Education Letter to the Editor

Article on Gates Study Shows Bias of Education Week, Reader Says

February 07, 2011 2 min read

To the Editor:

Your article “Gates Analysis Offers Clues to Identification of Teacher Effectiveness” (Jan. 12, 2011) once again underlines Education Week’s unaddressed conflict-of-interest problem. The piece hypes the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Measures of Effective Teaching, or MET, study, claiming that “teachers’ value-added [test score] histories were among the strongest predictors of how they would perform in other classrooms or school years.”

The study was directed by Thomas J. Kane, a Gates Foundation employee. Bill Gates has publicly called for teacher pay increases to be tied to “productivity,” which for him, based on his talk at TED, the Technology, Entertainment, and Design conference, presumably means test scores. Isn’t that interesting? Bill Gates seems to want to pay teachers based upon test scores—and his employees conveniently publish a study supporting his ideological stance.

Then Education Week plays its part in promoting the Gates study. You note in your paean to this study that the Gates Foundation is a funder of Editorial Projects in Education (EPE), Education Week’s publisher. How much money does Education Week get from Gates? That’s a secret.

So here’s the conflict of interest. We know that the Gates Foundation is a major funder of Education Week. The Gates Foundation publishes a study about value-added testing that supports Bill Gates’ already-stated ideological belief in value-added testing. Education Week runs its article promoting the conclusions and validity of this study. Even better, the only source quoted in the article is Vicki Phillips. Guess who she is? Vicki is the Gates Foundation’s director of education programs. Surprise!

The article does not include any other viewpoints on the study. This is not journalism; it’s really a press release touting the study. Hurrah for value-added, says Education Week. And Vicki.

The day after the article appeared, Jesse Rothstein, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, published an independent evaluation of the Gates study’s data. As the National Education Policy Center said in a news release, the Rothstein study concluded:“Gates Report Touting ‘Value-Added’ Reached Wrong Conclusion: Re-examination of results finds that the data undermine calls for the use of value-added models for teacher evaluations.” Certainly Education Week could have interviewed Professor Rothstein for its MET article.

Education Week claims that it takes no editorial positions. But year after year it becomes more evident that “American education’s newspaper of record” has clearly defined ideological positions. The annual Quality Counts report grades the states’ public school systems according to very specific editorial positions, for example, promoting centralized control of curriculum and high-stakes testing. And the kind of bias that we see in the MET-study article highlights Education Week’s conflict of interest, when it hypes the contested research findings of one of its primary funders.

Education Week has no ombudsman—and no accountability for its unique and essentially monopolistic function.

So it goes at Education Week. Bias, secrecy, conflicts of interest.

David Marshak

Bellingham, Wash.

A version of this article appeared in the February 09, 2011 edition of Education Week as Article on Gates Study Shows Bias of Education Week, Reader Says