully,

    S. Salem
    TN Music Educator

  13. alaina larsen says:

    i would love my letter to be a part of this blog!
    Dear Mr. Gates,

    My name is Alaina and I used to be a teacher. I came from a truly disadvantaged background, worked my way through college, sometimes even collecting cans to pay my tuition before I got a scholarship, because I truly believed that education was the great equalizer and the only way out for all the hundreds of thousands of kids who, just like me, are more likely to end up in prison then with a master’s degree.

    In the years I taught, i noticed how the not-so- subtle shift to high stakes testing through NCLB did the opposite of what it was intended to do. I am shocked and disappointed that your corporate support the CCSS, coupled with high stakes testing, will do nothing to change the educational landscape for the better. In fact, I left the profession because I can be a hypocrite no longer- I can’t in good conscience stand in front of my class and try to teach them while knowing that a test score will define them and put them in a box that will define their future. I urge you to reconsider your position on high stakes testing. High stakes tests hurt kids! High stakes tests are used to fail children. High stakes test results are JUNK Science! High stakes tests JUNK science is used to close schools! High stakes are used to fail schools. High stakes are used to fail teachers. High stakes cause kids to drop out. High stakes cause kids to stress and get sick! High stakes have no empirical evidence to support their use! High stakes narrow curriculum! High stakes lessen creativity!

    All high stakes testing does is perpetuate a two-tier educational system where the haves will continue to have the best education that money can buy, and the rest of us will continue to get the scraps from the table. All high stakes testing does is create a guaranteed source of profit for the main corporate investors, of which your company is a part of. All high states testing does is reduce children to numbers in a system where the odds are stacked even higher against an increasing population of the working poor.

    If you want to give poor kids just like me a chance to get to college and make something of themselves, high stakes testing is not the way to go. How many students living in abject poverty could benefit from the food resources purchased from the cost of scoring just one standardized test? How many students denied medical or dental care could get treatment from the cost of scoring 100 standardized tests? How many transient families could be helped to move into homes from the cost of scoring 1,000 tests? How many more teachers could be hired to teach in low-income. title 1 schools for the cost of scoring 10,000 tests?

    Lastly, please consider how would the test have evaluated you and decided YOUR future as a teen? Remember, “Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school–“Albert Einstein.

    Alaina Larsen

  14. eatingon1 says:

    Dear Bill Gates,

    As anyone could tell you in your vast huge computer software design organization, there exists a saying from the early days of computers, Garbage In, Garbage Out. Magical numbers generated from fantasies in the education realm are baseless and stupid math wise. When there are 7 family members to a room there will be a correlation to -that. Sixty minutes did a great show on a terrible aspect of our lives and featured a county near me, Seminole County,Florida. Suddenly, we are a nation of peasants and many of us and especially our children are now living under dyer circumstances.

    At some point you were a dreamy eyed tow headed little boy. Imagine if you will that that boy had been forced into drill after drill after drill. As hard as this is to believe even you would have been so bored, so strung out that this child abuse was being instigated on you then you would have crumbled. Today,less than a fifth of the country has any wiggle room to do something when you have transformed schools into automatons that try to push and shove real human children into some such of randomly designed directions. Without science behind it you are marching them off to all points of the compass without understanding if any of those directions are totally stupid or even humane much less helping any aspect of our world or humanity.

    There is only so much tax dollars. The financial meltdown did the moral hazard of having corporations grab those tax dollars. I do appreciate that corporation moguls understood that that well runs dry. So, analytically, it makes sense to divert. There is now a whole floor in a building in your company as there is in all multinationals for one purpose- a type of self aggrandizement on our tax dollars. No product need to be built, No service needs to be offered. The sole purpose is diverting from the treasury into the pockets of corporations. Lucrative though that may be there is huge collateral damage. Rubbing shoulders as a government contractor from the beginning then this is so hard to understand. You are being worse than the most underhanded drug peddler on the street to sell a false high. The snake oil drug is really the whole premise and the rickety house of cards built on the rotten foundation. To have a government contractor control the contracts through our system undermines the voice of us, the taxpayers and the people. You are stepping in and that collateral damage is that tow headed boy. Save him. You are destroying children. Stop that. Now

    Amanda More

  15. Dear Bill & Melinda,

    This is from my Tumblr blog “HoustonISD Confidential”. I no longer teach here in HISD, nor does my younger daughter attend HISD schools, so we are safe from any retribution by our Central Office. Please realize that it is a dangerous thing for teachers to post anything attributable to themselves as it could potentially harm their careers. Thanks!
    yours,
    Bonnie Sheeren
    Houston, Texas

    Confession is good for the soul: I don’t think I could pass the 9th grade Texas Language Arts STAAR reading test. There, I said it. This is from a person who has a liberal arts degree from a Texas state university (with teacher certification credits in the mix) and has flexed that degree to work in the worlds of publishing and video production. My video production career even took me into the Texas Medical Center where I learned valuable triage and diagnostic lessons from the staff there. Then I took several years off from the Med Center to raise my younger daughter and endure my own gauntlet of medical problems. To work part-time, I became a substitute teacher in Houston ISD.

    There was a call for tutors last summer in HISD for the ninth grade students who hadn’t passed STAAR reading test the first time. I’m quite good with emergencies after camping out in the ER with my camera crews, so I signed on. How hard could it be? Yet, the test prep worksheets baffled me. I would get completely different answers from my students. I needed the official answer key. For the first week of summer school, I couldn’t locate the icon of the little girl with the sunflower to click on that particular HISD screen to locate the answers—- I was out of the loop.

    Here’s the frightening fact I discovered: None of the college-educated, Texas certified teachers could navigate these prep materials without this all-important answer key. We didn’t dare, because we had not been educated under the STAAR regime or even the previous TAKS era. We don’t think like those tests.

    Thus, it came to pass that one of the boys in class, who I truly believe was functionally illiterate, got the right answer every time. It was painful watching him try to decipher the squiggles on the page. He was a wonderful kid and I secretly wondered why he hadn’t been assessed as to the true nature of his learning issues versus squeezing him like Play-doh Fun Factory clay through these tests. How could he get these answers? He used his “test strategies” and was correct every time. I was in awe of his ability—- not being able to read the words on page, yet coming through as “successful” in this bizarre STAAR world.

    Long story short, he did pass the exam and I got credit for helping him do so. I finally found the answer key after clicking through several online pages after that first week. I was then able to help more students pass by twisting their brains into “STAAR think”, but I needed the crutch of the all-important answer key.

    These students probably can’t transfer these abilities to the world of work—- unless these work places use “strategies” on multiple choice bubble tests, which I don’t believe they do. Somehow, in the pre-STAAR test world, I was able to take my liberal arts degree and range far and wide with my skills, but according to our “education reformers”, this should not be true. After all, there’s no data to back it up, just my work history. Yet, we’ll continue to hear whining from the business community and politicians about “unprepared, uneducated workers” from this group of test takers. In an act of complete madness, these same business/government leaders will keep on enforcing exactly what is producing this scenario.

    I want to be an optimist and believe that our state and our school district will snap out of this insanity, but somewhere, deep inside, I know the prognosis isn’t good.

  16. Please proofread and edit your letters. The current one has some grammatical errors and incorrect spellings–such as dyer rather than the correct “dire.” Such errors will be used to undermine your message.

    • Teachers'LettersToBillGates says:

      While I agree, there are some errors, these letters are unedited… direct from their sources. We have to let their voices be their own. We have to let go – they are no longer silenced.

      What do you think?

      Teachers’ Letters to Bill Gates

      • I understand. I think editing would be helpful tho. But appreciate the blog–much needed.

      • Teachers'LettersToBillGates says:

        What I did do is put in a comment on our “About” page to clarify. I hope that helps. Thank you kindly! Back to posting!

        Teachers’ Letters to Bill Gates

  17. Jennifer says:

    Dear Bill and Melinda,

    As a School Psychologist, I love nothing more than good data. After thirteen years on the job, I still get a thrill every time I score a cognitive or academic test. There is something very solid and reassuring about a standard score and percentile rank that can be reported in writing and shared at a meeting. After thirteen years, I also realize how unimportant these numbers are. My job is not to find out, “How smart are you?” My job is to figure out, “How are you smart?” The numbers are a jumping off point and my job is to take the jump.

    All students, but especially those with learning difficulties, need to understand their own strengths and weaknesses. They need to learn how to learn, and to be guided in their pursuit of their passions and interests.

    The biggest obstacle to this is high stakes testing. Students lose weeks and weeks of instruction time in order to prepare for these tests. Students lose interest in the material, and the scores tell us NOTHING we did not already know about the student. As a numbers junkie, I am continually impressed by the data teachers gather daily on their students. At the elementary level, teachers know their students intimately. They can track their progress with minute detail, using multiple measures. They are experts.

    As a School Psychologist, I am also keenly aware of the business of assessment. The most useful (criterion based) assessments are free. They are based on years and years of pedagogical experience and supporting research data, and help track the individual student’s progress over time. However, many companies also offer expensive standardized assessments. I use them every single day. I cannot emphasize enough the limits of these assessments, even when administered individually by an experienced clinician. Obviously, I believe the data they yield to be useful, but only a small part of the picture of the whole child.

    As an assessment specialist, I can imagine nothing more ludicrous, or irresponsible, than giving precious, limited public funds to corporations developing high stakes tests for the masses. Students are unique individuals, and educators are experts in measuring growth. Education is an art and a science; it is not a business.

    Sincerely,

    Jennifer Slatkin
    Seattle, Washington

  18. Michelle Newsum says:

    Dear Mr. Gates,
    I often hear that the bar for standardized tests is set too low, that schools are broken, that we could improve test scores by improving our teaching skills and having higher expectations.
    The fact is that we expect far more from our children than anyone expected of us. This isn’t necessarily all bad. Whereas, in math, I learned to memorize algorithms (‘carry the one’) children now are taught to understand the concepts behind the algorithms. Writing for young children no longer means copying something from the board or filling in blanks. Reading is no longer Dick and Jane. Children are taught to read and write complex and interesting text at a young age.
    In the 80’s, readability levels were pushed down by one year, so text that was previously considered to be at a 3rd grade level was now considered something a second grader should read—too easy for a third grader. In the 90’s, passing scores on our state tests changed from 201 to 204. Later, they changed again to 207. A couple years ago they changed to 211 in reading. This year, they changed to 212 in math. As a Washington teacher once said, “If you can jump four feet, they can move the bar to four feet one inch.”
    Testing is a big money business. The more we ‘fail,’ the handier it is for corporations to encourage the state and individual school districts to spend billions on ‘better’ tests, and interim tests, and test –prep curriculum and materials. Or even to close our neighborhood schools and reopen them as for-profit charters.
    Under NCLB and Race to the Top, there is extraordinary pressure to increase test scores. I worry that this leads to treating our neediest and most fragile students, as if they are a burden.
    Mid-year, I received a sweet boy who had some serious learning difficulties; his mother was driving him to our school from another district because they told her we had more resources for helping a ‘child like him.’ When I told her that we didn’t have any more resources than the other school, she replied, “I guess I knew that, but they clearly don’t want him there, and I don’t want him to have to deal with that.”
    Under pressure to increase test scores, many schools have become test-prep factories where children spend their days filling in packets full of mind-numbing worksheets and taking home more of the same for hours of homework.
    I work at a great school. Many of us bring our own children (and nieces and nephews) here. 80% of our children live in poverty. 30% are English Language Learners. We provide a precious gem of a school for them. Every teacher has an excellent and extensive classroom library. We have amassed a book room containing hundreds of sets of multiple copies of great literature and emergent readers with which to teach reading. Teachers focus on individual interests, strengths and needs. We work hard to provide quality experiences in science and the arts. We also have a long-running professional book club.
    One year, we were put under severe pressure to increase test scores. This changed the entire feeling tone of our dear school, it also changed the way children were being taught. Evidence of active learning and science and social studies disappeared from our classrooms and hallways. The children were feeling the stress from which we are supposed to protect them. Every child knew their score. High-scoring classrooms were rewarded with ice cream parties.
    One teacher told me she watched a boy dutifully persevere through the test, and when his score came up as ‘nearly passing’ he set his forehead on the table and sobbed.
    I think we all want more for the children of our state– the children of our country. It’s time to stop the greed and madness of NCLB/Race to the Top, and the corporate ed-deform perpetrated by such groups as the Waltons, Gates and Broads.
    Education should be based on a family model, not a factory model.
    Sincerely,
    Michelle Newsum
    Coos Bay, Oregon

  19. Wesley McCall says:

    Mr. and Mrs. Gates,

    I would like to preface my remarks by saying that I recognize your good intentions and efforts to make the world a better place. If everyone who is as financially fortunate as you willingly chose to attempt to make a meaningful difference in the world, Earth would be a much better home for everyone who lives here.

    That being said, I must approach this subject from the standpoint of the new and enthusiastic teacher that I am. High-stakes testing is not a measure of success or intelligence in students. High-stakes testing is not a barometer of the ability of a teacher to effectively instruct children. High-stakes testing is exactly what it sounds like – a gamble with the future of our education system. Teachers and students cannot afford to waste time, effort, energy, or money on an ineffective means of evaluation.

    I am a member of a generation of teachers who not only experienced the effects of high-stakes testing as a student, but also as a teacher. As I look at my profession, I often wonder why many of us chose to walk into what often seems like a minefield. It is when I look into the excited eyes of my students that I am reminded why we chose to become teachers.

    I am an administrator. I am a planner. I am a travel agent. I am a counselor. I am a mentor. I am a life coach. I am a guiding influence in the lives of young people. I am a listener. I am a thinker. I am a philanthropist. I am a child psychologist. I am a shoulder on which to cry. I am a role model. I am a friend. I am an artist. I am a musician.

    But, most people know me as a band director.

    I can tell you with certainty that no field in this world is as uncertain as the arts. Job security is a thing of the past. Guaranteed money is a thing of the past. Those things are paltry in comparison with the fact that a well-rounded, arts-influenced, compassionate, goal-oriented education is on the brink because of standardized testing.

    My job has little value to many outside of the world of education because I do not teach math, science, English, or history. But, I challenge you to find a subject more readily willing to teach the essential life skills those classes simply cannot teach than the arts. I do not recall a math class ever teaching me the value of teamwork. I cannot remember an English class ever requiring that I accomplish multiple tasks at once. Most importantly, I cannot think of a moment in my own educational career that filled me with as much pride and joy as music did.

    This is not a treatise to devalue any of our core subjects, nor is it a call to arms against my colleagues who teach those subjects. I absolutely recognize the value of the core curriculum, but the difference is, so does everyone else in the world. No one questions whether or not a student needs math, science, English, or history. The arts are the first things to go.

    I want our students to succeed. I want them to be competitive with the rest of the world. I want only the best for them. I can assure you that the best for them does not involve high-stakes testing, it does not involve hours of crushing stress, it does involve the pressure of tests and piles of homework, and it does not involve the extrication of the arts from their lives.

    Please, I implore you, rethink testing. It simply isn’t right, and it simply isn’t fair.

    Very sincerely and respectfully yours,

    Mr. Wesley McCall

  20. Laura says:

    Hey Bill,
    I want to tell you about Harry. He was one of my students in the Financial Literacy course I teach. All students in New Jersey have to complete this semester long course in personal finance in order to graduate. I teach as many as 250 high school boys and girls every year and some of them have learning disabilities, others have behavior issues, some are hungry, some are abused, some have no home, others have no parents, or at least none that care. My school is one of the most diverse in the state of NJ which is one of the things I love most about my school. I have students from African countries, Asian countries, the Caribbean islands, Latin American countries, NJ cities like Newark, Patterson, and Trenton. The students are just about evenly distributed between black, white, Hispanic and Asian.
    Anyway, Harry came to my class in January. He’s from a Spanish-speaking country so I didn’t know if he spoke much English, but, what luck, I speak Spanish. In fact, I can speak Spanish almost as well as a native speaker. Harry liked that! So, Harry was only 14 but he looked to be about 20 to me. He was quiet and didn’t seem to know anyone. On the second day of class, Harry didn’t show up, so on the third day I asked him why and he didn’t really answer. He just smiled shyly. So I said sternly, “Harry, did you cut my class?” He laughed so I figured he was caught, he’d never do it again, but, as I follow rules, I wrote him up. The next day, the dean called. She can be nasty. I’m scared of her, in fact. She said, “next time, check the nurse’s report. Harry was with the nurse.” I apologized profusely, but I figured I better run down to the Child Studies team and read Harry’s IEP before I made any more mistakes, I mean moves.
    The IEP really didn’t tell me much except that Harry had some sort of disability, that he often had migraines, and that he only spoke with his grandmother and one brother at home. He was often absent from school. I thought how strange. He can talk but he only chooses to talk to some people. That is so strange. How could that have happened? I’ll probably never know, but what to do?
    Ok, let’s see if I can get to the end. After reading his IEP, I began to pay special attention to Harry & speak with him every day in both Spanish and English. I also, sought out his other teachers to touch base. No one told me anything new about Harry, but we maintained these conversations throughout the semester. That would be 8 teachers, including his study hall teacher, talking about Harry. These conversations became so important to me, but let’s move on.
    Academically, Harry wasn’t really doing that well in my class. He got solid grades on assessments but he tried to avoid working sometimes and was only really productive when I was by his side which was really hard for me since I had some other very serious issues in the class, including a boy who knocked me into a filing cabinet one day & a girl who threatened to spit on another girl for offering her a seat! Oh, and a sweet boy with serious ADHD, no desire to pass the class & a recently diagnosed brain tumor. There are more, but back to Harry.
    The last six weeks of the year, Harry began to show up at my door during his lunch period. My class began after his lunch not during lunch! When he’d see me in the hallway he’d come up from behind and follow me wherever I went. He also started to talk to me! He’d talk about his teachers and all the other students that I knew. These were former students who often visit me but that Harry didn’t know. To my surprise, Harry knew something about each one of them/ I talked to a few of the other teachers and Harry was talking to them too! He had a trick to get my attention. He’d come to my desk, stick his hand in my bag, grab my hall passes and stick them in his pocket! He seemed to love it when I’d say, “Harry, put those back!” He’d laugh shyly and look down at the floor. I share an office with one of his other teachers and she had similar stories every day. One day, Harry told me “all my teachers have yellow hair.” A couple of days later he told me that he liked one teacher’s bangs and that Ms. B who shares my office “always does weird things to her hair.” I said, “really?” He said, “yeah, weird and awesome!” She does her own French braids. So for the remainder of the year, I spent most of my lunch with Harry. All six of the teachers in my work station got to know Harry. All six grew to care about Harry.
    The last 3 weeks of class, since the students in that class were so badly behaved, I had them working with a financial literacy online game and reviewing for the final exam with other games which meant I skipped a portion of the final unit on investing. I didn’t feel good about that but the group was just too hard to manage. I told them that they would get credit for all game modules they completed and if anyone completed them all, they’d get extra points on the final exam too! The software contained most of the answers to the final. Harry worked diligently during that time and I would sit with him and play the game with him as long as the others were not breaking anything. He worked and worked. I noticed he worked at home, too! I’d stop by his desk several times during the class and ask him specific questions about the material. He had learned it all and could tell me about the answers with his own voice! I couldn’t believe it! I had never been so proud of a student. He wouldn’t stop talking! He was the only student during the entire year that completed every module of that software.
    The day of the exam, Harry came in early. I was confident that he’d easily get an A. He knew the material. He’d answered those same questions to me with his beautiful voice! As soon as the class left, I graded Harry’s exam. He’d gotten a C! But, Bill, you know what, I didn’t even care. Harry knew that material. He answered those same questions to me out loud. A boy who would not talk to anyone except his grandmother and one brother. A boy who was afraid to speak. A boy who has an obvious speak impediment. He talked to me about hair, about teachers, about my favorite students and about financial planning. I know exactly what he learned. He learned that material, but more than that he learned that there are a lot of teachers who care about him. He learned that there are teachers who will help him. He learned that his teachers love him and I, thanks to Harry, learned the most. What a beautiful boy!
    Thanks for listening, Bill!

    Laura
    P.S. Harry’d pass your silly high stakes tests if he chooses to! He smart but he might not fill like bubbling in all those little circles!

  21. Cynthia Pelosi, M.S., N.B.C.T. says:

    To Bill and Melinda Gates:

    I would like to thank for your years of supporting education and schools around the world. But at this time, I do not think that you are supporting education in the United States with your misguided support of high-stakes testing and the Common Core Standards.

    As a teacher for 27 years of students with disabilities, socio-economic issues and parenting issues, and a parent of 3 boys who have been round pegs in square holes, I REQUEST that you stop promoting high-stakes testing and blaming teachers for any and all issues in the education system of the United States.

    The major problem is NOT the teachers, who are dedicated professionals working against many issues, but THE BELIEF that ALL children are the same with the same abilities, backgrounds, and intelligence, and educating that them is a business. Students come in all shapes and sizes and as such should be treated to meet their individual needs. There are many different ways that teachers, as professionals, can assess students progress from portfolios, to performance based assessments, to paper-pencil tests. All of these assessments do not place the stress of achieving on students or teachers as our current high-stakes assessments do, but they do give an accurate learning profile of students as individuals.

    Students should not be PUNISHED because they don’t learn the same way or at the same speed as others. They should not be PUNISHED because they cannot take a test and achieve a level that they are not ready for in their learning life. They should not be PUNISHED because the academics they are being taught are beyond their abilities either intellectually or emotionally. Not ALL students are college bound, although that is the premise of the education system in the United States. (That is not to say that anyone that wants and is capable should not have the option of attending college.) We need to support ALL STUDENTS of all ABILITY levels educationally and this needs to include vocationally–like many other countries do already.

    I have one example to share: The State of Florida has deemed 147 words per minute as a “fluent” reader for grades 6-8. ***Fluency being the ability to read a grade-level passage with a good speed, accuracy and prosody(emotion).***While I do not have a specific problem with students at that grade level reading at 147 words per minute, I DO have a problem stating that a student who is not reading at 147 words per minute is not a fluent reader. I have had many students that can read 147 words per minute with very little prosody and cannot answer a comprehension question based on the given passage, and I have had students that read at 120 words per minute with perfect accuracy and prosody who can answer any question posed to them. Which student is then the MOST FLUENT READER??

    This is the problem with high-stakes testing and the Common Core Standards. Putting all the students into one INPUT and expecting the same OUTPUT is unrealistic and unfair to all involved.

    Please open up a dialogue with people who are actually in the trenches daily–TEACHERS–and not with others who THINK they KNOW what is BEST for EDUCATION.

    Sincerely,
    Cynthia D Pelosi, M.S., N.B.C.T.

  22. Gretchen Conley says:

    Dear Mr. Gates,
    Our public schools are eroding because of the policies of corporate education reform. Who am I? I am a first grade teacher. This will be my twenty-fourth year in the classroom. I was fortunate to begin my teaching career in an at-risk Pre-Kindergarten program. We went into the homes one day a week and really worked with our families to ensure that they realized how critical they were to the success of their children in school. I learned very quickly that most families in poverty do not have the same priorities in the household as middle class or affluent families when it comes to supporting their children’s education. Reading to and talking with young children is critical for vocabulary development and future success in school for children. Many parents in poverty are more concerned with their next paycheck and getting food on the table than they are in helping with homework, reading, having conversations, or providing educational support . Unfortunately across the nation, these early education and parenting programs have been cut substantially at a time when they are desperately needed.
    During my five years with Pre-K in southern Illinois, I learned just how invaluable play was for children. They worked in teams to design buildings with blocks, explored with paint, and even worked in a wood-working area. These activities are slowly being phased out across the country as we are forced to prepare these young children for careers and college. More and more emphasis is being placed on teaching and assessing skills. Many of the children simply are not ready for the tasks they must master. School is not the warm and inviting place it used to be for our early elementary students. They miss out on special afternoon classes like art, music, and computers so that they can master their math and literacy skill tests. When I think back on my elementary school experience, I think about the creative teachers I had. My favorite teachers were unique individuals who cared about me and shared their own love of learning.
    I think about my fourth grade teacher who buried bones in a wooden framed box he had created, filled with dirt, and placed on the floor inside the classroom. We all became archaeologists digging, brushing off, and putting the pieces together. I think about my fifth grade teacher who read to us from a couch after lunch every day. We couldn’t wait to hear the next chapter! She shared slideshows of trips around the world with us. I remember having a social studies fair and setting up my Egyptian display complete with my younger sister’s doll who I had mummified. I still talk to these teachers today thirty-four years later. These teachers inspired me and I knew from a very early age that I wanted to be a teacher. A standardized test did not tell me my future path. I rarely see science or social studies fairs anymore because all time and resources seem to be steered toward math and reading.
    As an educator of young children, I have taken pieces of what I’ve learned from the best teachers I had growing up. I read to my students after lunch every day. I had a couch in my classroom when I taught third grade. I set up a nature table for my students every year and we spend time being scientists and make great discoveries. But time is becoming limited. We have spent the past two years dissecting the new Common Core Learning Standards. I must leave my students once a week for thirty minutes to delineate the standards and align them to my curriculum. We are currently spending countless training hours previewing the new PARCC assessments. We all feel a sense of doom as we see the new tasks our students will be expected to master. We know many of our young students are not ready for these tasks. They will have to manipulate data on a computer screen and type critical thinking responses to passages they read.
    No longer do we get to attend conferences that excite and invigorate us. Our trainings are all about the standards, the assessments, and the new evaluation systems. We used to be on the cutting edge of technology at my school but funding has eroded and priorities have changed. Our school consistently meets AYP and therefore is not eligible for many grant opportunities. We are in a funding crisis in Illinois. Our small, rural community school is losing funding at a steady rate. Our teaching salaries are stagnant or in decline because of rising healthcare costs and projections of future deficit spending. I often compare my work experience to being in a pressure cooker. NCLB, AYP, ISAT, AIMS WEB, PERA, PBIS, RtI, UBD, PARCC, CCLS, and many other acronyms are taking the joy from teaching. My favorite part of the day is spent with my students. I love seeing them get excited about special projects we do. But with student skill mastery being a component of my new evaluation instrument, I will have to provide more opportunities to practice for the test. It is inevitable.
    All across the state of Illinois and the nation, I have heard from educators who are steering their own children away from education as a career path. Often it seems that teaching is passed on in the family from one generation to the next. My grandmother was a teacher. My mother was a teacher. I have four children of my own and because of the current climate in education and the erosion of salaries and benefits, I have encouraged my children to pursue other careers. I currently have three sons in college pursuing degrees in pharmacy, engineering, and biology. My eleven year old daughter, who loves children, does not include teaching in her list of potential careers. I have always been a strong advocate for public education. My children have had some excellent teachers with high expectations for their students. I worry about what the future looks like in public education if we will not be able to attract and retain quality teachers.
    So I write this letter urging you to stop the momentum of this race to division through corporate education reform. I never liked races as a child and I know many of my first grade students don’t like to lose. Invest in us. Believe in us. I’ve never been invited to the table to talk about assessment with policy makers. What if they had an evaluation system based on results? They would definitely be out of a job. You need to get teachers back in the classroom, provide them with excellent training, give them the support they need through coaching and mentoring, ensure that class sizes are small, and stop the high stakes testing movement. Let us go back to those trainings that invigorate us, excite us, and ultimately set off sparks within our students. Let’s all come to the table and talk about the real obstacles and inequities in education. Let’s provide experiences and make decisions that ensure all students learn.
    Sincerely,
    Gretchen Conley
    Mount Vernon, Illinois

  23. Mr. and Mrs. Gates,
    “You can lead a horse to water, but cannot make him drink.” This old saying pretty much sums up the education profession. Teachers and other education professionals devote their lives to imparting knowledge to children day in and day out in the hopes of helping them learn about the world around them and how to make their way as productive members of society. However, not all children are the same and they do not learn in the same way or at the same rate. Educators “lead children to water” each and every day, but it is not up to us whether or not they will drink. Perhaps they aren’t thirsty, perhaps they haven’t developed an affinity for a certain type of water, or perhaps they haven’t yet learned how to drink in the ways we are asking them to because they are not developmentally ready to do so; either way, we provide the water for when they ARE ready.

    With the ever increasing emphasis on high stakes testing and usage of cookie-cutter curricula, we are expecting ALL children to drink the exact same water at the exact same time…and then punishing them when they will not or cannot. This isn’t fair on any level. It sends a message to our children that they are consistently “not good enough”, when the message should be “never stop learning”. It sends a message to educators that we are not valued. That we cannot be trusted to do our job. That we are inadequate. That we are doing our children a disservice, despite giving everything we have to give every single day…whether we are with the students or not. This attitude has permeated our society and is eating away at our profession like a cancer. It has turned our own nation against itself, as the message being spread is that we are “broken”, despite the fact that those of us on the front lines continually push back against that idea because it simply isn’t true! And we of all people would know! High stakes testing has done nothing more than tell an entire generation of children that they are failures; yet when they manage to rise to the occasion, under more stress and pressure than ever, are they rewarded for their efforts? NO! They are simply told that the proverbial “bar” has been raised again, so guess what? They still FAIL.

    Once upon a time, teachers could utilize data from assessments they created to inform their teaching, create new lessons, go back and reteach skills that were missed or misunderstood, promote discussion, or even accelerate their teaching if appropriate. These days are long gone and have unfortunately given way to scripted curricula with strict pacing guides and meaningless tests that neither tie to said curricula or measure anything real. Life is not a series of multiple choice answers, and yet this is how we are forced to present the world to children in the “testing era”. It’s no wonder our young adults are not ready for the workforce…how can they be when they have never been taught to make decisions or solve problems for themselves? They’ve only been shown that someone will provide a set of answers for them from which they must choose the “right” one.

    And then there is Special Education. The children who already struggle, who already have to work much harder than their “average” (if there is such a thing) peers just to stay afloat, who have ALWAYS felt or been told they aren’t good enough, who many times just simply “can’t” through no fault of their own, whose teachers feel their pain and take it on on a daily basis so they don’t have to carry it with them, and who want desperately to celebrate their baby steps with them but can’t because they are told they must teach and assess these students at the SAME RATE as everyone else. Where does this leave these students? Perpetually at the bottom with no hope of ever escaping. The demands are just too unrealistic. “If you judge a fish by it’s ability to climb a tree, it will live it’s whole life believing it is stupid.” (source unknown, but often attributed to Einstein) This is the problem with high stakes testing. It assumes that all children are created equal. As my husband (a former teacher, turned administrator) says, “You can give a child the best golf clubs money can buy, put him in private lessons with the greatest golf pro in the world, buy him the fanciest clothes, and have a membership to the most elite golf and country clubs…it won’t make him Tiger Woods.”

    I am a National Board Certified Teacher and hold 4 certifications on my state certificate. I have taught every grade K-5 in my 13 years teaching, and I currently teach 3rd grade, a high stakes testing grade for retention in my state. Every single one of my students “failed” the state test this past school year, and only 1 student passed in the entire 3rd grade at my school. Does this mean my colleagues and I are poor teachers? Maybe in the eyes of those who believe in your agenda. But what if I told you that our students are deaf and come from homes where the parents do not know sign language? What if I told you that many of them didn’t even learn ANY language until they were 3 years old (or older!), and yet had to take this high stakes test a mere 5 years later? What if I told you that for someone who cannot hear to learn to read English print requires memorizing EVERY word they see, along with EVERY possible meaning and EVERY nuance in order to choose the correct one for comprehension, despite the fact that there is no written equivalent to American Sign Language (which they also have not mastered)? Would any of this change your opinion of what kind of teachers we are? Does a score on a test given in printed English over 2 days REALLY give a clear, meaningful picture about what my students are capable of? The answer is NO. It does not. And yet, my students are beholden to the same criteria for retention as their hearing peers who have been learning English since the moment they were born. I had 8-year-olds (typical 3rd grade age) and 11-year-olds (typical 6th grade age!) in my class due to retention rules. THIS is what high stakes testing does. THIS is why high stakes testing is WRONG. Students are different. Teachers are different. HUMAN BEINGS are different. We are not computer chips being churned out on an assembly line to be installed into a framework to all perform in the exact same manner. Children are individuals, with their own unique strengths and weaknesses, and need to be viewed as such. “You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink.”

  24. Wesley McCall says:

    Mr. and Mrs. Gates,

    My mother is a powerful and passionate woman, who, for my entire life, has never taken “no” for an answer. I come by this trait naturally. If, by now, it is not apparent that I am and will continue to be an advocate for my students, my colleagues, and my profession, I certainly hope that it will be clear by the end of this letter. With respect, I will continue to write letters until I no longer need to.

    I bring my mother to your attention because I wish for you to examine the damaging effects of high-stakes, standardized testing for someone like her. For most of my life, my mother worked as a special education teacher in the public school system and as an advocate for children with Autism. My mother is an extremely gifted and patient woman, and it takes someone with her tremendous skill set and huge heart to do the work that she and others like her do to help the students who need help the most.

    We cannot afford to lose people like my mother in our schools. We do everyday. We lost her. She and many others are no longer special education teachers, and one of the primary reasons as to why so many gifted professionals have been forced to leave is the crushing blow high-stakes, standardized testing deals to special education programs all over the country. Try to imagine what it must feel like to a child profoundly affected by Autism, who may or may not be able to communicate his or her own feelings to another person, when that child is being forced to take and pass a test. Try to imagine how frustrating that must be to a child, who, through no fault of their own, simply cannot take the test and do what is required of every other student who is fortunate enough not to have to experience the difficulties of being affected by Autism every single day of their lives.

    Now, try to imagine being the professional who has dedicated themselves to helping children like this. Try to imagine the hours of endless drills, extreme frustration, and potentially violent reactions a special education professional must endure all in the name of helping a child pass a test. Is it really worth it? Is it really worth putting these people, both child and teacher, through the tremendous stress? Mr. and Mrs. Gates, I ask that you examine your standardized testing policies and the effects they have on people like my mother and the students with whom she and her colleagues worked.

    If things continue as they have for years, you will lose every last one of the angels who walk the halls of our schools and help the students who need their gentle guidance and expertise. Meeting the standards of the tests is hard enough for teachers who do not instruct children with learning disabilities, let alone those who do. It is a tremendous burden.
    Remember, for a child with Autism, miracles are the simple tasks in life which we take for granted. Paul Collins, an author and advocate for special needs children, sums up Autism very succinctly and appropriately. He says, “[Persons with Autism] are the ultimate square pegs, and the problem with pounding a square peg into a round hole is not that the hammering is hard work. It’s that you’re destroying the peg.”

    People can only be pushed so far. There is only so much that can be expected of both a teacher and a student, regardless of their circumstances. High-stakes, standardized testing does exactly the opposite of its intended purpose. It leaves children behind. It leaves them in the dust. And, it leaves their teachers without any answers as to how to make it better.

    Please, I implore you, rethink testing. It simply isn’t right, and it simply isn’t fair.

    Very sincerely and respectfully yours,

    Mr. Wesley McCall

  25. Linda Hudson says:

    Dear Mr and Mrs Gates,

    I have been teaching for 32 years. The students I teach are mostly from lower socio-economic backgrounds and also have learning differences. For many of my early teaching years, I advocated for improved services for these students. When NCLB was passed, I was hopeful that high quality, effective education would be available for all students. As NCLB has been implemented, my hopes have been dashed.

    Far from doing what is right for students, corporations and politicians have hijacked education for their own gain. Alfie Kohn got it right in his article, “The 500 Pound Gorilla”- education has become a money maker for big business and a power trip for politicians.

    What does the current implementation of NCLB and it’s high stakes, data-driven, money-based framework look like in my classroom?

    I teach in a Career and Technical Education high school (formerly know as vo-tech). My students are reading on average 3-5 years below grade level. Our school created an innovative program which included an hour and a half of reading/writing instruction, co-taught by a reading specialist and a special education teacher. Based on our progress monitoring data, students made between one and two years’ progress each year. Let’s look at the effect of high stakes testing in 11th grade on students who made such wonderful progress.. One student, Jay (not his real name) came to us in 9th grade, reading at a 1st grade level. His former school was going to place him in a life skills class. Three years into our program, he was reading at an 8th grade level. Then he had to take the 11th grade state test. He read for a few minutes, looked at me and put his head on his desk, unable to go any further.

    You see, he made 7 years progress in 3 years, but the state would still rank him “below basic” and he would have to participate in special instruction (which would take him out of his vocational training class) for a semester and then retake the exam. His comment, “I already know I’m a “f-ing” retard, why do I have to prove it to the state?” haunts me, still. Why indeed?

    Why is our country spending billions of dollars on exams, scoring, test preparation materials, and extra instruction that demoralizes and disenfranchises the very students they were intended to help?

    I very much appreciate your willingness to improve education in our country. Please listen to those of us in the trenches of education. High stakes testing is expensive, ineffective, and inefficient, and, according to some research, has been correlated with higher drop out rates. There are effective, efficient, inexpensive ways to improve learning for all students, please help us pursue those.

    Linda S. Hudson
    Reading Specialist/ESL/Special Ed

  26. Wesley McCall says:

    Mr. and Mrs. Gates,

    As you know, Texas is the second-largest state in the United States of America, both in size and in population. What you may not know is that if Texas were its own independent nation, it would have the world’s seventh-largest economy. As of 2012, the population of Texas exceeded 26 million documented citizens. According to the Texas Education Agency, during the 2011-2012 school year, there were 4,998,579 students enrolled in public schools, which is the second-largest number of public school students of any state in the Union. With nearly 20% of the state’s population enrolled in the public school system, and with the enormity of the state’s economy, why would Texas choose to exempt itself from the Obama Administration’s Race to the Top program?

    Having lived in Texas for several years, I can tell you that I do not often agree with Governor Rick Perry or his policy decisions. That being said, the governor hit the nail squarely on the head when faced with a decision about what Texas’ involvement would be with the Race to the Top program. On January 13, 2010, he declared, “We would be foolish and irresponsible to place our children’s future in the hands of unelected bureaucrats and special interest groups thousands of miles away in Washington.” While he was referring to Washington, D.C. in his speech, he could very easily have been pointing to Washington State and your organization.

    When Race to the Top was launched in 2009, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gave $650 million in grants to states who chose to participate in the program because it was estimated that each state would require in excess of 680 personnel hours just to get Race to the Top off the ground. In a time of serious financial concerns, this is a woefully irresponsible use of money for educational purposes. Furthermore, the program was radical enough in its construction and expectations that four states chose not to participate at all, and an additional fifteen states withdrew after entering the program initially. The primary facet of the program is the Obama Administration’s push for teacher evaluations via student performance through high-stakes, standardized testing. Likewise, to support the Race to the Top program’s emphasis on testing is to be identically in support of the Bush Administration’s No Child Left Behind legislation, which is wildly unpopular among educators because it is the law most credited with establishing annual standardized tests as a means of evaluating student performance. While both programs were developed with the best intentions of curing the ills of our education system, the combination of teacher evaluation and student evaluation through high-stakes, standardized testing has proven time and time again to be destructive to teachers and students alike.

    How can an organization as powerful and influential as the Gates Foundation choose to fund and support these programs when they are so widely and stiffly opposed by the people they affect the most? Now is not the time to be disengaged with the people in the trenches. We, the educators, need your support, not the government. When teachers struggle, students lose. It’s just that simple, and it’s shameful that politics would be allowed to stand in the way of providing our teachers and students with the best possible opportunities for success.

    By supporting and funding the central principles of the Race to the Top and No Child Left Behind programs, the Gates Foundation has effectively pulled the rug from beneath educators all over the country. To base teacher performance on standardized test scores is to unfairly and prematurely incriminate teachers everywhere. Certainly, there are bad teachers in our education system, but they are the exception, rather than the rule. It is vitally important that people in a position of power and influence, such as yourselves, recognize how critical the situation is for those of us who are trying so hard to make a difference. Teachers should never feel as though they must “teach to the test”, nor should they ever have to look over their shoulders in fear of punishment for under-performing students.

    I wholeheartedly believe that the mission of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is to improve education in this country, but Mr. and Mrs. Gates, you have put your faith and your money in the wrong people.

    Put your faith in those of us who have dedicated our lives to giving our students everything they need to be successful and productive members of society. No one knows what the future holds, but it is entirely possible that the next Bill Gates sits in my band somewhere. It is possible that one of my Chemistry colleagues will teach the brilliant child who will one day find the cure for cancer. One of my English colleagues may inspire the next J.K. Rowling to write a series of books that will take the world by storm. Standardized tests are never going to help those students reach their potentials. Inspired and passionate teachers will.

    The Gates Foundation needs to re-evaluate its position on education reform before it is too late to turn back. Texas has already begun to catch-on. When will you?

    Please, I implore you, rethink testing.

    Very sincerely and respectfully yours,

    Mr. Wesley McCall

  27. Brenda Barnes says:

    Dear Bill and Melinda Gates,
    For 19 years, I have taught middle school students. About ten years ago, I created a program at our school to address our neediest students: those at risk of dropping out of school even though they have no disabilities or other physical challenges that prevent their success at school. This program targets family support services, community involvement (mentoring) as well as each student’s individual circumstance that make success in a public school setting difficult. We saw success.

    Recently, though, students with unique learning challenges (most people know them as at-risk students) have yet another hurdle to climb: testing. Here is an example of how a student with chaos at home handles standardized tests:

    My student, “K”, entered my room on one of our test days and told me he was going to throw up. I knew he was not sick. He always says this when he is stressed or would like to avoid the classroom. I spoke to him briefly and told him he would be great today. I didn’t lie. This kid is smart. He reads above grade level and could probably out-test anyone. His previous test scores varied widely: sometimes proficient, sometimes advanced, sometimes below basic. We had practiced all year on how to handle stress. I told him, “You got this! No worries, young Jedi! The force is strong within you!” (K likes Star Wars.) With that sweet grin, he sat and worked too slowly through the timed session. He did not get done. Again, I tell him, “No worries! It’s ok! I can tell you tried really hard and I am proud of you.”

    The next timed session began. Math. He can do math. What he can’t do well is handle pressure. I see him breathe deeply the way we practiced to calm himself. I can’t go to him. This is the test and I can only read one word per sentence if needed. He knows it. Another deep breath and he closes his eyes, and clenches his fists. He knocks his eraser to the floor on accident. He begins to maniacally lift his test book up and down searching for it, disturbing the entire classroom. I can’t see where the eraser bounced to and he is in full freak out mode. I go to him and kneel by his desk and it is immediately clear to me that there is no way he can get himself off this ledge. I text our school counselor and he is out of the room. I watch him slump his shoulders and quietly leave.

    Later I am interviewed about the incident. State officials are called to see if there is a proper way to handle the situation since all students in my room were distracted by the outburst. You know what I was thinking? He didn’t throw anything!! He didn’t cuss at anyone! He didn’t punch anything or anyone! Seven months ago, he would have done at least one of those things. This teacher knows that K made progress this year and I think he scored advanced. If you were to tie his numerical scores to my evaluation, I would probably look like a horrible teacher. I know differently.

    You have billions of dollars you are throwing at ineffective strategies for our children. Spend it on creating the type of wrap around services that benefit kids like K. Testing just gives him another reason to call himself a failure. This is just one kid and I bet there are millions more just like him. So, save him.
    Respectfully,
    Brenda

  28. camb88 says:

    Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting the kids working together and motivating them, the teacher is the most important.

    Someone please remind him of HIS WORDS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Wanna guess who said this?????

    **********Bill Gates ***********************

  29. John Chase says:

    Dear Bill,

    The Common Core’s emphasis on independent mastery of complex informational text puts weaker and learning disabled readers at a severe disadvantage.

    The Common Core also presumes that the information our students will need to analyze and interpret in the future while “on the job” will be primarily in a text-based format.

    Critical reading and thinking skills are very important, but I do not believe they trump or supersede the equally if not more important “soft skills” that help students to succeed and overcome the real “tests’ in life.

    Unfortunately, slow learning, at-risk, and learning disabled students are too often scheduled into additional remedial and intervention classes to focus on their below grade-level reading skills at the expense of enrichment courses and even technical/vocational programs that develop the equally, if not more important, non-academic soft skills.

    The decision to schedule remedial classes for students must be made carefully and thoughtfully on an individual basis taking into account the learning style of a particular student. Many students’ academic and content area skills will improve if they were given the opportunity to enroll in a hands-on trade or vocational program…

    “Math used to be a struggle for 14-year-old Kathryn, until she fell in love with cars and started a hands-on project to build her own. Now the math matters and makes sense, and a whole new world of learning has opened up for her.”

    http://www.edutopia.org/is-school-enough-hands-on-learning-video

    Emotional intelligence often “equals the playing field” and helps adults to lead productive and very successful lives in spite of weaker reading or writing skills…

    “…But what has become obvious—as evidenced by the sheer number of dyslexic World Economic Forum attendees in Davos and by plenty of research—is not only that dyslexics can be, and often are, brilliant, but that many develop far superior abilities in some areas than their so-called normal counterparts…What those highly accomplished people wanted to discuss, albeit discreetly, was their reading ability, or, more accurately, the difficulty they have reading—one of the telltale symptoms of the disorder…”

    A 2002 survey of employers in NY State also revealed the importance of “soft skills”…

    http://edintern2008.pbworks.com/f/RS100_8-08.pdf

    And a more recent NY Times interview with Google VP Laszlo Bock confirmed the same thing…

    “One of the things we’ve seen from all our data crunching is that G.P.A.’s are worthless as a criteria for hiring, and test scores are worthless — no correlation at all except for brand-new college grads, where there’s a slight correlation…What’s interesting is the proportion of people without any college education at Google has increased over time as well. So we have teams where you have 14 percent of the team made up of people who’ve never gone to college…After two or three years, your ability to perform at Google is completely unrelated to how you performed when you were in school, because the skills you required in college are very different. You’re also fundamentally a different person. You learn and grow, you think about things differently. Another reason is that I think academic environments are artificial environments. People who succeed there are sort of finely trained, they’re conditioned to succeed in that environment…”

    Even PARCC the consortium creating the new Common Core assessments has acknowledged the critical importance of these non-academic skills…

    “A comprehensive determination of college and career readiness that would include additional factors such as these [persistence, motivation, and time management] is beyond the scope of the PARCC assessments in ELA/literacy and mathematics…..Since these non-academic factors are so important, PARCC College- and Career-Ready Determinations can only provide an estimate of the likelihood that students who earn them have the academic preparation necessary to succeed in entry-level, credit-bearing courses.” ~ PARCC Policy Paper 10/25/12 pgs 2-3

    http://www.parcconline.org/sites/parcc/files/PARCCCCRDPolicyandPLDs_FINAL.pdf

    People should not be surprised that Pearson a large publishing corporation is spear heading the education reform movement that claims ALL STUDENTS must be able to independently comprehend complex college-level informational text by graduation in order to be successful in college and careers.

    Considering the wide range of skills and abilities/disabilities students possess, and the fact that students learn in different ways and at different speeds, this is not a developmentally appropriate standard…but it certainly is a very profitable one for Pearson.

    Here’s and idea, what if every school adopted a dual career and college readiness mandate?

    The first mandate would be to improve every students independent reading, writing, and math skills during each year of school and to help every student make significant strides towards and in many cases surpass college level skills by the time they graduate high school.

    The second mandate would be to provide courses and programs that would equip EVERY STUDENT with advanced social and emotional skills to help them overcome and compensate for any learning disabilities and academic weaknesses they may have upon graduation.

    Regards,
    John Chase

  30. Hi,

    My name is Rebecca Klein and I am interested in interviewing the creators of this site for the Huffington Post. Might someone be able to shoot me at e-mail (Rebecca.Klein@huffingtonpost.com) if interested?

    Best,

    Rebecca

  31. Connie Crawford Rodriguez says:

    Dear Susan and Katie,
    Congratulations on a pro-active response to the insanity. I am struggling within myself to also find a pro-active response. I am the principal of an independent charter middle school (urban Miami) which I began in hopes that I could find a small corner of the world and do the right thing for kids in need without being noticed. Unfortunately, the testing madness has made even that impossible. We are constantly threatened with closure because of ‘school grades’ based on test scores. I’m sure I don’t need to give you anecdotes about how our school changes kids’ lives…. they are the same stories shared by good teachers all over the country. After 5 years I am tired of fighting and feeling hopeless, and find myself thinking about giving up more often than I would like.

    This website, the BAT Facebook Group, the Lace to the Top movement….. all of these grassroots efforts have given me hope that perhaps teachers’ voices are starting to be heard – hope mixed with fear of further disappointment. Do you know of other pro-active responses that I can add to, share, promote?

    In solidarity,
    Connie Crawford-Rodriguez
    Principal, River Cities Community Charter School
    “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, dedicated can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” -Margaret Mead

    • Teachers'LettersToBillGates says:

      Good morning, Connie,

      Thank you for writing and asking this important question! Of course there are many more activist sights popping up. The Badass Teachers Association is the largest and fastest growing to date! It is working to build a coalition that is bi-partisan to end corporate reform.

      Here are a list of a FEW other activist groups forming to fight corporate education reform.

      Some of the best can be found at a site called The Network for Public Education.

      You can also find a great deal of information at United Opt Out National.

      Another great group to join is Parents Across America.

      And for students, a great group to join is called Students United for Public Education.

      Some say we are not providing a positive example of what we want education to look like and that those of us who are fighting corporate education reform just want to “maintain the status quo”. This is FAR from truth and another propaganda tool the corporate reformers are using to maintain control for profit and power. This accusation is more true about the corporate reformers: “Status quo” being the elite having power over the middle and lower classes for profit and to maintain their position of power.

      Here are some great examples of sites that provide what we would LIKE to see as school models:

      Rethinking Schools

      The Art of Learning

      Mission Hill School in Boston

      Amy Valen’s model shown in her documentary film, August to June

      Imagining Learning

      Thank you for this great question! I hope that others will join in and add their own activist groups and positive models of REAL “non-status-quo” schooling ideas here.

      Susan and Katie
      Teachers’ Letters to Bill Gates

  32. Mary Gutierrez says:

    “What is the ranking of my child?” This is a pretty common question that teachers get at parent-teacher conferences. It seems like a simple question that would result in a simple answer or number. And herein lies the fundamental misconception – there is nothing simplistic about education. This is what the high-stakes testing movement doesn’t understand. Teaching in not about putting information in front of children, it is about figuring out what a student knows and doesn’t know and teaching into the gaps. It is about learning. Good teachers understand learning. Learning is highly differentiated, takes time and practice to master, should be practiced in a variety of modalities and is never the same for all children.

    As a novice teacher I remember observing teachers and classrooms and taking voracious notes on the lessons and the activities. As a master teacher, my observations have changed – I am no longer interested in learning about activities – anyone can put an activity in front of students. I am interested in the questions teachers ask, in the anecdotal observations teachers make and in the reflections and course corrections teachers take.

    You see ranking students tells us little, it does not provide insight into what a child knows and needs to learn, but only a rank in a point of time. The reason why teachers don’t only use standardized test scores to measure learning is not because they are afraid of the results, it’s because the rankings tell a teacher very little about a student, their strengths and weaknesses or their metacognition.

    Teachers are not opposing NCLB and Race to the Top because we are poor teachers and afraid of assessments or evaluations. We oppose it because it represents the lowest form of learning (Blooms Toxicology). It does not inspire children to love learning, it does not encourage teachers to dig deeper and find new and innovative ways to meet their students’ needs, or provide parents with meaningful information but rather it stifles learners and demoralizes professionals.

    To answer the first question – “What is the ranking of my child?” 18/21. Not a good student right? Wrong. You see this ranking was based on reading scores and all of my students were reading above grade level by the end of the year – this anecdotal information would not be included in a ranking score but it is very important in understanding the true measure of this child. Does it change your viewpoint on how successful this student is? – It should.

    Educational reform is needed and I’m not opposed to using standardized measures and teacher evaluations in some form. I know what I do and why I do it and you might be surprised to learn that no evaluation form will ever be able to capture the intricacies of a master teacher’s performance. I am however, opposed to one-size fits all testing and evaluating that is not designed to better education, but rather to skew results so that monies can be diverted to Charter Schools which are funded by public money and privately operated and, to big businesses like Pearson to create tests and practice materials and tutorials for consumers to purchase for profit.

    Teachers are the real champions of children and learning. Bill and Melinda, I will know you are really interested in education reform when you bring master teachers to the table instead of your business friends and so called reformers like Michelle Rhee who can only assess education with novice eyes.

    Mary Gutierrez
    First Grade Teacher

    • Teachers'LettersToBillGates says:

      Thank you so much, Mary! We have posted your letter here: “What is the ranking of my child?”http://wp.me/p3CDkl-b2

      When “ranking” children, there are always few winners and many LOSERS. We know children are not losers. We all have different skills and talents to offer the world. That diversity is what teachers embrace every day!

      Teachers’ Letters to Bill Gates

  33. trchambers says:

    Based on my sensitization to middle school students, I feel there’s a need to get our youth’s attention today before we even begin to talk about education reform, and a good way to do this is to make an appeal to digital entities [computer, media, entertainment, video gaming] to place statements of encouragement on their products targeting students to do better with the curriculum, stay in school, and graduate.

    The students I taught at Raul Yzaguirre School for Success (Houston, Texas) actually accomplished a great deal with me via Technology Applications … nature of the beast, I suppose … but they were lethargic in the core subject areas. This is due to two factors: the environmental stimuli via computer, media, entertainment, video gaming modes of approach; and the lack of educators being able to acknowledge such, and make amends in the classroom, albeit the utilization of technology in the classroom had some effect.

    Since this environmental stimuli [these entities] have changed the mindset and pace of our youngsters, they should also nurture our youth to stay in school and get an education. I feel that statements of encouragement on their products would have a great impact on our youth’s psyche today to begin to think twice about their education.

    This could have an all-encompassing effect on getting our youth’s attention. And I feel that this enhanced awareness … along with technological support in the classroom and tech teaching of teachers … would begin to turn around the educational process in a more positive light.

  34. Wesley McCall says:

    Mr. and Mrs. Gates,

    The world in which you reside and conduct business is a world dominated by statistics, numerical figures, profit margins, stock prices, consumer satisfaction ratings, and of course, standardized test scores. What you seem to fail to realize, however, is that even though many successful businesses are run in this way, including your own, our schools are not businesses, nor should they be run like them. Schools are not to be treated as cogs in the workings of some great machine, and the product of our schools should not be mindless, test-taking drones with no ability to feel or express feeling. As a teacher, the most crushing thing to hear from a student are the words, “I hate school.”

    My students and I, however, live in a world of artistic creativity and emotion that is open to the interpretation of free-thinking and independent individuals. The demands I make of my students have nothing to do with how well they can fill-in bubbles on an answer sheet. The things I ask my students to do transcend the world of academia. From my band, my students walk out into the world as stronger, wiser, and more productive members of society who have the capacity to feel and experience the emotions of other people. They are kind and empathetic individuals who share a genuine concern for the well-being of those around them. They value hard work, dedication, and the contributions of their fellow man.

    We have taken school, something that should be fun and enjoyable, and turned it into a vehicle for frustration, anxiety, and dissatisfaction. What is worse is your apparent lack of concern for the harmful effects of testing on our students and teachers. Schools should never be a place students dread to go to learn, and they should never be a place teachers fear to go to work.

    What is the difference? Why is there such a drastic disparity in the description of these two scenarios when both can be found within the cinder block walls of the same building?

    The difference is the high-stakes, standardized testing of which you are such an outspoken proponent. You have put your blind faith and support into a system which is being vehemently fought by the people you and your organization are trying to “fix”. Money cannot buy happiness in this world, but it seems that money thrown in the direction of a cause you support can be enough to condemn teachers and students this vicious and unending cycle. There is no question that our education system needs to be reformed, but you really need to listen to the people who are standing up in protest of your support of standardized testing. They are the ones who have seen the effects it has on our students, and they are the ones who have to deal with it. Just once, I challenge you to go into a classroom and watch a master teacher at work. Then, I challenge you to talk with that teacher about his or her opinion of the standardized testing system. If, after this discussion, your mind has not been turned in favor of a less destructive course of action than the testing system our country has put in place, there really is a deeper issue that needs to be examined here. The teachers are saying “no” as loudly as possible.

    We don’t need to be fixed. In fact, I resent that implication.

    I resent that I lose time to work with my students because arts programs are being axed in favor of remedial math and English classes that make students want to beat their heads against the wall. I resent the fact that my kind of education is somehow less valuable to our students and to our society because I teach music. I resent the fact that I must go into a meeting with my administrators knowing fully that I will not get many of the things I require for my band program to be successful because there are “more important” things toward which the money must be directed. Frankly, I’m mad about the same thing tens of thousands of others are mad about. I’m just naive enough to believe that maybe, just maybe, these letters are somehow going to make a difference.

    We don’t need to be fixed. You do.

    I’m done asking. Rethink testing.

    Very sincerely and respectfully yours,

    Mr. Wesley McCall

  35. John Chase says:

    Hi Susan, wasn’t sure if there was a submission limit, so I signed this one differently…

    Dear Bill.

    Grading teachers based on when their students acquire and master a specific set of skills, is like grading parents based on when their children learn to tie their shoes or ride a bike.

    While, most people can learn to ride a bicycle, not everyone has the innate ability, determination, and desire to become a BMX racer.

    When it comes to acquiring new skills, the level of proficiency a student achieves and the speed at which that occurs, depends on a variety of factors including; type of instruction, how often they independently practice and use the skill, parental involvement, student engagement, and most importantly, cognitive ability and disability.

    The Common Core State Standards are specific “goals and expectations for the knowledge and skills students need in English language arts and mathematics at each grade level.”

    Every student is expected to meet these standards or “targets” on schedule, and regardless of each student’s cognitive ability or disability.

    All high school students will not be able to pass a Calculus class, just as not every student will be reading on grade level at the end of each school year. Testing students repeatedly does not improve their skills or change their abilities and disabilities.

    A Standardized test score does not explain why a student performed at a particular skill level and cannot predict how they will perform in the future, or even when they will acquire and master a particular skill.

    The rate of speed at which each student acquires new skills will most certainly change from year to year and it is speculative at best to determine the “college readiness” of an elementary student based on a data point.

    There are many factors that impact student achievement from year to year, and a standardized test score cannot predict which child will be bullied, experience divorce, a death in the family, experience depression, unemployment, become homeless, develop an eating disorder, abuse drugs, join a gang, run away from home etc.

    Despite it’s constructivist “promise”, the standardized testing regime of the Common Core forces teachers and students to focus on a predetermined and narrow set of measurable skills.

    Unfortunately, the Common Core is more concerned with telling students what “college readiness” skills they have yet to master at each grade level, rather than helping every student to discover his or her own unique talents and unleashing the athletic, artistic, musical, creative, emotional, inventive, social, scientific, and vocational skills they do possess.

    ~ John
    The Art of Learning

    https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Art-of-Learning/402701759761659

  36. Becca says:

    My kids are exhausted by tests. Fridays come and most of my children are asleep in the car before we even get home because they have had such a busy day taking tests! Thursday nights are all about studying for these tests. Tests, tests, tests….must get ready for the standardized tests! My kids go to charter school so I can’t even imagine what it must be like over in the public schools where they are scrambling to get caught up with all this common core (whereas our school has been slowly implementing it in to the classrooms for over a year now). I have looked through the PEARSON textbooks and I don’t like what I see. I hear you and PEARSON have a pretty tight relationship (monopoly, anyone?). I see slanted lessons in these books that are teaching my kids that America should be sorry for so much and proud of very little. Nary a positive story about anyone of a fair complexion is seen. I see no art, no literature in these books….I see lessons within lessons within lessons all designed to turn my child into something I don’t think it is the school’s place to teach them to be (it is political and slanted, this curriculum, and we all know this). My kids are individuals and that is something we celebrate in our home. Some of them are math whizzes. Some of them love to read. Some of them are creative and artistic. My 8th grader has an art class this year and for the first time, in a long time, his grades are soaring (I credit this with the Art class that probably won’t be around in a couple of years…finally he has an outlet for all his creativity!!). Alas, there is no room for art or literature or reading or developing a love of learning in any of this Common Core (my elementary aged children don’t get art even though they would benefit from it). Mr. Gates and Mrs. Gates….what business is my kids’ education to either of you?? What in the world would make you think that you have the right to be involved in something of this size and scope?? Are your egos so inflated that you think you are this important?? What in the world makes you think that anything about your life allows you to deem yourself an expert in education? Your company made the XBox, and that has become one of the most addictive aspects of school children’s lives (I mean, come on….surely you don’t think you have the right to dictate education when your company sells a product that essentially sucks children in and kills their desire to go outside, read a book or do anything productive??). Go on home, Mr. and Mrs. Gates. Your money doesn’t impress me or my constituents. Your money does not make you an expert in our eyes. Your money, quite frankly, is making you look very foolish. Leave my children alone, please!!

  37. jillconroy says:

    Mr & Mrs Gates,

    Shame on you. I am sickened to know there are people breathing the same air as me – as my children – who are so callously ignorant and dismissive about another human being’s quality of life, much less that of an entire society.

    Clearly appealing to your humane & empathic sides hasn’t worked for teachers so far…clearly the passion felt within our words when pleading with you to stop this insanity you’ve created has failed to affect you…clearly money truly does taint one’s heart & dull one’s responsibility to the Common Good.

    Shame on you both.

    How dare you continue to sit there safely in the confines of your mansion, ignoring the heartfelt messages so many teachers like me have taken the time to post?? How dare you use your wealth to create the most massive sociological experiment of all time – one which has already proven to come at an immeasurable cost to teachers and students in American Public Schools?? How dare you prey on people’s ignorance by selling your BS as something that’s actually intended to help public education, all the while secretly knowing that your methods are nothing more than “Big Ideas” coming out of midair, with nothing to prove their value – except for the “studies” that you’ve “commissioned” to claim their false “worth”?

    Who do you think you are, Mr Gates? And how ’bout you, Mrs Gates?
    In real life, how has being the richest man in America who knows a lot about computers allowed you to believe yourself to be the man with the answers to the education “crisis”???

    Surely you must know that you have no real credibility in that department, don’t you, Mr Gates?
    Surely you can’t convince yourself that your license to consider yourself as the “educational expert” that you do is based on any actual, deserved right to consider yourself as such…can you???
    Surely you understand that you got where you are as the direct result of nothing more than corruption, cheating, lying, bribery, and, especially, by defaming teachers who have dedicated their lives to educating America’s children.

    Shame on you!

    When this War on Education is over, and America finally sees you and your “crew” for who you really are – monsters who almost succeeded at destroying our very democracy because of their own narcissism and personal greed – I hope that you will endure the most torturous and devastating punishment possible.

    I’m typically not one who thinks two wrongs make a right, nor one who generally seeks retribution, but you’ve brought me to a new understanding of humankind – one where “Bad Guys” really do exist…one where little children really should be afraid of monsters.

    You must be sweating the upcoming release of Diane Ravitch’s new book, Reign of Error, aren’t you?
    You should be – if anyone has what it takes to bring your “empire” to it’s knees, unraveling millions and billions of dollars worth of “work” that you funded, & exposing your dirty little secrets to all of America on the way – it’s Dr Ravitch.

    But who knows? Maybe you’re not sweating anything. Maybe you’re so protected within your own little bubble of self-created “reality” that you aren’t even aware of how close Truth is to proving the limit of the Power of Money. Maybe you’ve been allowed to believe yourselves to be so infallible, so protected by your own billions, that you don’t even realize how close you are to losing everything.

    When you do, as you surely will, I hope you spend your lives rotting in jail. I hope you come to know the same kind of life struggles that we, the average Americans, have to know. Especially those of us who have been struggling as a result of your direct and intentional, unspeakably selfish, actions.

    Having those thoughts leaves me feeling very much unsettled and ill-at-ease. They aren’t thoughts I like to have about other people, nor typically do. But they are thoughts that you have instilled, & subsequently ingrained, in me, nonetheless.

    Shame on you.

    I don’t believe you don’t know about Teacher’s Letters to Bill Gates.
    I don’t believe you haven’t hired someone to read them and keep you abreast of their messages.
    I don’t believe you haven’t read many of them yourselves.

    I don’t want to believe there isn’t the tiniest part of you that doesn’t feel some level of guilt about what you’ve done, and what you continue to do.
    I don’t want to believe there exists a single person in the world who is so dispassionate about and unconcerned about the lives of innocent children that he’d ever knowingly engage in behaviors that could possibly harm any one of them.

    But you and your “Club” are harming more than one – you’re harming an entire generation of children with your corporate reform measures. You’re also harming the teachers – like myself – who are desperately and tirelessly fighting to save those children. You and your Club are forcing me to accept these things about mankind, no matter how much I don’t want to.

    Shame on you.

    Mr Gates, stop hiding behind your money.
    Stop putting your nose in where it doesn’t belong.
    Stick to what you do know – computers.

    If you want to truly “help” education, ask educators how you can do that.

    If you want to lend credibility to your efforts and initiatives, if you want to prove me wrong in saying that you’re nothing more than a bunch of selfish, self-righteous ‘*^&%@#%s’ who are only interested in fattening your own wallets and swelling your own egos, then do it.

    I don’t have any of your money, Mr Gates; in fact, thanks largely to you, I am actually in a financially trepidatious position right now, and it sucks.
    But right now I have two priorities & responsibilities – to fight as a member of Dr Ravitch’s “Army” in bringing you and your corporate friends down once and for all, and also to begin to homeschool my own 3 boys (who are in 1st, 2nd, & 4th grades now).

    I have nothing immediately personal to gain by doing either of those things.
    I have to do both because you have left me with no other choice.
    I do so even when it comes at the cost of any personal financial reward; I do so for the children of this nation, for our future generations, and for democracy. I do so because I believe in the Institution of Public Education.

    I am no martyr, nor would I ever pretend to be.
    I am, like the rest of us, an imperfect person who is struggling to make her way through whatever sh%t life throws at her.
    I am driven to do what I must in hopes of ensuring my boys grow up in the best world life has to offer them, no matter how that impacts my own.
    I will continue to do what I must in hopes of ensuring the same for America’s students.
    I am, at my very core, a Teacher.

    I am also, temporarily, The Indignant Teacher.
    You have created that identity for me.

    As The Indignant Teacher, I would like to end this, my second attempt to get your attention, by inviting you to – finally – put your mouth where your money is, and engage in a dialogue about this.

    You want to show the world just how loud money can talk?
    Then start talking.

    You want to convince society that teachers are nothing more than lazy, selfish, apathetic folks who have some personal agenda for becoming so?
    Let me help you with that.

    You want to prove that the only reason teachers are so resistant about your “Movement” is because we don’t want to be held accountable for educating the children in our classrooms??
    Start with me.

    Come on, Mr Gates, you’ve sold the nation on your stupid ideas about teachers and teaching and learning.
    The time has come for you to prove that America was right to buy them.

    Stop hiding behind your wealth, Mr Gates.
    Stop being such a meek sissy.
    Come out from behind your Billionaire Bubble, and show America what you’re really made of…show us who you are beneath what your money can buy.
    You think you know so much about reforming education, sir?
    The Indignant Teacher is inviting you to prove it.

    What are you waiting for, Mr Gates?
    Afraid of something?
    You should be.

    • Teachers'LettersToBillGates says:

      Thank you for your hard-hitting letter, Jill. We have posted it here: Little Children Should Be Afraid of Monsters Like YOU EdReformers http://wp.me/p3CDkl-gu via @TsLetters2Gates and The Indignant Teacher.

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

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  41. Dear Teachers’ Letters to Bill and Melinda Gates,

    I haven’t been a public school teacher in many years, but I would love for you to consider posting an except of my piece, The Teachers. It has gotten some modest traction online since I posted it on Tuesday morning. Here is the final paragraph and a link to the full piece:

    The problem with teaching as a profession is that every single adult citizen of this country thinks that they know what teachers do. And they don’t. So they prescribe solutions, and they develop public policy, and they editorialize, and they politicize. And they don’t listen to those who do know. Those who could teach. The teachers.

    http://parentingthecore.wordpress.com/2014/02/18/the-teachers/

    You might also be interested in this piece about Common Core (thoughts from my experience as a parent and a human):

    http://parentingthecore.wordpress.com/2014/02/20/dinner_table_depositions/

    Thank you for taking the time to take a look.

    Best regards,
    Sarah

    • Teachers'LettersToBillGates says:

      Good morning, Sarah,

      We will most certainly post your comment, along with the entire first blogpost and a link to the 2nd.

      Thank you so much for your advocacy!

      In solidarity,

      Susan and Katie

    • Teachers'LettersToBillGates says:

      Hi Sarah,

      We have posted our latest blog complete with your entire piece – The Teacher, here:

      “Do Bill and Melinda Gates have the right to affect our childrens’ lives for an eternity?” http://wp.me/p3CDkl-uh via @TsLetters2Gates

      I will read the 2nd post soon also.

      Thank you so much for sharing this with us and our readers!

      Susan and Katie

    • Teachers'LettersToBillGates says:

      Hi Sarah,

      We did blog your amazing piece, “The Teacher” – see here:

      @TsLetters2Gates: Do Bill and Melinda Gates have the right to affect our childrens’ lives for an eternity? http://t.co/vpvdCxg36N

      Thank you so much for sharing your work! We will take a look at the 2nd piece you noted also! Please keep writing and sharing! We have followed your blog as well.

      In solidarity,

      Susan & Katie

  42. jillconroy says:

    Dear Bill Gates,

    This is now the third letter I am publishing on teachersletterstobillgates.com – a website that surely, you must – by now – be well aware exists. There have been over 150 heartfelt and emotional posts published in the 9 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 states, “Maybe we can’t answer every tweet or post, but the authoritative voice on this is teachers,’ Gates said”.
    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 yourself – a non-educator with a non-education degree and non-education experience – have all the “answers” to solving the inequality issue within the 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 3 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. It makes me angry.

    It’s time you acknowledge your many, many mistakes in education. You want to fix it? You certainly have more than enough money to…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.
    Can I ask why you are?
    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

    ps…
    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.

    “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.”

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