An open letter to Bill Gates from an overwhelmed teacher

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May 25, 2013

Dear Mr. Gates,

I recently watched an interview you did with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer (12/9/08) in which you said, “We need to make more investments, and I do think the teachers will come along, because, after all, they’re there because they believe in helping the students as well.” Indeed, that is why I became a teacher. However, I believe in helping students through meaningful instruction and connections, not through excessive test prep and standardized testing, and data collection and analysis for accountability purposes.

In the 2012-2013 school year, I spent 40 school days away from my students in order to help with state testing: LAB-R, Common Core ELA, Common Core Math and the NYSESLAT. As an out-of-classroom ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher, I am pulled from my mandated program to prepare and organize testing materials and to proctor exams. Together with a colleague, I am also responsible for administering the lengthy NYSESLAT (NYS English as a Second Language test in speaking, listening, reading and writing) to our 156 English-language learners (ELLs).

One of my professional goals for 2013-2014 is to maximize my teaching time. With this in mind, and because you believe in helping students, I am appealing to you for help in the coming school year. Investing your time at my public elementary school in Brooklyn, New York would require more effort than writing a check, but it would be more valuable to me as a teacher. Your assistance would allow me to spend a greater number of days in the classroom doing what I love: teaching kids. Here’s what you can do:

1.) Because of your background in computer science, you can investigate why the NYC Department of Education’s SESIS, SEC and CAP accountability systems do not match in recognizing that a student with disabilities is receiving her mandated ESL services. I’ve been instructed that documents must be checked for consistency and continuity, but I don’t know how to do this. Do you?

2.) Photocopies (two of each) need to be made of ELL program parent choice forms. One copy goes into the student’s record folder and the other is filed at school. Sometimes our photocopy machine breaks down so this task can take a long time to complete. Please also go into the ELPC screen in ATS to indicate program parent choice for each ELL in our building. While you are on ATS, go to the BNDC and BEPG screens to input the mandated number of minutes of ESL services that each ELL is receiving (in theory): 180 minutes/week for advanced ELLs and 360 minutes/week for intermediate and beginners. Use teacher file numbers to indicate which ESL instructor or bilingual teacher is providing the service.

3.) Meetings need to be set up with parents to discuss important issues such as poor attendance and intervention strategies for struggling students. Do you speak Spanish? That would help a lot.

4.) Preparing and organizing state testing materials is a mammoth undertaking and takes days to complete. Tasks include, but are not limited to:

*Counting and re-counting testing grids and testing booklets; check against class lists
• Bubbling testing grids to indicate any test accommodations and to provide biographical information
• Double-checking testing grids to ensure that all information is bubbled
• Counting rulers and protractors for students in grades 3-5
• Creating student labels and affixing them to test booklets
• Transferring (bubbling) student answers from grades K-2 test booklets to answer grids (for the NYSESLAT listening, reading and writing tests)
• Transferring (bubbling) scores from the NYSESLAT speaking test (grades K-5) to answer grids
• You can’t help me score the NYSESLAT writing test because you aren’t a licensed teacher, however you can help me by organizing testing booklets to ship back to the assessment company.

o Separate scoring materials into stacks by modality: speaking and writing.
o Separate the remaining test administration materials into two stacks, DFAs and test booklets, and then each of those stacks by modality: speaking, listening, reading and writing.
o Within each modality, organize the materials in the stacks by grade bands: K, 1-2, 3-4, 5-6.
o Complete the return summary sheet by verifying that the quantities in the return shipment are in agreement with those originally shipped on the packing lists.
o Pack all materials in the boxes in which they were shipped to the school.

Thank you in advance for your consideration. If you are interested in volunteering at my school next year, please contact me at the email address listed below. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Kind regards,
Katie Lapham (katielapham1@gmail.com)

Cc: Dr. John B. King Jr., NYS Education Commissioner
Cc: Dennis Walcott, Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education

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62 thoughts on “An open letter to Bill Gates from an overwhelmed teacher

  1. You go!!!!! Anyone want to wager what his response might be? I would like to add… Please come to my sped. preschool, Mr. Gates, in Colorado Springs. I know you endorse funding for all preschoolers… You can help me with my 32 special needs or at-risk preschoolers who need IEP data and GOLD data collected and inputed – aproximately 200-300 pieces of data for each kid please… to be done while you are trying to teach multiple curricula and changing diapers – oh, and don’t forget the main element of our program – playing on the floor :) We would love to see you!!!

    • Yes, and come to my schools (I have 6 of them), 50 students. For each one I need IEPs and monitoring forms for each quarter. All material copied, with no copy paper provided. No time allotted. And then you can help me with my curriculum grades 2-12. All of this done with almost no vision and no staff support. But you’ll love my kids. Looking forward to hearing from you.

  2. You failed to mention to help the kids deal with whatever horrible thing their parent/brother/sister/neighbor did to them or their sister. Then help to make sure that all the hungry kids get food. Provide pencils and paper for all of the students. Do your lesson plans. Then go home and be a parent to your own kids….do school work on your own time and buy the above mentioned school supplies out of your own pocket because your school district has no money. And do it all without having a raise in 6 years…

  3. From another teacher, thank you, thank you, thank you!

    We lost 4 instructional days just to the assessment of our instruction. Interestingly enough, we will lose more instructional days due to training than hours we will actually be assessed.

  4. Don’t forget calming/counseling/focusing: the student who threatens and scares their peers regularly, the girl who gets told she needs to lose weight and gets shipped to “no good mom’s” only when dad is trying to score a prettier girlfriend, the one who lives in the trailer park that is the receiving ground for recently released sex-offenders…is there a new Windows version that addresses these software vulnerabilities?

  5. I agree with everything Ms. Lapham said except for one thing: Have Bill Gates find a way to get rid of the acronyms! With every new set of “letters,” I barely understood what she was talking about and I’ve taught in Chicago Public Schools for 13 years and in Las Vegas, Nevada as well. Every time a former principal started talking in acronyms I would respond when he asked faculty if there was anything to add, I said, “M-O-U-S-E” because it was all gobbledygook to me. Let’s go back to teaching early civilizations in world history and literature and not base the “history” of the world on four contemporary novels. It does nothing to demonstrate to students that we didn’t suddenly recreate the wheel in the 21st century. Curriculum (and don’t get me started on the Core Curriculum madness!) should be jam packed with the things students need to gain momentum in their learning so that by the time they’re ready for college–if they choose to go–so their college teachers don’t have to review basic grammar and punctuation, and how to write a complete sentence. Most teachers understand, like Ms. Lapham, that being with our students is what teachers want; we don’t want our time taxed with unnecessary tests, meetings, and mandatory in-services that do nothing to help us help our children get the most from the education we don’t have the time to give them. Enough is enough. I agree with everything Ms. Lapham said except for one thing: Have Bill Gates find a way to get rid of the acronyms! With every new set of “letters,” I barely understood what she was talking about and I’ve taught in Chicago Public Schools for 13 years and in Las Vegas, Nevada as well. Every time a former principal started talking in acronyms I would respond when he asked faculty if there was anything to add, I said, “M-O-U-S-E” because it was all gobbledygook to me. Let’s go back to teaching early civilizations in world history and literature and not base the “history” of the world on four contemporary novels. It does nothing to demonstrate to students that we didn’t suddenly recreate the wheel in the 21st century. Curriculum (and don’t get me started on the Core Curriculum madness!) should be jam packed with the things students need to gain momentum in their learning so that by the time they’re ready for college–if they choose to go–so their college teachers don’t have to review basic grammar and punctuation, and how to write a complete sentence. Most teachers understand, like Ms. Lapham, that being with our students is what teachers want; we don’t want our time taxed with unnecessary tests, meetings, and mandatory in-services that do nothing to help us help our children get the most from the education we don’t have the time to give them. Enough is enough.

    • I call it the alphabet soup of education. I moved to California to teach several years ago and I am still trying to figure out what all this crap means.

      • I still feel that pain. I retired from high school teaching and went to jr. college, which is a lot like high school teaching as I have to teach them the stuff they should’ve learned in high school. But I digress. One of my colleagues mentioned SLOs and I said, “English. Please.” Student learning outcomes. Couldn’t he have just said that?

      • Slo s are the bane of education. While everything we do for the students is supposed to be researched based, when it comes to student learning outcomes which affect our evaluations we are suppose to guess how much a student will improve on a state test which means absolutely nothing to them. And if they don’t like school or their teachers they will purposely fail it. All of these education reforms assume a student wants an education what about students who don’t want an education?

      • When I began teaching, we had objectives. They started with: The student will. Sometimes the students met our objectives and sometimes they didn’t. But I also remember when if the students didn’t meet the objectives and failed–God forbid–they were the ones on the carpet. After all, I passed all my classes, I would tell them. Parents were more willing, although not all, to cuff their kids on the ears and tell them to shape up. That lasted about ten years and then, in some instances, narcissistic parents, who had narcissistic children, thought it was the teacher’s fault. Usually the aforementioned narcissistic kid failed all of his classes, not just mine. Take that, mommy. The profession has changed so much since I began, it’s almost unrecognizable. I, too, started late, at 38, but that was in the 20th century. The teaching climate has dramatically changed so that the teacher is the scapegoat for all that goes wrong in the classroom. Oh that we were all that omnipotent!

  6. The Friday before Monday morning TCAPS (Tennessee), two of my students had mothers that had gone to jail the previous night. The students cried all day Friday and Monday, and was visibly upset the remainder of the week. They both scored “below basic” on all 4 sections of their TCAP test.

  7. I suspect the prolific use of acronyms was deliberate. I’d also like to add to his “to do” list… pay for dental care for the little boy in my class who can’t afford to go to his dentist until the “insurance” says he can… for the last month, he rarely makes it through a full-day without his Tylenol wearing off and so he starts to cry. Kind of hard to educate a child who’s in chronic, severe pain. Not to mention the effect the chronic wailing has on the classroom atmosphere… kinda hard to concentrate… poor little guy.

  8. Ha. I probably shouldn’t have written this: http://cafecasey.com/2013/04/11/teach-like-a-soviet/ and I wrote another one about the acronyms… and a few more about testing…

    It’s a tough time in teaching. This is not my first career–I came for the mission, took half the salary and doubled my loans. Not the best equation if you’re looking at ROI. I’m at my wits end with overuse of testing (especially since we have the technology to do micro-assessments constantly–probably could wire this into a Yankee hat). Also, the teacher eval tool here makes me feel like I’m a front-line fast food worker being babysat. I used to spend millions of dollars at my first job, and teaching isn’t all I do now..I don’t need to be babysat… Working to help get us all over this hump, I hope. Until then, I refuse to allow the system to control my emotions anymore… I am a positive person. I do think of those Soviets (in link) though. Maybe we’ll all survive and someone will get smarter in the process?

  9. I love it! Very well said! Maybe Bill Gates can help with the heightened behavior issues that arise during the testing season. Or he can make sure everyone has been fed.

  10. Hi all, if you are on Facebook please link to a new group I created. Search for Teachers’ letters to Bill Gates. He needs to hear teachers’ experiences and perspectives so that he can better grasp what he is funding. That is, if he’s willing to. I have really appreciated reading your stories and they need to be shared with a wider audience. If you wish to post anonymously, please private message me at: katielapham1@gmail.com. I will re-post as anonymous to protect your identity.
    If we collect enough anecdotes, perhaps we can send him a book.
    Thanks, Katie

  11. Thank you for keeping it real and breaking down the time consuming tasks which are required of us and which keep us away from our students. I am a special education teacher who is also often pulled from servicing my students in order to complete monotonous housekeeping tasks such as those you mentioned. I’d love to see Mr. Gates try and juggle all we do.

  12. There has been minimal teaching in my classroom this month due to the state mandated literacy and math tests. For the past 2 1/2 weeks, my thoughts have NOT been, “What will I teach the children today?”, but rather, “Which assessments will I give today?” and “How can I keep the rest of the class BUSY, so I can give these never ending assessments?”. The REALLY terrible part is that I teach KINDERGARTEN!

    • This is exactly what I have been saying!! I, too, am a kindergarten teacher and we test each child one-on-one every 9 weeks. Not just reading skills (usually 5 different ones, including letters, sounds, sight words, phonics, phonemic awareness, blending/segmenting, and oral reading), but at least 5 performance assessments in math, writing, social studies and science. Figure it out, 20 students, all this testing, basically all day long…it easily takes 2 1/2 weeks. That is over 10 weeks of testing! Unfortunately and sadly, it’s 10 weeks of lost teaching time.

      • I thank God daily I am no longer in the classroom. I couldn’t stand it. What I do today is write, edit, and publish books. Lots of pressure, but I also set my pace and schedule. A perk of getting old and retired.

  13. You should also send a copy to your school board, state representatives, senator, governor, Arne Duncan at US Department of Education and President Obama!

  14. Wow – thank you so much for this! And a Big Thanks to you and to all who commented, who are also in the teaching profession. My hat is off to you all for hanging in there. I’m so glad this debate is flourishing and gaining traction in the parent communities. Here in Portland, OR, many families are opting out of the tests. Those who already have are coaching others in the process of how to opt out. As awareness grows, more and more of us parents have your back. Exposure of these unworkable conditions along with the unraveling of one testing scandal after the other will change the tide in your favor – I mean, how can it not? Thanks again for an excellent post!

    • Thank you for your support – here in Michigan, we are struggling with all these issues as well…. the house just passed last week legislation that will link our pay to our students performance on standardized tests. What about the student I had whose parents were in jail, or the one who didn’t have breakfast or the one who was visibly upset by something that went on at home that morning….. I could go on and on. The business people in our government who have never set foot in a classroom to teach have NO business telling me how to best meet my students needs! Why don’t we base our governments salary on how we think they are doing??!! It’s going to get bad before it get better – our unions need to be the back bone, and we are loosing them too…… sigh…. I just want to teach and do what I love.

  15. Our county decided to use a multi-million dollar grant from Mr. Gates to finance teacher evaluations. The amount of money could have most likely provided most, if not all students in the county with a laptop or tablet and updated software. Instead, former teachers are hired as ” peer evaluators”. Teachers are subjected to numerous evaluations during the year that only serve to increase stress and demoralize the teacher. Gifted individuals are leaving the job in droves because they cannot take the stress of the evaluation process. Veteran teachers are labeled as “developing” or “progressing”. Will hopefully be able to post this anonymously for fear of reprisals.

  16. I will pray that Mr. Gates actually reads some of these responses and somehow realizes how much harm and disruption his “donations” have created in the USA’s public schools. The bogus statistics, the phony evaluation schemes, and the inaccurate testing programs are sucking all the creativity and spontaneity from classrooms and demoralizing real teachers. Mr Gates, when you sit and discuss “what’s wrong” with public schools and there IS NOT ONE real teacher in the group and the entire “panel” are corporate types who have never seen the inside of a real classroom or actually talked with a “real” kid outside of a two photo op, you are doing a great disservice, not just to the profession, but to all the teachers and students that have to deal with these ridiculous fads and phony schemes. I appreciate your willingness to share your fortune with those of us who are “less fortunate,” but please, please, if you can’t direct your funding to areas that will have a positive effect on education, then you should should stick with other charitable projects, like your anti-malaria campaign in Africa, and direct your attention there.

  17. Yes, yes, yes! She is right. I am retiring after 43 years as a teacher and administrator. I have enjoyed my time in public education and will continue to enjoy it for the next 10 days. I say ten days because I am retiring. In the last three years, or so, will have been flooded with our planning time being used to teach us how to teach and how to test. In fact we cannot give our own exams to our students. For example, if I teach math then another teacher, say an English teacher must give the exam. Must even have a proctor in the room when giving the exam. Apparently when I was getting an education in the public schools the teachers were doing everything wrong.

  18. Let’s add finding resources to teach the required curriculum because the resources we have do not cover the required standards. I would love for a visit so he can help with my 4 mentally ill students this year that constantly draw others off task due to outbursts, temper tantrums, inappropriate behaviors etc. that force me to clear my room of any learning whatsoever until said child is removed…….. Usually by the police in handcuffs only to return the next day!

  19. I think he might be a bit overwhelmed and, perhaps, tired after all of the work that has been laid out for him here. If he needs a break, he can come to our school district in Springfield and deliver pizza to all of the kids who had perfect attendance for the ISATs. The schools throw parties to reward the kids for showing up on the testing days because that is a really important accomplishment in their educational journey, and it gives the teachers some time to do all of that busywork related to the tests (and prevents them from having to do more work coordinating tests for the kids who missed test days and will miss regular instruction in order to make up missed tests).

  20. Plus you have to teach!! I have asked the Governor of Virginia, Attorney General of Virginia & other representatives of our state government to come to my classroom to see the “lemons” as one representative called us. There was no response.

  21. The acronyms kill me. I just attended a staff meeting where we spent the entire 50 minutes learning new acronyms. Is really the best use of a teacher’s time? shouldn’t
    t this time have been spent planning, grading, collecting materials, or just about anything else?!!??!

  22. I suggest you try to get your letter published in a widely-read newspaper. And I’d like to add to Bill Gates’ job, should he accept the assignment: grading 165 essays and term papers. Of course, grading doesn’t mean simply giving tests a mark. That would be too easy. But a real English teacher models sentences, suggests edits, finds the right balance of encouraging and critical things to say. And then does the same with the next round of drafts….

    And about those acronyms. Where I live, in California, teachers are required to pass a 6-hour test FULL of acronyms, hundreds of them. It’s called the CLAD (Cross-cultural acquisition development) test and it is a travesty. Some of the same concepts I was taught decades ago, now go by new names (and acronyms). Have to make jobs for the testers and the people in the state departments!

  23. My principal had sense enough to give me my wings and I taught very differently from all other teachers except for my team teacher doing the same thing. We had a multi-age class of 2nd, 3rd, and 4th graders. I never used a textbook except for the 4th grader’s math, my team teacher taught math to the 2nd and 3rd graders. I had my room filled with books on all kinds of reading levels. I asked the kids what did they want to know. In the end, but having the sky as the limit, I had my failing 4th graders doing positive and negative exponents and understanding the principles behind them. I retired in 1999,. Thank GOD! NCLB is the WORST thing that happened to America’s education system. Throw the damn tests away and have levels of learning not based at all on age. You test in and out and stay until you master that level. Open school at 9 and let the teens sleep an extra hour. Stay open until 4:30 so we can get rid of latch key kids. For my Master’s thesis, I asked this question:”Can a successful person pass a 5th grade reading skills test? Are they necessary in order for one to be a good reader?” I proved that 80% of the adults who were bankers and lawyers, etc could NOT pass a 5th grade reading skills test. One reads by reading, not breaking everything down into microbits. I proved that we are barking up the wrong tree…both with my thesis and in my own experience in the classroom as a teacher.

  24. Excellent letter! It’s a pleasure to hear the truth about teaching today. Before I retired a year ago from the New York City Department of Miss-Education I was a Reading Teacher. I spent more time on testing than even Ms. Lapham. I miss teaching, but not TESTING. Hopefully the new NYC Mayor will reverse the disastrousness policies of the education expert, Bloomberg.

    • What is so amazing, is that all that innovative teaching was done in Meridian, MS. I chose to work in MS for two reasons: 1st, They didn’t have tenure. No “sorry” teachers were protected by the unions. We were evaluated twice a year by our principal and an outside person who did not know us. The principal did the “known” evaluation with the bells and whistles and the dog and pony show. The 2nd one was with the outsider unannounced. They checked for about 50 things.

      If you used incorrect grammar or punctuation, (in your lesson plan book, bulletin boards, or while speaking) it was automatic failure. (They figured, and I agree, if you can’t speak and write correct English, how can you teach it?) You were put on probation, paired with a master teacher, and during the next unannounced evaluation, if you failed again, not only did you lose your job, but you also lost your license to teach in the state of MS. The had education reform in the early 80s and got rid of about 50% of their employed teachers who were not competent to teach.

      2nd they required that teachers score a certain score on the NTE. They were not pulling new teachers from the bottom 3rd of any graduating class. What pulls MS test scores down is the Delta. 90% of the kids are in the bottom quartile. They hire “teachers” to go in that region to teach at twice the salary, but few make it a full year. It’s a very inbred region, and mental retardation is rampant. Yet, their scores are counted like any other school or series of schools.

      We, as teachers in Meridian, were encouraged to do very different things in order to maximize learning. Our philosophy was: If a child is curious, he/she will learn. Our job was to make things interesting enough to fire up their curiosity. Test scores were rising, things were going well then the Federal govt stepped in with that NCLB (crap) and education in MS went back to the same ole, same ole as it has in every state in the union. Fortunately, I retired the year before it was implemented. I would have quit after 3 weeks of it since I had been allowed to be free.

      I loved teaching. I used to dream at night of what I’d do the next day in the classroom. In fact, I got the best compliment any teacher could get: my children kept asking their parents when the Christmas holidays would be over so they could get back to Mrs. Luker’s classroom, which was so much fun.

    • Amen! We teachers, those working and we that are retired, should stand up and fight for our country’s kids. To hell with the unions that don’t give a rat’s ass for the children, only the teachers, and we, the people, the teachers, can make a difference! This ole hippie is ready to organize!

      • Dee, We ARE the union. If you would become active you might influence your union to act on behalf of teachers and students (which most do). Don’t be such a hippie that you forget the people who came before and fought (and died) for working people to join together.

        In this case, as in so many others, teaching working conditions are students’ learning conditions. Get a grip.

      • If teacher unions REALLY cared about teachers and kids, how come we are in the mess we are in? They go to bat for across the board higher wages (raises to incompetent teachers…don’t say they don’t exist, they do. )I taught next to a lady that was the “reading specialist,” a very critical job, and at the end of the school year, she still couldn’t name her 10 students in her class. She’d had brain surgery and was not competent to teach, but had tenure and they couldn’t fire her.

        If teacher unions went before us, where are they now. Why do we have such deplorable conditions in our classrooms? Why all the “junk education” rather than real teaching? If they wielded their weight in getting rid of this crap rather than more committed to a certain political party, then our schools would improve. No, I’m not a Republican. I’m an independent and voted for Jill Stein. I voted for Obama first term, but not the 2nd. HE should have led a crusade to UNDO NCLB. Where are the unions on this disaster? No where to be found. I gave the teacher unions my money faithfully each month for all those years. But the ONE time I needed them, they didn’t go to bat for me. Thankfully, the parent did something worse than what she accused me of doing, and too many people witnessed that so she withdrew her lawsuit.

        I think tenure and unions are wrong. It’s not about US, the teachers. It’s about the children. Those two cancers take care of teachers protecting bad ones at the children’s expense. MS got rid of tenure, and that is why I chose that state. If you are a good teacher, you don’t NEED tenure. If you are a lousy one, then you do. And sadly, the main thrust of today’s teachers’ unions are protecting tenure and across the board wage increases; assuring more and more incompetent teachers will be allowed to stay and waste more children’s lives.

  25. Pingback: Remainders: City teachers recount time and tenure struggles | GothamSchools

  26. Bravo….Couldn’t have said it better myself.
    Maybe while your spending time with your new friend Bill you could ask him why I need to give the NYSESLAT Speaking test to students who are nonverbal, and NYSESLAT Writting to students who can’t write their name? This test is extremely biased against those with intellectual disabilities yet they will remain ELL’s until they can overcome their disabilities and pass the test!

  27. Dear Kate,
    Thank you for your excellent idea to allow Bill Gates to put his money where is mouth is and actually give real assistance to teachers and students. When he is finished at your school, can you send him my way. As the SETSS (Resource Room) Teacher in an elementary school in Brooklyn, I am really tired of wasting so much of my time doing data entry work in SESIS (which is what the encounter attendance procedure actually is) and since he is an expert in technology, I’m sure he could do this time wasting task faster then I can. And can he call the SESIS Help Desk for me to fix the many problems that occur between CAP, SEC, and SESIS, creating compliance nightmares. This multimillion dollar system not only errs with ESL issues but with all special education data.

    Next year perhaps he can help proctor my double time students during practice tests and high stakes ELA and Math testing. He’d get to read the entire Math test and spend many hours with a delightful bunch of children. (Unless we can at least minimize these tests by then!) I missed approximately 25 days of instructing students this year as a result of test prep (when I couldn’t see my mandated students), practice and real testing.

    I’m sure there are other tasks Mr. Gates could help out with. Our computers are quite old and as a result, very slow. Makes everything take even longer. Is there some way he could update them? Or maybe buy us some new ones.

    I remember when I saw Mr. Gates speak at the 2010 AFT Convention in Seattle. He was the quest speaker invited by AFT President, Randi Weingarten. I didn’t understand then and to this day, still can’t understand why someone who has seriously damaged education in this country by imposing his policies of privatization, value-added teacher evaluation and test-based performance metrics would be an invited guest.

    I’d like to thank you for allowing Mr. Gates the opportunity to make a real difference in education in case he does not thank you himself.
    In solidarity.
    Gloria

    • In my humble opinion, home schooling is never a good idea, despite the good intentions of a parent who wants to home school his/her child. At five, though, “home schooling” is a natural part of parenting; however, to formalize it as such means the child, and the parent, must find opportunities for the child to socialize. In addition, how does the parent distinguish him/herself from being the teacher? I’d also ask what qualifies that person to teach?

      • You really have no idea about today’s home schooling. Most are under an umbrella and at least 3 days a week, those in that particular group do something as a group. So, there is socializing. Next, good parents of home schooled children get them into extra-curricular activities like sports or the arts. That helps them to develop their talents, and again, they are socialized. I’ve yet to meet a home schooled child not well above his./ her peers in both public and private schools. One on one attention, or one in three or four if more than one child is being home schooled, beats the heck out of a classroom of 28 with at least 5 of those kids being REAL discipline problems keeping the classroom in an uproar, wasting a lot of teaching time. Even good teachers have discipline problems because many parents refuse to discipline their children. I’ve seen children who were a real challenge to a teacher get pulled from school and even home schooled by a grandparent, learn much more than he ever learned in public school. The old ” they need to be socialized” is just not true today. Most home schooling parents or grandparents realize this. They have to be smart enough to teach the state’s curriculum. At least that is the way it is in Alabama. The curriculum is the same as what is being taught in each grade. Home schoolers may decide to teach Saxon Math rather than McMillian, but a certain standard of expected objectives are covered over the course of a year. They out score most kids on both the ACT and SAT tests.

      • In Illinois home schooling is what you do when you are in trouble with truancy. I have had to teach numerous students who are in 9th or 10th grade who can’t read or do any math because they were “home schooled” until they got “mouthy” then the parents sent them to school.

      • That is awful to hear, Rose. Down here,it is very organized, and many parents choose it. I go to a Unitarian church,, and we are the organization that sponsors the liberal home schoolers. The conservative are sponsored under a Baptist church, for instance. The “churches” get the curriculum and are in charge of testing. (parents cannot test their own children.) Our home schooled children take the Alabama Exit exam at a college campus to be proxied by an educator. It is highly organized, effective, and more and more children are being home schooled because Alabama’s public schools are number 50 in the nation.

      • Where do the churches get the curriculum? Separation of church and state comes to mind as well. It’s one thing to be a private school but churches involved in home schooling crosses a variety of borders. I’m all for private school, if that’s what the parents want for their children and again, I am a product of a Catholic elementary school (it was our neighborhood school) and a Catholic all girls high school (my parents asked my preferences and I chose it over the public school and eagerly helped pay my tuition) but those schools were held to a curriculum and had to meet all the state’s requirements.

      • They get the curriculum from the state. For some reason, and I don’t know why, the state said that in order for a child to be home schooled, they must be a member of a home school association. (not some rogue parent teaching whatever they want.) Churches stepped up to the plate to be the sponsor or umbrella organization that the home schooling community registered with in order to have a place to have the child tested independently of the parent teaching the child. They use ONLY the state curriculum, no mention of God in the curriculum. Now, as a private entity if they wanted to teach astronomy if they had a telescope, they could. (my friend’s dad did that with both of his kids.) But by the same process, if a religious family wanted to teach the Bible to the child as an elective, that was okay too. But it was NOT required. My friend was Buddhist and never brought religion in period. However, he played Cello for the symphony and taught his son violin and his daughter guitar. (hiring someone for this.) There has to be an outside place to administer chapter tests, etc. to keep the grading above board. The Unitarian church accepts all beliefs from Christian to athiest. So, most of those parents do not teach religion except on a world scale. The separation of church and state is real in Alabama (except for that embarrassment to us Roy Moore!)

      • I understand the “umbrella” organization because there could be parents/guardians who might not teach the curriculum, going “rogue” as it might be called. I am all for teaching kids things they want as well as what they need. My only concern is that the students get everything and then some in the home schooling situation. As a public school teacher for 27 years, I know that I proudly did that, filling leaks in the curriculum because my students had not been exposed to or ever heard of whatever that leak was. I also know that teaching is not just knowing your subject area and if you’re teaching younger students, of elementary age, the “teacher” must know every subject. I am an English and writing teacher; I could never teach math, could maybe do science, but I excel in history and English. If I were to home school any of my children, I’d have to call someone else in for the subjects I in which I was not proficient. Again, good luck on all fronts.

  28. Again, a sweeping generalization such as “they out score most kids on both the ACT and SAT tests” still gives me pause as I wonder where those statistics came from. Your comments about socialization prove my point. Those outings are in place of what students would get on a regular basis in school. And yes, there may be some students with discipline problems in school and in the work place or society in general, there are many people with “discipline” problems. The groups home schooled kids attend are homogeneous, not heterogeneous like they would find in a normal classroom. My husband and I were both teachers and we never would have thought about home schooling our kids. Parents have a job and teachers have a job and sometimes those jobs overlap; in other cases, teachers are left holding the bag because the parent doesn’t do his/her job. If you choose to home school your five year old, plan to give him/her about 6 hours of attention daily, and make sure you use a variety of modalities to access every sense your child has, otherwise she/he will be bereft of the very things necessary to succeed in life beyond your classroom. I could go on about how that time should be spent, not tending to duties around the home but I’ll just wish you good luck instead.

  29. The sports and the arts are integrated with people from all walks of life and not just “their kind” (home schooled children.) The test scores are published each year and it breaks down into school districts and home schooled kids. The average ACT score for a home schooled child is 23. (Some ace it with a 36.) We are fortunate to have two state run boarding schools, one for the arts and one for math and science. This is usually where the home schooled children end up for high school. Well, many of them, not a majority of them. To qualify for either, you have to have taken the ACT at age 12 and scored 15 to 20 BEFORE any of the course work. My friend’s daughter, who was home schooled was invited to the Alabama School of Fine Arts and was accepted into the teater program and my daughter was invited to the Alabama School of Math and Science. (We were friends and lived in a small community of 250 people.) The majority of kids in both school do come out of the public schools. This is an IQ thing. 20% of all drop outs are actually gifted kids totally fed up with and bored by public education, private education and being home schooled. They are ready for college. This provides the education of those children. 300 were invited to my daughter’s freshman class and only 33 were chosen. (based on an interview looking for maturity and independence.) Very diverse group of kids attend these schools for gifted children. Money can’t buy your way in or keep them in. They go off the carnige units and go right into college level work. My daughter’s freshman year, she took 21 courses within the school term. Every 3 months, they offered new courses and finished up college books in 3 months. Does your state have a school for artistic and scientific students who are gifted? They are common in the South and yes, many gifted black students go there…Asian, Native Americans, Indians-Hindu, Middle East and European as students from foreign countries to really teach diversity. Students don’t pick their roommates the first year but are paired off with someone totally different by the school. The junior and senior years they choose. My daughter chose her black friend for her junior year and then her pagan white friend for her senior year. This week, she just finished getting her associates degree at ITT. She had a master’s in psychology and worked as a therapist and made NO money. She’s gotten a good paying job through her associate’s degree in networking.

  30. Pingback: What if I Miss Something? | gorgeous little thieves

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