To the Editor:
I just read your recent coverage on the work of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on teacher quality (“Gates Foundation Places Big Bet on Its Teacher Agenda,” Nov. 6, 2013). It reminded me of other efforts to improve student learning that I have also read about over the years in Education Week.
In 1996: The Goals 2000 effort reported “no significant parallel change in high school completion rates or most indicators of student achievement.”
In 1997: Tracking Title I showed “no significant change in the academic performance of students.”
In 2001: Regarding block scheduling, “studies show that lengthening class periods is not a proven means of raising standardized tests scores.”
In 2002: The $500 million Annenberg Challenge yielded results that were “downright disappointing.”
In 2003: The federal government’s $1 billion effort to give students a safe place to study and play after school “had little effect on academic achievement.”
In 2005: The results of the Gates Foundation’s $1 billion effort to create small schools were “insufficient to draw definitive conclusions about student performance.”
In 2006: Further analysis of the Annenberg Challenge showed no “noticeable systemwide impact on student performance.”
In 2009: A “controversial $14.4 million federal study testing the effectiveness of reading and math software programs has found few significant learning differences between students who used the technology and those taught using other methods.”
In 2012, I also read that new evidence from cognitive and neuroscience shows that what happens in early childhood, “like a child’s footprint in wet cement, leaves its mark forever,” and you can’t go back and rewire a child’s brain.
I have read Education Week for decades and have learned that until a free and high-quality education begins at conception, we will not bridge the pre-K-12 learning gap.
Mr. Gates, what are you reading?
Assistant Professor, Educational Leadership
University of North Carolina at Charlotte
The author is a former high school principal.
A version of this article appeared in the December 11, 2013 edition of Education Week as History of Improvement Efforts Points to Early Years as Key