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Bill Gates to Govs: Raise Class Size, Avoid Furloughs

By Michele McNeil — February 28, 2011 1 min read
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One of education’s biggest philanthropists has a message for governors, which he’s delivering right about now at the National Governors Association winter meeting in Washington.

Do raise class size, Bill Gates is expected to tell the governors. Continue to research effective technologies that will reach more students. Don’t impose furloughs or temporarily eliminate school days to save money. And don’t keep paying teachers based on longevity and advanced degrees.

We’ll have more on Gates’ speech at later, but until then, he offered a preview in this Washington Post opinion piece.

[UPDATE (March 1): Read about Gates’ speech, and the Q-and-A with the governors, over at Teacher Beat.]

In it, he talks about the need to “flip the curve” that so far has seen the country spend more and more on education without the expected payoff in terms of increased student achievement.

He sounded very similar themes and policy ideas late last year in a speech to the Council of Chief State School Officers.

But his audience this time is a more influential bunch. “Most states are in incredibly difficult financial positions right now. ... They have very tough and very important decisions ahead,” said a foundation official, speaking before Gates’ speech.

Gates’ point about raising class size is based on the simple premise that once the most effective teachers are found, let’s give them more students (and perhaps a higher salary) so we can “spread around [the] effectiveness,” said the foundation official.

This emphasis on productivity and efficiency isn’t new, but is an emerging theme in the education policy space. The Obama administration’s fiscal 2012 budget would include a new version of Race to the Top that will emphasize productivity, or “cost-effective reforms that improve student achievement in an era of tight budgets.” And a recent Center for American Progress report analyzed educational productivity in 9,000 school districts.