Bill Gates Inspires a Class Size Experiment in Kansas City

Via Living in Dialogue blog at EdWeek, a story out of Kansas City that could have ramifications nationwide:

A story broken by Parents Across America, and thus far not even covered by local newspapers, reveals that school administrators in Kansas City, Missouri, are introducing an unprecedented experiment. According to this story, contributed by a Kansas City teacher who has remained anonymous out of fear of retaliation, here is what is under way as the school year begins:

Last week at a school board meeting, Kansas City, MO School District superintendent John Covington told the school board that there is no research that supports reduced class size linked to increased student achievement. During the meeting, Covington cited the views of Bill Gates, who has minimized the importance of class size and suggested that teachers be paid more for teaching larger classes.

Covington went on to say that his staff had identified the “best” teachers in the district and would be giving them additional students. This was less than a week before school was scheduled to begin. The day after this announcement, teachers in the early grades received their class lists. Some first grade teachers were assigned 37 students per class, and some kindergarten teachers had 25-30—compared to other teachers in the same schools, who had twenty students per class. Interestingly, some of these larger classes were staffed with brand new Teach for America recruits. […]

Last year Superintendent Covington introduced what he called a “Right Sizing plan” which closed 40% of the city’s schools and laid off 300 teachers. This was strongly supported by the Chamber of Commerce.

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One Comment on “Bill Gates Inspires a Class Size Experiment in Kansas City”

  1. Guest says:

    What’s most interesting… and this is verifiable… is that Bill Gates sends his own kids to a private school where there is a maximum of a 15 students in a class (i.e. a 15-to-1 teacher-to-students ratio). It’s funny how he isn’t demanding the same class size increases at the school where his own students attend—Kindergarten at 30-to-1, and Grades 1-thru-5 at 37(!)-to-1. If this policy is so gosh darn great that Gates installs Superintendants who then push this for public schools, why doesn’t he push for the same policy at his own kids’ school?

    ANSWER: the TRUE motivation behind all these the toxic “reforms”—value-added analysis, merit pay, destruction of seniority, dismissing the value of low class size, crushing teacher unions, de-professionalization of teaching, etc.—has nothing to do with improving the education of children. It’s about reducing the costs of public education by firing the highest-paid teachers regardless of quality, and in most cases of veteran teachers, in spite of their high quality.

    You need to go back to where it starts. Corporations want to have higher profit-margin so that their price of their stockholders shares will go up. It’s the same with wealthy people who want to pay less taxes to the government, and spend it on themselves.

    Both groups say, “Gee, how can we pay less taxes? Well… let’s see… the biggest line item in the government budget is EDUCATION, and the biggest line item within the education budget is TEACHERS’ SALARIES, and the largest amount of THAT money goes to VETERAN TEACHERS because of the union-negotiated salary scale.

    Well, if we could just be able to fire those veteran teachers “at will”, (or make them as as close to being fired at will as possible), think of how much less taxes we’d pay, how much more profitable our companies would be, how much the price of our stock shares would go up, how much money we wealthy people could spend on ourselves?”

    Keep in mind that the wealthiest folks and those sitting atop those businesses do not send their kids to public schools, so if they gut the funding and thus, trash those schools, it’s no skin off their nose.

    If the public knew that’s what was going on, they would be in an uproar. That’s where well-paid demagogues like Michelle Rhee come in. That’s why you have Bill Gates/Eli Broad/the Walton family buying front people like Michelle, and film makers like Davis Guggenheim to push this evil agenda.

    These front people go around pretending that they’re pushing this because they actually care about improving public education. They tell everyone that that is the reason they’re pushing value-added analysis, merit pay, destruction of seniority, crushing teacher unions, dismissing the value of low class size, the devaluing / elimination of university teacher education, etc.

    Pursuant to that end, they misuse or distort studies like the one being critiqued in this article. Gates & Co. also commission studies from questionable groups—also funded by them— to come up with pre-ordained conclusions that will back up their agenda.

    For example, a Gates-funded educational think tank produced a study which “proved” that teachers peak at 3-5 years, and then starting Years 4-5-6, steadily decline in their teaching quality from that point on, so that by Year 10, these teachers have grown so lazy and complacent they’re now worse than when they were first-year teachers.

    The obvious action plan arising from such a study: fire or “counsel out” all teachers within 5 years, and make the faculty of all schools have 5 years or less experience. It’s not because it’s cheaper, Bill Gates tells us. No, it’s because it’s better for the educational outcomes of students. The fact that it’s cheaper is just a coincidence.

    That’s one of the underlying principles of Teach for Awhile… err… Teach for America.

    Yeah, that’s the solution. Make the profession of teaching more like fast foot workers, or retail workers. In fact, teaching shouldn’t be a profession at all.

    The same goes with pushing to raise class size. After all, the “studies” show that raising the class size will not negatively impact student achievement, so that means we don’ t need to hire (and conveniently, pay) as many teachers as we’ve been doing all this time.

    Gates, Broad, et al tell us we need to de-professionalize teaching altogether. Pursuant to that end, let’s create a bogus group like NCTQ to push for this. NCTQ then comes up with conclusion that all university Departments of Education are worthless in preparing teachers, and all you need is five weeks of training before entering the classroom. I mean, why pay teachers more for attaining Bachelor’s, or Master’s, or state credentials, or passing state boards, when the “studies” show that having/passing these don’t make you a more effective teacher. They just cost taxpayers more for something that’s not really effective to begin with.


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