No one in America has done more to promote the raising of stakes for test scores in education than Bill Gates.
Yesterday, Mr. Gates published a column that dances around the disaster his advocacy has created in the schools of our nation.
You can read his words there, but his actions have spoken so much more loudly, that I cannot even make sense out of what he is attempting to say now. So let's focus first on what Bill Gates has wrought.
No Child Left Behind was headed towards bankruptcy about seven years ago. The practice of labeling schools as failures and closing them, on the basis of test scores, was clearly causing a narrowing of the curriculum. Low income schools in Oakland eliminated art, history and even science in order to focus almost exclusively on math and reading. The arrival of Arne Duncan and his top level of advisors borrowed from the Gates Foundation created the opportunity for a re-visioning of the project.
Both the Race to the Top and the NCLB waivers processes required states and districts to put in place teacher and principal evaluation systems which placed "significant" weight on test scores. This was interpreted by states to mean that test scores must count for at least 30% to 50% of an evaluation.
The Department of Education had told the states how high they had to jump, and the majority did so.
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