The Truth About Wisconsin From Bill Gates

The Democrats have been knowingly destroying education for a generation, pursuing the goals of the teachers unions rather than strategies for better education. Now, the mild mannered Bill Gates and his traditional Gates Foundation are quietly calling out the bad guys.

Over the past four decades, the per-student cost of running our K-12 schools has more than doubled, while our student achievement has remained virtually flat. Meanwhile, other countries have raced ahead. The same pattern holds for higher education. Spending has climbed, but our percentage of college graduates has dropped compared with other countries.

We have wasted fortunes and the lives of millions of children degrading education based on the desire of the unions to force more spending on education, and to make sure most of that spending was on hiring more teachers. More teachers means more money for unions, more money for unions means more money for Democrats.

We know that of all the variables under a school's control, the single most decisive factor in student achievement is excellent teaching. It is astonishing what great teachers can do for their students.

Yet compared with the countries that outperform us in education, we do very little to measure, develop and reward excellent teaching. We have been expecting teachers to be effective without giving them feedback and training.

Unions fight hard to make sure no teacher gets paid more for excellence... or gets fired for being decrepit.

To flip the curve, we have to identify great teachers, find out what makes them so effective and transfer those skills to others so more students can enjoy top teachers and high achievement.

To this end, our foundation is working with nearly 3,000 teachers in seven urban school districts to develop fair and reliable measures of teacher effectiveness that are tied to gains in student achievement. Research teams are analyzing videos of more than 13,000 lessons - focusing on classes that showed big student gains so it can be understood how the teachers did it. At the same time, teachers are watching their own videos to see what they need to do to improve their practice.

Our goal is a new approach to development and evaluation that teachers endorse and that helps all teachers improve.

This kind of talk sends the labor movement into seizures.

The value of measuring effectiveness is clear when you compare teachers to members of other professions - farmers, engineers, computer programmers, even athletes. These professionals are more advanced than their predecessors - because they have clear indicators of excellence, their success depends on performance and they eagerly learn from the best.

The same advances haven't been made in teaching because we haven't built a system to measure and promote excellence. Instead, we have poured money into proxies, things we hoped would have an impact on student achievement. The United States spends $50 billion a year on automatic salary increases based on teacher seniority. It's reasonable to suppose that teachers who have served longer are more effective, but the evidence says that's not true. After the first few years, seniority seems to have no effect on student achievement.

This is a damning comparison - think how athletes have improved through the years - bigger, stronger, with better understanding of the science of performance. Think of Tom Brady endlessly studying tapes of the opposition so that he can know, in advance, everything he can do to improve his performance. Compare that to teachers who get rewarded for not retiring - even if they hate what they do.

Another standard feature of school budgets is a bump in pay for advanced degrees. Such raises have almost no impact on achievement, but every year they cost $15 billion that would help students more if spent in other ways.

More wasted money.

Perhaps the most expensive assumption embedded in school budgets - and one of the most unchallenged - is the view that reducing class size is the best way to improve student achievement. This belief has driven school budget increases for more than 50 years. U.S. schools have almost twice as many teachers per student as they did in 1960, yet achievement is roughly the same.

Class size been the mantra of the Democrat/Union Education Destruction Cabal, and the richest man in America shoots that one down as well.

What should policymakers do? One approach is to get more students in front of top teachers by identifying the top 25 percent of teachers and asking them to take on four or five more students. Part of the savings could then be used to give the top teachers a raise. (In a 2008 survey funded by the Gates Foundation, 83 percent of teachers said they would be happy to teach more students for more pay.) The rest of the savings could go toward improving teacher support and evaluation systems, to help more teachers become great.

Gates wants to see classes get larger!

Compared with other countries, America has spent more and achieved less. If there's any good news in that, it's that we've had a chance to see what works and what doesn't. That sets the stage for a big change that everyone knows we need: building exceptional teacher personnel systems that identify great teaching, reward it and help every teacher get better.

It's the thing we've been missing, and it can turn our schools around.

What needs to be done is obvious. Getting past the union/Democrat cabal is the challenge. That's a big part of what Wisconsin is all about.