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A Gates Foundation Education Initiative Fizzles

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the seemed-like-a-good-idea-at-the-time dept.

Education 459

theodp writes "Three years ago, Sarah-Palin-bogeyman William Ayers published a paper questioning the direction the small school movement was taking (PDF) with the involvement of would-be education reformers like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. And now, after $2 billion in grants, Bill Gates concedes that in most cases his foundation's efforts in that area fell short. 'Many of the small schools that we invested in did not improve students' achievement in any significant way,' said Gates. Bill does cite High Tech High as one of the few success stories, but even there has to limit his atta-boys to the San Diego branch — the Gates-backed Silicon Valley High Tech High closed its doors abruptly due to financial woes (concerns about the sustainability of Gates-initiated small schools were voiced in 2005). Not surprisingly, some parents are upset about the capital that school districts wasted following Bill's lead."

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459 comments

at least it was only 2 billion (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26693093)

and private money. Meanwhile, 1 trillion in borrowed money has disappeared into the big bank bailout, and another trillion in borrowed money will "stimulate" democrat pork projects. Where's the fucking sacrifice?

I could be sarcastic (5, Insightful)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 5 years ago | (#26693097)

...and say that nothing that Microsoft contributes to schools facilitates education, but that would be unfair. Gates is not the first, and will not be the last, businessman to try to give money to schools to encourage them down a path that he supports. I am sure they all mean well - but education is too big and complicated, and depends too much on local factors, to benefit from this kind of investment. It's been said that the only thing that businessmen should do is to take a leaf out of Carnegie's book and donate libraries. Not a bad place to start, especially if you are big enough to realise that you will profoundly disagree with some of those books, and that is actually a good thing.

Re:I could be sarcastic (4, Insightful)

canUbeleiveIT (787307) | more than 5 years ago | (#26693153)

I am sure they all mean well - but education is too big and complicated, and depends too much on local factors, to benefit from this kind of investment.

I'm not an educator but it seems to me that we're all in search of a process. Maybe outcomes are less of a product of the system that is used and more a result of the skill and effort level of the educators and parents in question.

Not that I have much experience with the subject; merely an uninformed opinion...

Re:I could be sarcastic (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26693207)

Not that I have much experience with the subject; merely an uninformed opinion...

Don't feel bad. Most school boards have the same problem....

Re:I could be sarcastic (4, Funny)

cbiltcliffe (186293) | more than 5 years ago | (#26693221)

WTF?
I'm logged in, "Post Anonymously" is not checked, and my hilariously funny comment gets attributed to Anonymous Coward.

That's the second time that's happened to me.

ARRRRGGGH!!

Re:I could be sarcastic (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26693543)

Nonsense; I posted that comment.

Re:I could be sarcastic (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26693795)

Well done sir. Wait why am I congratulating myself? How pretentious of us.

Re:I could be sarcastic (3, Insightful)

stewbacca (1033764) | more than 5 years ago | (#26693607)

The process you are seeking is making parents accountable and making sure their children actually go to school.

Re:I could be sarcastic (2, Insightful)

Metasquares (555685) | more than 5 years ago | (#26693703)

Sort of. The problem is that there is no one process that will work well for everyone (that would be the holy grail of education), but if you can:

a. Devise a process that works for a certain type of learner.
b. Enroll only the people whom that process will actually benefit.

Then you can accelerate learning. Doing so is quite a challenge, however, and is nigh impossible in a public school system that mixes the entire population into one classroom and proposes a uniform style of instruction for everyone.

Re:I could be sarcastic (3, Insightful)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#26693229)

Having worked with a small non-profit in this regard, I agree with you. Education can't be fixed with broad brush strokes -- it can only be fixed at the local level, one community at a time and one school at a time. It starts with analyzing the education requirements in the community. Throwing money at a problem doesn't fix anything: You have to have a real, sustainable plan that's customized to the community's needs.

The biggest part of the problem isn't money, it's people. It's finding and attracting the kinds of talented and committed people it takes to build or improve a school to world-class levels. As it stands now, you have too many administrators and teachers wayyy too worried about not 'rocking the boat.'

Education improvement starts and ends at the community level. Once people see that, and not merely pay lip service to it, then we can begin to improve things.

Re:I could be sarcastic (4, Funny)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 5 years ago | (#26693625)

Are you trying to say that setting school curriculum and teaching goals is not best done at the federal level? You are unpatriotic and anti-American. I'd call you more words too, if they had taught us more words at school. People like you shouldn't even be here. There is no room here for original thinking, or people who are taking responsibility for themselves. You need to get with the program or GTFO! It's people like you who abuse the gift of federally mandated high fructose corn syrup snacks for our children. If you don't stop spreading your filth and down-right sacrilege, our children (god's gift to us) will end up being free thinking hippie types who don't support our troops.

Re:I could be sarcastic (5, Interesting)

arpad1 (458649) | more than 5 years ago | (#26693589)

No, education isn't that big or that complicated.

We've made it big and complicated but the evidence is all around that it needn't be.

There used to be little, red schoolhouses all over the place and their modern descendants, charter schools, are also all over the place. Neither one needed/needs a school district with its inevitable central administration bureaucracy and both had/have to concern themselves with teacher competence since parents can don't have to incur the expense of changing their residence if they're not happy with the school.

Gates almost got it right with his small school idea but the problem isn't the size of the school so much as it is the lack of choices open to parents. A lot of small schools for parents to choose among would mean a lot of schools that live and die by parental satisfaction. Since parents are the only group that can legitimately claim to be interested primarily in getting kids a decent education that makes the concerns of the parents the concerns of the schools.

In a school district the concerns of the parents may, or may not be, of any interest to the professionals because they don't have to care.

Re:I could be sarcastic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26693629)

Gates [...] businessman [...] I am sure they all mean well

+1, cute ?

"especially if you are big enough..." (3, Interesting)

wisebabo (638845) | more than 5 years ago | (#26693645)

You know, even though I am a Microsoft basher I must say that at least Gates is big enough to realize that he was wrong/made a mistake. I'm glad he didn't let ideology blind him to reality unlike the previous administration. Or maybe that was just stupidity.

He is one of the multi-billionaires who is spending a large part of his fortune actually trying to make a (BIG) difference (Carlos Slim are you listening?). (I realize there are some who take a much more cynical view towards his contributions, sorry I don't know enough to judge).

What? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26693099)

What does Sarah Palin have to do with anything? What the fuck is even the point? Protip: The election ended 3 months ago.

Shit like that really makes the site look bad.

Re:What? (1)

cbiltcliffe (186293) | more than 5 years ago | (#26693233)

No it doesn't. It makes theodp look bad.

Anybody who thinks it makes the site look bad is just looking for an excuse to be offended.

Re:What? (3, Interesting)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#26693343)

No it doesn't. It makes theodp look bad.

It doesn't even do that.

Not everyone is a news junkie and not everyone is going to remember who Bill Ayers is, as the last time he was a regular topic of discussion in the proess in October of last year, nearly 4 months ago. Theodp was simply trying to remind the reader of who Bill Ayers and why he was noteworthy in the news.

Re:What? (0, Redundant)

squiggleslash (241428) | more than 5 years ago | (#26693263)

William Ayers is chiefly known by most of the country as being "That guy who Palin said was a terrorist that Obama was palling around with". Describing him as "Sarah Palin boogieman William Ayers" is a fairly efficient way of ensuring that readers knew which person was being talked about.

Who thought it was a good idea... (5, Funny)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 5 years ago | (#26693111)

...to ask a drop out for advice to government on how to spend education dollars?

Re:Who thought it was a good idea... (4, Interesting)

Schiphol (1168667) | more than 5 years ago | (#26693169)

Many people (I venture to say that the majority, in the US) think that business success is a clear sign of overall excellence. A extreme version of this line of thought is Calvin's doctrine that worldly success was a clear sign of being pre-destined for salvation. Mutatis mutandis with Microsoft and being the saviour of higher education.

There is no justification for Calvin's version of this idea, neither is there for most of its contemporary counterparts.

Re:Who thought it was a good idea... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26693215)

Calvin believed nothing of the sort. He believed that the difference between a Christian believer and non-believer was predestined divine intervention, and not the product of human intellect. He wrote a bunch of books. You can read them if you like.

Re:Who thought it was a good idea... (4, Interesting)

canUbeleiveIT (787307) | more than 5 years ago | (#26693325)

Many people (I venture to say that the majority, in the US) think that business success is a clear sign of overall excellence.

It seems to me that business or political success is *usually* more a result of some type animal cunning with a heapin' helpin' of ruthlessness thrown in for good measure.

As for Calvinists, they always seemed to me like the people that Jesus warned us about [biblegateway.com] instead of the ones he advocated becoming.

Re:Who thought it was a good idea... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26693275)

Do check out this article [cracked.com] .

The relevant bits:
"First of all, the college Gates left was Harvard, not the community college that most of the people who cite his story are thinking of leaving. He entered Harvard by scoring 1590 out of 1600 on his SAT--the man was, and still is, a genetically mutated genius."
And "...Gates left college because it didn't provide the training in computer programming that he needed for the software business he was running on the side. It wasn't that Gates couldn't keep up at Harvard; Harvard couldn't keep up with Gates."

Re:Who thought it was a good idea... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26693293)

Harvard drop-outs >> Graduates from almost everywhere else.

What's your deal Tapecutter?

Re:Who thought it was a good idea... (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 5 years ago | (#26693517)

Sorry Bill, it was joke. I'm not the one who marked it as insightfull. Please don't tell Balmer.

I stopped reading... (4, Informative)

Silverhammer (13644) | more than 5 years ago | (#26693131)

...after the following sentence in the first paragraph:

[...] our vision of small schools was closely connected with issues of social justice, equity, and community.

And you wonder why conservatives don't like Ayers?

Re:I stopped reading... (5, Informative)

Notquitecajun (1073646) | more than 5 years ago | (#26693159)

No, we don't like Ayers because he tried to BOMB GOVERNMENT BUILDINGS. Also, he's a communist.

Begging for meta-moderation (2, Insightful)

Foolicious (895952) | more than 5 years ago | (#26693485)

For what it's worth, this is why the moderation, and perhaps meta-moderation system is so annoying.

The post is right (Ayers did bomb buildings) and may be wrong (I don't know about the communism part as of this minute). But it's just not a troll. At least not by any definition of "troll" I may understand.

Re:I stopped reading... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26693557)

No, we don't like Ayers because he tried to BOMB GOVERNMENT BUILDINGS.

This coming from the side that goes on and on and on about their NEED to have loads of weapons around specifically so they can attack the government. Pot, meet kettle.

Re:I stopped reading... (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26693199)

And you wonder why conservatives don't like Ayers?

I hadn't before, but I am wondering now.. what is it about small schools, social justice, equity and community that conservatives dislike?

Re:I stopped reading... (1, Informative)

Dun Malg (230075) | more than 5 years ago | (#26693357)

And you wonder why conservatives don't like Ayers?

I hadn't before, but I am wondering now.. what is it about small schools, social justice, equity and community that conservatives dislike?

Nothing per se, but they object to the politics of the kind of person who would say that. Those are the classic pillars of the 60's progressive, who wants to tax the holy fuck out of the rich and give it back to the exploited masses. It's communism lite. You still find it in academia quite a bit.

Re:I stopped reading... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26693601)

Alright then. We'll just chalk that up as "because conservatives are passive-aggressive" and leave it at that.

Re:I stopped reading... (3, Interesting)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 5 years ago | (#26693409)

what is it about small schools, social justice, equity and community that conservatives dislike?

It's guys like Ayers that use terms like "social justice" to mean "everyone should get the same stuff in life, regardless of what they produce." And he has spent years overtly advocating for the use of schools as idealogical indoctrination centers aimed specifically at cranking out kids who see the world as one big entitlement engine. He's a redistribution-of-wealth guy, not a create-more-wealth guy, and he wants schools to make sure kids see the world the same way. And he thinks that small schools have a better chance of really drilling socialism into kids' heads.

That's what.

Re:I stopped reading... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26693641)

Conservatives tend to believe that people generally get what they deserve and liberals tend to believe that economic outcomes are more capricious.

The truth is that it's some of both. There are idle poor alongside people who could succeed under the right circumstances. There are also rich who have genuinely produced things of value alongside people who are leeches on society.

I hate how debate over economic policy seems to always hinge implicitly on this dichotomy of choosing whether it's better to avoid rewarding the idle subset of the poor or if it's better to avoid punishing the counterproductive subset of the rich. These aims should be balanced against each other rather than assuming that one takes absolute priority over the other.

Re:I stopped reading... (5, Insightful)

GreatBunzinni (642500) | more than 5 years ago | (#26693761)

It's guys like Ayers that use terms like "social justice" to mean "everyone should get the same stuff in life, regardless of what they produce."

For someone who is complaining about indoctrination you sure are demonstrating how well you memorized the main propaganda talking points the US government inflicted upon it's population in the 60s and 70s.

I live in a socialist state where the current governing party is none other than the socialist party. Yet, capitalism is alive and well, people still get different pay checks and still see some people advance in life while others fail to do so well. So where exactly does that "everyone should get the same stuff in life" pops up?

Well, nowhere. The thing is, when socialists talk about the concept of "social justice" they are talking about benefiting from the same starting point without being hindered by some poverty-induced limitations. To put it in other words, "social justice" means that no matter how poor you are, you still get the same chance of advancing as some millionaire offspring.

For example, the access to my country's equivalent to the ivy league schools doesn't depend on your family's wealth, which means that if you are dumb as a door knob and you happen to be the son of a billionaire then you still have to work your ass off in order to be admitted to one of those schools. It also means that if you are terribly smart and talented then you may enrol in those schools, no matter how poor you are. It's raw talent that matters, now raw cash.

That's what social justice means and frankly the US sees too many raw talent going to waste just because the right people happen to be born into a poor family.

And he has spent years overtly advocating for the use of schools as idealogical indoctrination centers aimed specifically at cranking out kids who see the world as one big entitlement engine.

Are you so naive to really believe that the US, including the school system, doesn't try to indoctrinate their population? Oh really? So how come so many people foam from the mouth when faced with anything related to "communism"? Well, pretty much like you have reacted to the word "socialism", although you clearly demonstrated you failed to understand the concept.

Re:I stopped reading... (2, Insightful)

rohan972 (880586) | more than 5 years ago | (#26693661)

And you wonder why conservatives don't like Ayers?

I hadn't before, but I am wondering now.. what is it about small schools, social justice, equity and community that conservatives dislike?

This interview with Bill Ayers [rwor.org] might help you understand. "But he [John Dewey] never resolved a central contradiction in our work, the contradiction between trying to change the school and being embedded in society that has the exact opposite values culturally and politically and socially from the values you're trying to build in a classroom." Ayers openly admits that his purpose for "education" is to pursue a social and political indoctrination system. Since the interview is on "Revolution, Voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA" I'm sure you can connect the dots as to what the intended indoctrination is.

When you consider the place of importance Marx and Engels give to public education as part of their revolution you will see exactly why conservatives don't like government schooling in general and Ayers in particular. If you read his pdf linked in the summary, you will see that one of his main objections to what's going on is what he calls the "ownership society" a.k.a private property rights.

The man wants the government to force me to give him access to my children so he can indoctrinate them with cultural, political and social values I don't agree with. What's the reason I should cooperate again?

Re:I stopped reading... (1)

stewbacca (1033764) | more than 5 years ago | (#26693749)

I'm not a conservative, but placing the curricular focus on "social justice, equity and community", you have to sacrifice other, more important areas that are founded in fact (like science). Who's idea of justice do you teach? Most schools have adequate emphasis on social justice already. Community is pretty lame, since we've been trying to teach diversity for years (I agree with that approach), but now we are tying to ditch diversity for community homogeneity? Trying to shoe-horn a redneck kid into the community norms of an upscale school district goes against the whole purpose of celebrating diversity.

Re:I stopped reading... (1)

Petey_Alchemist (711672) | more than 5 years ago | (#26693201)

Why would that make you stop reading?

Re:I stopped reading... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26693309)

Conservatives are all for social justice and community, must be the equity part that's a problem.

Re:I stopped reading... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26693231)

I wonder why conservatives don't attack education schools. This is seriously the mantra of every education program/class/professor.

Re:I stopped reading... (1)

rohan972 (880586) | more than 5 years ago | (#26693725)

I wonder why conservatives don't attack education schools. This is seriously the mantra of every education program/class/professor.

Many conservatives do object to the left wing propaganda promoted throughout the education system, and even government schooling in general. I also wrote things in this reply [slashdot.org] that I won't bother to repeat now.

Re:I stopped reading... (1, Flamebait)

Dun Malg (230075) | more than 5 years ago | (#26693331)

...after the following sentence in the first paragraph:

[...] our vision of small schools was closely connected with issues of social justice, equity, and community.

And you wonder why conservatives don't like Ayers?

Nobody who's sensible about education likes that kind of shit. Social justice, equity, and community are entirely peripheral to the process of education.... unless you're trying to "educate" kids to be little pinko commie idealists with a flawed view of reality.

Re:I stopped reading... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26693437)

Let me guess, you're one of the people who bitches about Obama being a "radical left socialist communist Marxist" who wants to take all your money and shit in the face of the free market.

Re:I stopped reading... (1)

GreatBunzinni (642500) | more than 5 years ago | (#26693527)

Yes, because forcing a child to pass through an education process that values social injustice, favouritism, bias and that it's ok to just screw the entire community if it fits my personal musing is a great way to found a society.

Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26693579)

You have no idea what your talking about.

Social justice, equity, and community should be goals for running schools, not the primary lessons taught by the school. You disagree? Which of these three should be ignored?

Conservatives don't disagree with these ideals -- they just feel the terminology is abused by liberals.

You seem like a Hannity listener. Maybe Rush or O'Reilly, but my money is on Hannity.

I don't recommend any of them... unless you're trying to "educate" yourself to be a little fascist anti-intellectual ignoramus living in an imaginary land where minorities shut the hell up and Reagan bends you over the table every night (even though nobody there is gay).

Re:I stopped reading... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26693495)

"Conservatives don't like Ayers" because he is a goddamn traitor and terrorist. Anybody who thinks that guy is a "boogeyman" doesn't know a damn thing about his actual history (much less that of his wife Bernadine Dohrn, who's even worse).

Re:I stopped reading... (0)

nycguy (892403) | more than 5 years ago | (#26693597)

Who defines "social justice"? Your concept of justice (e.g., everyone gets treated equally) may be different than mine (e.g., everyone has an equal opportunity to compete).

How do you implement "social justice"? In a society where people believe things are "unequal", equality can only be achieved by force in general. (If you don't believe me, just try paying a lower rate of tax than the IRS says you owe.) In other contexts, this is called "robbery." More generally, though, what gives you the right to impose your "justice" on me? If you want to go have a "completely just" commune somewhere, feel free, but leave me out of it.

"Equity" is such a hang-up for liberals. But again, what is "fair"? Does that mean a "fair share regardless of my contribution" or a "fair chance to earn a share"?

"Community" is bunk. It means being around lazy, stupid people who think too little, spend too much, and expect government to solve their problems, instead of educating themselves and working to improve their lots in life. Hence why our nation is in its current state.

Re:I stopped reading... (1)

stewbacca (1033764) | more than 5 years ago | (#26693685)

[...] our vision of small schools was closely connected with issues of social justice, equity, and community.

That's a terrible foundation for any school curriculum. How about leaving politics out of education and teaching kids what they need to know to compete on a global scale.

Re:I stopped reading... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26693699)

And you wonder why conservatives don't like Ayers?

I think it has more to do with being an active member & supporter of a domestic terrorist group, the Weather Underground.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Ayers [wikipedia.org]

Ofc.. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26693145)

The money was spent by the schools on PCs and Windows Vista? Thats why they didnt improve! Its faster to write the document by hand.

On the other hand (4, Informative)

Petey_Alchemist (711672) | more than 5 years ago | (#26693161)

Schools like Bronx Lab [nyc.gov] , which are primarily funded by the Gates foundation, have been unbelievably successful. The SSI split a massive NYPS apart and chopped the building into sections, including this one, run by Mark Sternberg of Harvard Business.

The first high school class is graduating this year. Their high school graduation rate has gone from less than 10% under the old school to 96% in the new school, with all graduates going to college.

There are a lot of factors here of course. But that's what I'm saying. It's far, far too premature (and simplistic, and utterly reductionist) to say "well, small schools work" and "small schools don't work." Some small schools work well. Some don't. Some are more or less educationally sustainable than others.

But some Gates foundation schools have had dramatic success, and we should keep that in mind before we universally condemn that mode of education. Tagging OP as misleading here.

Re:On the other hand (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#26693271)

Trouble is, if a small number do extremely well and most do little or nothing under the Gates foundation plan, that suggests that the plan is deeply inadequate. All it really tells us is that certain failing schools have the seeds of success and others don't(and not enough do to make depending on them worthwhile).

It is good that Bronx Lab, and its all too rare compatriots, had the chance to succeed; but the trouble is that, since they are so rare, it suggests that we either don't know why they succeeded when others failed, or we can't replicate it.

Well run schools succeed (3, Insightful)

SirGarlon (845873) | more than 5 years ago | (#26693345)

What should be really obvious is that well run schools succeed and poorly run schools fail. What is a bit less obvious is that not every school can be well run in exactly the same way because the needs of the student body, community, and dare I say faculty (yes they have needs too!) differ from one school to another.

Much time, money, and ink has been spent on trying to find the magic bullet that will "reinvent our concept of education." Funny thing is, non-educators are rarely able to make their ideas work by imposing reform from the top down. What that suggests to me is that A) perhaps schools are harder to run than they appear to be, since outside "reformers" are no better at it than "insiders"; B) maybe professional educators are not the problem after all since no one else seems to be able to consistently do their jobs better than they can; and C) centralized mass production of education via curriculum mandates may not be the way to go (since when that approach is applied broadly, it still succeeds only narrowly).

Instead maybe it's time to look at schools one at a time and recognize that properly running a school is a management challenge like any other.

Maybe, just... maybe... (4, Insightful)

Brad_McBad (1423863) | more than 5 years ago | (#26693173)

...you can't fix education by throwing money at it.

Perhaps you have to know what you're doing.

Re:Maybe, just... maybe... (1)

Petey_Alchemist (711672) | more than 5 years ago | (#26693213)

Or, maybe money is a necessary but not sufficient condition for good schools!

Re:Maybe, just... maybe... (2, Interesting)

Brad_McBad (1423863) | more than 5 years ago | (#26693307)

You don't *need* money, you need good teachers. Paying more for a bad ones who can slither their way through interview, know buzzwords and can use a digital whiteboard won't fix it.

I went to a State school in the UK. Half of the kids were rough as anything, and the other half weren't. There were blackboards ('chalkboards' in the colonial parlance) and textbooks.
This is about ten years ago.

Not a rich school.
The teachers were good, so those who wanted to learn ended up going to a University of their choice, and those who couldn't be arsed weren't allowed to disrupt the teaching. If you'd put shiny e-tech and new age / business school teaching methods in there it would have gone horribly, horribly wrong.

That money is required for success in everything is a curious Americanism. India has more programmers and techs than anywhere else, and their schools run on a budget that couldn't run a US schoolbus.

Re:Maybe, just... maybe... (1)

Petey_Alchemist (711672) | more than 5 years ago | (#26693391)

This is ridiculous. If you don't need good money, then I have a great idea for educational reform. Take all the money from the rich, suburban, white flight schools, and redistribute it to the poor inner city and rural schools. After all, if money is totally fungible and unnecessary for a good educational experience, than it shouldn't matter whether one school can afford computer labs and the other can't afford coloring books, right?

Re:Maybe, just... maybe... (1)

Brad_McBad (1423863) | more than 5 years ago | (#26693501)

It's the teachers that make the difference. Go back fifty / sixty years and there's no difference between the technology, since it wasn't there. Technology is more or less irrelevant in schools (Unless you are specifically learning about the technology).

Money would be irrelevant if America wasn't so broken that all the decent teachers can think is "100k a year" instead of teaching some people who could _really_ use their skills.

Re:Maybe, just... maybe... (1)

stewbacca (1033764) | more than 5 years ago | (#26693827)

Tada. You've uncovered the secret of life. Poor kids live in poor houses which generate very low levels of property taxes, so the schools in that district have less money. How is that the "rich, suburban, white flight" schools' fault? We should punish the suburban parents for applying themselves, getting good jobs and buying nice houses in areas that have nice schools so their kids can get a good education? How does that help poor schools? That sounds more like dumbing everything down just to bring a few troubled schools up to average. That's not a trade-off I'm willing to make.

Re:Maybe, just... maybe... (1)

Cornwallis (1188489) | more than 5 years ago | (#26693237)

Think mebbe you could tell that to all the "local" school boards and soccer-mom types who think that is precisely what everyone needs to do? Just once I'd love to tell my local school board "yes, you can have ALL the money you are asking for" because I know they will only come back next eyar and ask for MORE when their revolutionary program-du-jour doesn't meet expectations.

Re:Maybe, just... maybe... (1)

Brad_McBad (1423863) | more than 5 years ago | (#26693353)

Cool. I'll do that. Send me a plane ticket and my 2.4 and I are there...

The solution is simple. Stop the PTA managing the school boards, and just have them as a kind of "Viewers group". It's how it works in most European countries. Stops people who don't know anything about Education fucking it all up...

Of course, I don't actually know how it works in the states, as to whether the PTA has some kind of managerial right.

Re:Maybe, just... maybe... (1)

Cornwallis (1188489) | more than 5 years ago | (#26693519)

PTA is rubber-stamp for the school board/administration. Heaven forbid you try to question anything/anyone! If you do you are troublemaker. At least in every jurisdiction I've lived in the school administration is top-heavy (why does our Superintendent need a private bathroom with shower?) and can sling the doubletalk as fast as any politician.

article should read (2, Insightful)

Aranykai (1053846) | more than 5 years ago | (#26693181)

"William Ayers writes"

This kind of shit just bothers me. You know what? Anyone can claim something will fail and they have a 50/50 chance of being correct. Ok, so the guy is so brilliant, why isn't he the one with the multi-million dollar program trying to improve the school system?

Please, this isnt news...

Re:article should read (5, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#26693359)

You don't have to like the guy; but you could at least read TFA. Ayers wrote in considerably greater detail than "OMG Gates will fail". He laid out his issues with the approach, and his concerns about it. Also, he has been involved, for a fair few years now, with educational improvement programs.

You don't have to approve; but knowing what you are talking about can't hurt.

You are not automatically 50% correct (3, Informative)

wisebabo (638845) | more than 5 years ago | (#26693515)

Boy talk about bad logic. Are you a reporter?

Just because there are two (more?) possible outcomes to a given situation/argument doesn't mean there is a 50% chance each one will come to pass.

Let me guess, you'd say "well evolution could be true or not true so there is a 50% chance that it's not true". Or maybe "global warming will either occur or not occur so there is a 50% chance it will not".

I can guess where you stand on both of those issues.

Re:article should read (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 5 years ago | (#26693551)

Anyone can claim something will fail and they have a 50/50 chance of being correct.

That's a real abuse of statistics. Are you saying that because there are two possibilities (i.e. "fail" or "succeed"), that there's a 50/50 chance of failure? It's like claiming that you have a 50/50 chance of winning the lottery because there are only two possibilities (i.e. "win" or "not win").

Not that I think Ayers is some terrific guy, but he could be a lunatic and still be right.

why isn't he the one with the multi-million dollar program trying to improve the school system?

Because unlike Bill Gates, Ayers's destructive and immoral activities have not made him the richest man on Earth?

Re:article should read (1)

cbiltcliffe (186293) | more than 5 years ago | (#26693617)

Anyone can claim something will fail and they have a 50/50 chance of being correct.

Ok. Let's try this:

The sun will fail sometime today. It's going to go out.

Computers will fail to protect users from themselves, when they go to install Internet Antivirus Pro 2009.

See how that works? Not exactly a 50/50 in either case. Otherwise, I make the first prediction for three days in a row, and it's then virtually guaranteed to be true.
I make the second prediction once, and you'll never, ever see that 50% where it turns out false.

Predictions are not just a shot in the dark. At least, they shouldn't be. If they are, the person doing the predicting shouldn't be in the industry they're in.

Predictions are based on knowledge, experience, and plenty of ancillary information. That's why the real experts (not the people who claim to be experts - see previous paragraph) are correct much more often than not.

Re:article should read (1)

Canazza (1428553) | more than 5 years ago | (#26693723)

I predict that tomorrow, every market will crash and we'll be plunged into an economic Dark Age that will last 500 years...

By your logic, I have a 50 - 50 chance that it'll happen... so If I keep making that prediction day on day, it SHOULD happen by the end of the week atleast!

Re:article should read (0, Troll)

rohan972 (880586) | more than 5 years ago | (#26693797)

Ok, so the guy is so brilliant, why isn't he the one with the multi-million dollar program trying to improve the school system?

He's a communist. Private entrepreneurship is not one of the favored methods of advancing communism. More highly approved by communists would be to influence the government school system so that your agenda is implemented by government force, which is the approach Ayers takes.

Skimming... (5, Insightful)

Notquitecajun (1073646) | more than 5 years ago | (#26693185)

Skimming through the articles, I saw LITTLE mention of just about the only thing that really works in education - parental involvement. We Americans are FAR too convinced that throwing money at education is bound to fix the problem, when we spend more than any other country per student and don't get half as good results.

It's not about wealth, equality, social justice, or any of that. It's about parents who care enough to push their kids to do well in school.

Re:Skimming... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26693323)

I saw LITTLE mention of just about the only thing that really works in education - parental involvement. We Americans are FAR too convinced that throwing money at education is bound to fix the problem...

We just need more time. Keep the money coming!

-- Department of Education

Re:Skimming... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26693355)

when we spend more than any other country per student and don't get half as good results.

USA spending more money than any other country per student? I doubt that.

e.g.:
In The Netherlands, any student can go to any University with government support.
In Finland, studying at the University is free!

Re:Skimming... (1)

squiggleslash (241428) | more than 5 years ago | (#26693415)

I think you've misunderstood what the GP said. The comment was about spending, not about government spending per-se. Yes, University education is funded through taxation in many countries in Europe, but it's also often done much more efficiently or cheaply (take your pick, probably somewhere in the middle) than it is in the US.

Re:Skimming... (3, Insightful)

nine-times (778537) | more than 5 years ago | (#26693441)

That's all well and good, but what, are you going to *make* parents get involved? How are you going to do that?

Not that I disagree. Parental involvement is extremely important, and "throwing money at a problem" usually doesn't do much to solve that problem. On the other hand, I would contend that at least part of the problem is that schools in the US suck. They do, really.

It's not simply the parents' fault or the teachers' fault, but it's a whole culture-wide thing where we have horrendously inconsistent ideas about what "education" is. Is it for job-training, cultural conditioning, feel-goodery, enlightenment, or what? For many people, it's just another arbitrary thing that you have to do.

Hell, I was extremely interested in math and science and even philosophy when I was a teenager, and I was in a school system that was considered one of the best in the country. Still, I almost dropped out because schools-- at least the schools I went to-- position themselves against learning, against curiosity, and against discussion. It was all about authority and power, and someone who was genuinely interested in the topic rather than interested in the grades was a "problem" to them.

Re:Skimming... (2, Insightful)

Wonko the Sane (25252) | more than 5 years ago | (#26693499)

Hell, I was extremely interested in math and science and even philosophy when I was a teenager, and I was in a school system that was considered one of the best in the country. Still, I almost dropped out because schools-- at least the schools I went to-- position themselves against learning, against curiosity, and against discussion. It was all about authority and power, and someone who was genuinely interested in the topic rather than interested in the grades was a "problem" to them.

The modern public school system was designed [johntaylorgatto.com] that way.

Re:Skimming... (1)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 5 years ago | (#26693455)

the only thing that really works in education - parental involvement.

Sure, parental involvement is key. But...

It's not about wealth, equality, social justice, or any of that. It's about parents who care enough to push their kids to do well in school.

Parents who care don't have much opportunity to become involved when equality, social justice, and all of that is lacking. When both parents have to work to pay for housing and food, there's not a lot of time left over to help Johnny with with homework or to volunteer to chaperone field trips.

Re:Skimming... (1)

modestmelody (1220424) | more than 5 years ago | (#26693565)

While parental involvement is huge, it's far from the only thing or even the major thing that improves education. Most studies, in fact, have shown that more than any other difference it is the bad teacher versus the good teacher that has the most effect on the classroom.

The gap between a "good home" and a "bad home" when it comes to education is way, way wider than the gap between successful and failing schools. There's an easy solution to narrowing achievement gaps made obvious by this fact-- keep the kids in school longer. It has shown time and time again to vastly improve performance, and most importantly, and especially at a young age, keeping students in school longer narrows the achievement gap. Our system keeps kids in school for less than 8% of their time each year. We're placing the onus on parents and homes to educate our children and not on the schools. We're creating the environment where parent involvement is necessary for success.

Is that what we want? Will we ever be able to make all homes equal? Of course we can work to improve attitudes at home and to greatly increase parental involvement and investment, but the far easier and more far reaching effect to better education would take parent's attitude more and more out of the equation.

You want to improve grades? (2, Interesting)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 5 years ago | (#26693193)

Take a couple million dollars and set a prize.

$100,000 for the best grades.
$50,000 for the second.
$25,000 for the third position.
$10,000 for ten more students.
etc.

Then, if you discover the grading system is completely flawed and tells more about the test passing skills than the knowledge... Well, you only spent a couple million bucks for a valuable knowledge.

Only on Slashdot... (4, Insightful)

ActusReus (1162583) | more than 5 years ago | (#26693225)

... can a guy intentionally making homemade explosives that killed people, who had a role in major riots, who detonated bombs in public parks, and who never really apologized for any of it get cast as the GOOD GUY against Bill Gates!

Yeah, I voted against GOP last year too, in part because this was 40 years ago and and it was cheap for the Republicans to wait so late to bring it up. However, the fact that Ayers was criticized by some lousy political candidates doesn't that he deserves no criticism. This guy is a symptom of why the Left is a minority philosophy in the U.S., and can't win a Presidency without a major recession or impeachment just before the election.

Re:Only on Slashdot... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26693371)

What? Ayers is a liberal hero. Behind closed doors he is hailed by the Democrats (the LIBERALS) as a hero.

Re:Only on Slashdot... (1)

squiggleslash (241428) | more than 5 years ago | (#26693381)

I didn't read the article as Pro-Ayers, merely reporting that the guy was the author of the study in question.

Also I read a lot of the allegations against Ayers during the election campaign, and the guy was obviously somewhat nutty and disingenuous in terms of how he described what he did, but I specifically have not heard any non-discredited allegation that he "intentionally made homemade explosives that killed people", unless you're misusing the term "intentionally" to just mean "he made explosives" rather than "that killed people". Indeed, I'm not even aware of a bomb he made that actually killed people, though bombs made by his collegues certainly did - Ayers' girlfriend Diana Oughton managed to make one, for instance. Unfortunately for Oughton, the victim of her bomb was herself.

As far as apologies go, Richard Elrod, a victim of the Weather Underground, reports receiving a direct apology from William Ayers.

I don't mean to come off as defending the person, but he's neither the bizarre caricature Palin painted him as, nor the largely innocent, never intended to hurt anyone, Vietnam War opponent he paints himself as. If Ayers was posting some of the crap he's posted about himself here, I would be as critical of it as I am of what you've just posted.

Re:Only on Slashdot... (3, Informative)

Trailer Trash (60756) | more than 5 years ago | (#26693583)

Also I read a lot of the allegations against Ayers during the election campaign, and the guy was obviously somewhat nutty and disingenuous in terms of how he described what he did, but I specifically have not heard any non-discredited allegation that he "intentionally made homemade explosives that killed people", unless you're misusing the term "intentionally" to just mean "he made explosives" rather than "that killed people". Indeed, I'm not even aware of a bomb he made that actually killed people, though bombs made by his collegues certainly did - Ayers' girlfriend Diana Oughton managed to make one, for instance. Unfortunately for Oughton, the victim of her bomb was herself.

Ayers was the leader of the Weather Underground, and as such, he ordered the bomb-making. He did nothing himself, he always had idiots more than willing to do his dirty work. You might be confused because of the fact that he never went to jail, but that's because the FBI decided to break the law in pursuing him and the case against him was dropped. His famous line was "Guilty as hell, free as a bird."

Re:Only on Slashdot... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26693715)

Don't be obtuse bro; Bill Gates has probably causes far more "morts" than this guy through indirect causes because of his vaguely negative influence on the world.

So government is just as stupid as private sector (4, Interesting)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 5 years ago | (#26693255)

You see stuff like this happening all the time in the private sector. Notable guy buys stuff, everyone else jumps in and buys the same thing he does. Notable guy sells stuff or stops funding everyone else does the same.
When will people realize that even Notable people are human, are prone to mistakes just like everyone else. So except for blindly following what they are doing you should more carefully examine what they are doing. If you disagree with it, then don't follow, if you do agree with it then follow.

I am sorry there are no quick fixes in life. There is no Messiah who will make things all nice and easy (Even if you are Christian, Jesus actually made peoples lives more difficult then easier, forced them to think about ethics of religion vs just blindly following the rules). Sometimes people will get lucky and become successful quickly however for the most part hard work and dedication is the way.

To improve education there is no quick fix, small schools large schools, high-tech schools low-tech schools... All these are one detail in a more complex subject. If you say swap all the kids from an over achieving schools with those in an underachieving schools with the same budget you will find the overachieving kids will still overachieve. As they have parents who are more willing to participate in the child's education, they understand the value of education.
There is no quick fix for education you will need changes on all levels. Improved Parental involvement, Classes that help integrate other classes, ability to evaluate teachers and reward them for good performance, A grading system that rewards learning and allows mistakes as part of the learning process , not punishes the students for mistakes, Fair market pay for teachers with their skills (Pay Math and Science teachers as much as Engineers). And I know I am missing a much more.
Just putting money in education doesn't fix the problem, if that was true New York State would have the best education in the world. But how you wisely use the money and and work on changing the culture.

Schools and Technology. (4, Insightful)

lionchild (581331) | more than 5 years ago | (#26693401)

In order for IT to succeed in small schools, there is one thing that is key to keep in mind: Technology, especially IT, is a TOOL for the classroom, it it not a be all and end all for making a class. If you do not have a use for a tool in the classroom, then it only gets in the way.

You can be as forward thinking and as technologically advanced, laptop/netbook in ever child's hands, but if you don't have lessons to teach that make use of that tool, ti's just dead weight.

In order to overcome this issue, you first have to have teachers and instructors in place who have a learning plan, lessons, and other means that will utilize technology, such as smart boards, 'clickers' and other items in their day-to-day lesson plans in transfering knowledge to children. If these teachers aren't trained, aren't educated with how to use these IT-tools in their classrooms, then we are indeed, just throwing away money.

Kids don't want tech, they want drugs, sex, and (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26693449)

hip hop crap. Therein lies the problem. You need rock and roll to progress, not 'gansta' polka-crap. Kids are stupid today, much more so than ever before, because of, yes, Michael 'Peado' Jackson's takeover of MTV which allowed this crap to infest the culture. da hood homies works in Sugarhill but it only makes stupid white youth even more stupid.

sigh (-1, Offtopic)

Trailer Trash (60756) | more than 5 years ago | (#26693561)

So, he's a "boogey man" because Sarah Palin says so, or, because he spent years as a domestic terrorist supposedly protesting the Vietnam War yet doing more bombings after the war was over than during the war?

For those of you who don't get it, the guy killed innocent people. He was incompetent enough to rarely succeed, but he has expressed no remorse for his actions.

Questioning the Efficacy of Educational Testing. (1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#26693591)

I am hardly a fan of teacher's unions but I do have to question the efficacy of educational testing. We seem to have this notion that we can create an institution that can make children want to learn. Learning requires individual initiative and exploration and that is something that I think children are either born with, or not. All too often, success in our present testing regime really means, how well do children follow orders or behave in a group-like fashion. The present practice of various power groups trying to indoctrinate children into their own constituencies is sickening. It's their world that they will be running, and the hangups and prejudices that we have decided in our own political alignments are best left at the classroom door. I would say that if any curricula does not prepare a child to learn how to invent or compose or craft or create, then, that instruction should best be dispensed with. Our country will be far better off if we had useful citizens, more than politically correct ones.

obviously (4, Funny)

speedtux (1307149) | more than 5 years ago | (#26693805)

Obviously, Bill Gates is bringing the same skill and insight to his charitable efforts that made Windows what it is today.

finally (1)

Tom (822) | more than 5 years ago | (#26693815)

Thanks, editors! Finally an article that tells me just why I've always had trouble cheering for the Gates Foundation, in the face of all the good it does.

Because Gates is a trial-and-error visionary. The only reason he's got so high credits among the general population is that his failures are generally forgotten, even though they by far outnumber his brilliant ideas.

When people's lifes depend on that, and education is a vital part of that, it becomes more than a game.

I'm still not sure it's totally bad - we need people who try out stuff. But the amount of money behind the Gates Foundation is way too large for testing. Like windos, sheer size pushes stuff that's barely a beta into the production environment. Another foundation with less money would have had to run smaller, closely monitored test projects, instead of rushing into a full rollout.

admiting failure is awesome (4, Insightful)

ghostlibrary (450718) | more than 5 years ago | (#26693829)

What most impresses me, ignoring all the Ayers stuff, is that Mr. Gates was willing to admit publically that parts of his initiative failed, and retool it. There's a little whining (some schools 'did not take radical steps', etc), but overall it was pretty frank at saying "we need to change some of our approach". I wish more school districts would take that approach, rather than requiring you remove the school board before they'll change off a destined-for-doom plan.

Reason for it being called a failure. (1)

will_die (586523) | more than 5 years ago | (#26693831)

Gate's article does mention that lot of the schools had increased attendance and graduation, but the goal of his project was to get college graduates and that is the basis of him saying it was a failure.
Mr. Gates still has plans to continue funding schools based on the ones the schools that worked, he also is going to expanded based on those that worked. He also plans to spend money on studing teachers who were more effective then the norm and spread those best practices around.
As for the Ayers article, Gates writes that the biggest failures were those places that were not willing to change, that kept the old ways, in other words those that took the money and spent them on doing things as they have always done them. Ayers complaint is that the Chicago project, that got money from Bill, is removing schools, which are failing, from the "public space" and into privitization. So the schools that Ayers is saying are good and should be kept going are the schools that Gates has shown are failing and not producing college graduating students.

Bill Ayers the bogeyman (2)

LittleLebowskiUrbanA (619114) | more than 5 years ago | (#26693843)

Anyone who dedicates a book to Sirhan Sirhan is worth castigating and maybe stringing up in my book. Killing innocent cops and idolizing Sirhan Sirhan should be reprehensible in everybody's views but of course it isn't....

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