Teaching Profession Opinion

What Has the Gates Foundation Brought to Memphis?

By Anthony Cody — March 27, 2013 1 min read
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Yesterday I voiced concerns about Randi Weingarten’s decision to co-sign an article on teacher evaluation with Vicki Phillips of the Gates Foundation. The reason I am so concerned is because we are now more than a decade into Gates-sponsored education reform, and the substance of the change they are driving is profoundly destructive. We can remain in dialogue with them, but we cannot get anywhere by smoothing over core disagreements in a false show of unity.

Diane Ravitch today shared a message from a teacher in Memphis, Tennessee, that sheds light on what the Gates Foundation is bringing to the poverty-stricken schools there.

Public education in Memphis/Shelby County is on the verge of collapse.
Gates gave $90 million to Memphis City Schools, and now he's calling the shots: increased class sizes, no extra pay for advanced degrees, merit pay based on test scores, etc.
The initial budget for the first year of operation for the merged district is already $145 million in the red.
Yet last night the school board voted to continue paying $350,000 a month to a four-person team from Parthenon, a consulting group, to develop a merit pay system to stick it to teachers.
That's $87,500 per month per Parthenon team member. In a year, each team member will gross $1,050,000 for Parthenon. $4.2 million altogether. (Meanwhile, they're looking to cut teacher pay and health and retirement benefits.)
The best part: No one on the Parthenon "education" team is a classroom educator. They're all business strategists, investors, lawyers, and--surprise, surprise--former members of the Gates Foundation.

These are the policies the Gates Foundation continues to spread.

If there is evidence that the Gates Foundation is slowing the pace of merit pay and VAM-based evaluations, we need to hear it. In Memphis, class sizes are up, merit pay is on the way, and the public school system is in crisis. The Gates Foundation’s role appears to be decidedly unhelpful.

What do you think? Are reforms promoted by the Gates Foundation having an impact in your district?

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