A division of Bill Gates’ Microsoft is taking over from the Education Department a campaign called TEACH that is aimed at recruiting new teachers into the profession.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan told the Microsoft Partners in Learning Global Forum last week in Washington D.C. that the division had won a competition to take over from the department the TEACH campaign and its website. The website provides free information for teachers and prospective teachers.
Duncan said that the Partners in Learning division will be “the sole owner and operator” of the TEACH project, “improving and expanding the teacher recruitment campaign” as well as all related marketing efforts.
That the department would select Microsoft’s division is not especially surprising, given that Duncan and Gates walk and talk the same school reform line, sometimes sounding as if their speeches came from the same shop.
The decision to turn over TEACH to Partners in Learning serves to expand the already outsized influence Gates and his fortune have on public education.
The topic of Gates and education reform has been explored before on this blog, including earlier this month in this piece, and here. The latter piece, by Economic Policy Institute research associate Richard Rothstein, explains how Gates misinterprets facts about education in his expensive to mold education reform down the path he supports — even when there is no evidence to back up his actions. Gates has also spent many millions of dollars in public relations efforts to persuade the public to support his efforts.
“It is remarkable that someone associated with technology and progress should have such a careless disregard for accuracy when it comes to the education policy in which he is now so deeply involved,” Rothstein wrote about Gates.
Gates’s misinterpretation of facts didn’t come up in Duncan’s speech at the Partners in Learning Global Forum. In that speech, which you can read here, Duncan spoke about the coming need for massive teacher recruitment:
“We started the TEACH campaign because the U.S. faces serious challenges to building a world-class teaching force in coming years. The math here is simple. Teachers are the single biggest in-school influence on student growth and achievement. But over a million Baby Boomer teachers — fully a third of America’s teachers — will retire or leave the teaching profession before the end of the decade.
(We will only mention the fact that there isn’t enough evidence to say without doubt that teachers are the most important in-school factor; a new research brief issued by the Education Writers Association says that this the most that can be said: “Research has shown that the variation in student achievement is predominantly a product of individual and family background characteristics. Of the school factors that have been isolated for study, teachers are probably the most important determinants of how students will perform on standardized tests.”)
Duncan continued: “America’s schools are facing potential teacher shortages, especially in high-poverty schools and communities and key subject areas like science and math. But they are also struggling with a serious underrepresentation of minority teachers in the classroom, which I find deeply troubling.”
It is deeply troubling. But so is the influence that wealthy businesspeople and financial managers have on education reform. And now, Microsoft has an even bigger role, courtesy of the Education Department.
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