bill gates Archives - The Jose Vilson

bill gates

Here’s the first in a two-part essay about Bill Gates’ interview with The Washington Post:

He is correct in stating that students get evaluated all the time, from the first time they enter a classroom all the way through college and beyond. Getting a degree demands having plenty of tests getting thrown at you, high-stakes or otherwise. These tests often determine if you achieve the next level or not, and whether we like them or not. That’s our current education system, so ramping up the amount of tests only perpetuates the status quo. I’m not in the camp that says, “Teachers shouldn’t get evaluated, but students should.” Professionals get evaluations all the time.

I just can’t help but wonder if we actually evaluate students the right way, and if the measure we currently have for student achievement helps determine success in life after college. One should argue that far too many factors come into play when looking on a case-by-case basis.

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Why The New York Times Is Asking Me To Validate Myself

by Jose Vilson on February 23, 2012

in Jose

Not sure if you’ve heard, but, against their own wishes -ahem-, the NYC Department of Education is releasing their infamous Teacher Data Reports, a set of papers ostensibly compiling a teacher’s student scores on English and Math scores from 3rd to 8th grade to determine their effectiveness, normalizing scores for effects like poverty and growth. For anyone that finds this as absurd as I do, you’ll know that not only is there a huge margin of error on using such a report to determine teacher effectiveness, it’s so narrow and limited that parents probably won’t get much information about the teacher they seek. If anything, it might obfuscate the debates that happen in principal offices and households when kids vouch for their teacher, but adults with no understanding of pedagogy point to the scales and rebuke opponents.

I said it. Twice. Diane Ravitch said it. Bill Gates said it. Yet, they’re being released in papers large and small.

Almost every outlet has salivated at the chance to put these reports out (except for Gotham Schools). At first, I thought we would just see the yellow rags like the New York Post and Daily News post these, as they proliferate the bad teacher framework. I’m sure the other media outlets like the Village Voice or Manhattan Times has some intention to do something with these reports, but by the time they do, the bomb will have already dropped on our industry.

However, the one rag that considers itself the vanguard for objective journalism is the New York Times. While I’ve shared my disappointment with one of their events in the past, I still understood their role in pushing forth the news of the day and the voices they’ve highlighted from Bob Herbert and Charles Blow to the inimitable ones, Stephen Lazar and Arthur Goldstein. I still read the Times a fair amount, and even when I disagree, I also get that they often set the table for certain discussions.

Thus, believe me when I say how disappointed I am in the fact that they’re asking teachers to justify their reports to them. From their website:

With SchoolBook’s partners at WNYC, The Times has developed a sophisticated tool to display the ratings in their proper context, a hallmark of our journalism.

But we want to take that a step further, by inviting any teacher who was rated to provide her or his response or explanation. We are seeking those responses now, so they can be published at the same time as the data reports.

If there were special circumstances that compromise the credibility of the numbers in particular cases, we want to know.

We plan to include those responses alongside the ratings themselves, so readers can consider them together.

No. I don’t want to justify or get validation for whatever the reports say about me. With this huge body of evidence and the growing backlash against such reports, why would any respectable publication diminish their own journalistic credibility by publishing them and systematizing them in their website? I have serious doubts about the validity of doing this insofar as asking teachers to contribute to the further deprofessionalization of teaching.

The logic is simple: if we give in to telling the New York Times about our data reports, then we’re actually responding, and by responding in the manner they’ve chosen, they’re actually telling us to defend ourselves in the court of public opinion.

I get that it’s the New York Times. I also get that the UFT chapter leader Michael Mulgrew encouraged us to give in to the process, probably as a form of protest. I respect that this is an opportunity to talk to the establishments that need our assistance in this matter. However, I just don’t think this is the right way to go about it.

All these intangibles I can’t quite calculate, and all these numbers I’d rather not validate.

Jose, who just won’t accept it …


Blood Money

by Jose Vilson on September 26, 2011

in Jose

Recently, someone asked me in response to something they read about whether or not someone’s opinions shift based on whether they were getting paid for said opinions or not. It depends on what we mean by “shift.” Of course, if you throw a million dollars and the person throwing you the money gives you specific direction on what you’re going to spend it on and the ideals of the payment, it makes sense. If you’re at work and you’re asked to give your honest opinion about the job, you’re going to try and sand the edges of your message before you give them the real. Money has powers of influence whether we’re in a prosperous economy or not. Man makes the money, not the other way around. However, it becomes a factor in whatever decision one makes when it gets involved.

Having said that, there’s been plenty of discussion around money from ed-deformer organizations like the Walsh Foundation or the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, two organizations whose education motives have leaned to assure higher stakes testing, charter schools, and teacher accountability at any cost. (full disclosure: I am on the board of directors for an organization that is a grantee of the latter.) For the most part, I agree with that crowd. Then, I hit a snag when I think pre-1994, and even before the founding of this country. Whenever we speak of money in “blood,” it makes me think how myopic we’ve become about the idea of money and how generations of this money we hold dear have traded hands from “good” to “evil” in a matter of a cycle. Whereas one person used the very same bills I hold for street drugs, another could have used them for pharmaceuticals to nurse their ailments. One person might use it to enrich themselves, and another might use it to empower others.

One person might used it for someone’s exploitation while another uses it for another’s liberation.

Monies, no matter how minty fresh in our hands, has a legacy, a history every time you make a transaction with it. Thus, even when we don’t realize it, the money we have in our hands was used for onerous intentions at one point or another. A very small percentage of us can truly say that the materials we use currently, much less the land we stand on, doesn’t privilege us on a material level to the detriment of someone else on the planet who needs it. The diamonds that power our computer devices had someone to purify them from the drip stains of African men’s fingers. The threads of the sheets that help us sleep at night were worth a few cents and 12-hour work days halfway around the world.

Alas, I recognize my role in the contradictions we perpetuate in the human condition.

So I ask myself whether we’ve always had such ideas about the purity of money or do we just reserve that for the people who we believe have the wrong ideas that don’t benefit us directly. To wit, when Bill and Melinda Gates funded the Coalition of Essential Schools and plenty of art and music programs in schools, nary a peep came out of anyone but some of my truest (socialist) friends … and me. Somewhere along the way, he changed his ideals, and soon he’ll change his ideals again after seeing the failed undertakings of neo-coning the entire nation. These events don’t happen in isolation, but as a string of pieces we ought to inspect more closely.

Further, let’s carefully note the things those grantees actually do with the money that’s passed onto them and not what’s assumed. Fortunately for us, in the age of Google, we have tons of evidence about how shifted people’s opinions became once money entered their coffers. Otherwise, we ought to look at the precedents set in the center of our bills.

Mr. Vilson, who understands the value of a dollar …


How Much Superman Knows About Pedagogy

September 21, 2010 Jose
Waiting for Superman

Pardon my snark, but what does Superman really know about pedagogy? Really, I’m not sure why Davis Guggenheim, John Legend, Bill Gates, Michelle Rhee, or anyone else think this superhero should be the face of education reform when a) he probably wants nothing to do with this mess b) kids aren’t asking to be “saved” […]

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