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Bill Gates Should Not Go to Spam

Bill Gates was in my spam. He shouldn’t have been. His letter is powerful, his message is powerful, and unlike way too many funders, he actually knows that we are all in this for the long haul!

The Gates Foundation was forward thinking enough to fund the Center’s bold media outreach work, and the Media Bullpen to help improve the discourse in the media and the grassroots, particularly in our target states of FL, GA, NC, TN and PA. Detractors think the Gates Fdn is part of some conspiracy to undo public education. Actually, they funded what we wanted to do, and they had nothing to do with creating it! Gates is putting his money where his mouth is — and the operative word here is “his”. America allows us to prosper, paves the way for many, and gives those that succeed incentives to spread their wealth. What a great innovation.

Read his letter here, join the conversation at #billsletter and think about measurement the next time you want to launch a career in ed reform!

by Jeanne Allen

Not So Fast (Part 2)

DomeNewsweek’s Jonathan Alter was ahead of the reform curve in media coverage back when it was not a popular thing to do. He’s been an avid fan of great models that provide at least some power to parents, and lots of freedom from bureaucracy. He understands the problems with unions. He even uses the language I put forth four years ago when talking about what was once called “traditional” public education and instead describes it as “conventional,” which is more to the point.

Alter’s column this week puts some heft behind the selection of Denver, CO superintendent Michael Bennet to be Ed Secretary. Could we really have another Bennett in that office? We could have a lot of fun with comparisons, but for now, we’re struck by the uncritical gaze that the otherwise keen Alter has given to both Bennet – and his interviewee of the week – Bill Gates.

Both in Alter’s estimation are reformers. He says Gates told him he believes in merit pay – and yet I’m not fully aware of any policy groups that strongly push for performance based pay changes in law which Gates is throwing money behind. The Gates Foundation is financially and morally supportive of the work of Michelle Rhee and Joel Klein and clearly Michael Bennet. But what superintendents can do is limited unless their state legislatures make it easier for them to free teachers from contract rules that limit pay and operational structures. Put in layman’s terms, it is state law that often dictates what supers do – state laws that teachers’ unions fiercely lobby for and against. We’re all for in-system reform – but one shouldn’t expect every super to be as heroic – or crazy – as reformers

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