Teaching Profession

Bill Gates’ Speech to Teachers Draws Conflicting Reviews

By Bryan Toporek — July 19, 2010 1 min read
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Depending on where you read about it, Bill Gates’ recent speech at the American Federation of Teachers conference either “built dialogue for education reform” (The Seattle Times) or caused some “agitated murmuring” from attendees (Education Week’s Stephen Sawchuk).

The editorial in the Seattle Times paints a rosy picture of Gates’ speech, saying the 3,400 AFT members in attendance provided Gates with an “enthusiastic reception.” The editorial also makes passing reference to the AFT’s long-standing caution to partially basing teacher evaluations on student performance, but doesn’t mention Gates’ thoughts on the matter.

Sawchuk, who was blogging live from the AFT conference, saw things unfold a little differently. He reported that Gates mentioned the importance of tying student performance to teacher tenure towards the end of the speech, which caused the following reaction: “Delegates, who had started to applaud, broke into agitated murmuring at the mention of student achievement.”

Later in Sawchuk’s blog entry, he writes that Gates received a “pretty good reception” from the union, given that there were apparently rumors floating around “that there could be an en masse walkout in the middle of the speech.”

It’s probably worth mentioning that Gates was born in Seattle. Do you think that may have influenced the differences in interpretation of Gates’ speech?

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.