Bill Gates is a central figure in the modern school reform movement, thanks to his willingness to spend billions of his own dollars for projects he likes. He, for example, spent $2 billion in an effort to break up large high schools and create a network of small schools, but he abandoned that when he decided it hadn’t worked. He and his foundation injected hundreds of millions of dollars into experiments to develop controversial teacher assessment systems, is pushing a project to videotape every teacher in the country to help them see how they do their job, spent at least $150 million to help the Common Core State Standards initiative, provided $100 million to build a controversial student database, and, well you get the idea. His money has deeply affected the course of school reform.
There are, naturally, school reformers who are thrilled with Gates’ support, and, naturally, there are critics who wonder why a private citizen who happens to be rich should have so much influence on education policy, especially when his projects are not based on any research about what works.
In that last regard, a new website called Teachers’ Letters to Bill Gates is publishing messages from teachers to the Microsoft founder about what they do and his effect on their classrooms. The site published this letter to Gates and his wife, Melinda, whose name is also on the Gates Foundation as a way of explaining itself:
Dear Bill and Melinda ~
We would like to invite you to engage in dialogue with school teachers from the US and around the world about the very broad topic of public education.
It has not gone unnoticed that you have used your vast wealth and power to create corporate education reforms without the democratic process that should include the voices of millions of professional public school educators, administrators, parents, students, and community members, both in our country and around the world.
We would appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedule to respond to our letters. We invite readers to share their letters, which we will re-blog to engage you both, and to create an archive of this democratic process.
We hope that you will find that we can participate in a dialogue that is respectful, yet still allows us to express dissent with your influence on policies that impact our students’ lives, our professions, our daily lives, our schools, and our communities.
We have been silenced too long and we may have some pent up emotions to express. We invite our readers to join in the conversation, which we hope will ultimately result in a positive influence on public education as a whole.
We thank you in advance as we truly hope to have a rich ongoing discussion with you about public education. Will you join us?
Teachers Letters To Bill Gates
And it invites teachers to share their teaching stories with Gates and describe how policies he backed influenced their students, schools and communities.
You can read the letters here.