Bill Gates – excessive accountability at the expense of teaching

5/29/13

Hi Bill and Melinda,

I have some good and bad news for you. The good news is that last Friday was my first day back in the classroom after having to abandon my teaching program on April 11 due to state testing. I’m excited to be finally doing meaningful work.

My second graders are doing an author study on Ezra Jack Keats, a fellow Brooklynite, and this may lead to a study of Cubist art since Keats used collage art in his illustrations. Because my fifth graders just completed a science unit on the human body, my fifth grade co-teacher and I are going to begin a unit on nutrition during the ESL/literacy block. Our students – many of whom feast on giant bags of potato chips washed down with Chubby kids soda that’s sold at the local C-Town supermarket for 5/$1 – will compare organic and processed foods. They will analyze processed food labels, which will then lead to a discussion of food chemicals. One of our vocabulary terms is Yellow 5 Lake.

Now for the bad news. Yesterday I was told that the NYSED (NYS Education Department led by Dr. John King) has required that we justify the ESL (English as a Second Language) program placement for our ELLs (English-language learners) not being serviced in a bilingual program. They are being serviced through freestanding ESL. The spreadsheets contain outdated (2011-2012) data and list students in grades K-5 who are no longer at our school because they either moved away or graduated. For each student listed, I must provide a copy of the parent program selection form, and I must give the state copies of the parent orientation sign-in sheets and orientation agendas. This is due by Friday, which means more lost instruction time as I’ll have to gather and photocopy the documentation -dating as far back as 2008 – during the school day.

When funding your next education project, please keep in mind the negative impact of excessive accountability. I will use my inferencing skills to conclude that a greater importance is placed on monitoring ELL program placements using outdated data than monitoring the actual teaching of ELLs, which is mandated.

Kind regards,

Katie Lapham
NYC teacher
Check out our Facebook page: Teachers’ letters to Bill Gates

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5 thoughts on “Bill Gates – excessive accountability at the expense of teaching

  1. Great letter, Ms. Lapham. I’m impressed at how clearly, succinctly, and humorously you expressed the dilemma(s) facing us American teachers these days under corporate education “reform.” Please don’t give up. You are valuable, and your work is important.

  2. Pingback: Bill Gates – excessive accountability at the expense of teaching | Eslkevin's Blog

  3. I would add this to the letter: Mr. Gates, has testing motivated you to do well in your career? Did it motivate you more than anything else? If not, consider this, too. Has focus on testing been a driving factor in the lives of those who you consider your teachers or mentors?

    If not, why push it so much? I have taught in 12 countries, including the USA, and a hyper-focusedness on testing as the USA has experienced for two decades has been detrimental to teaching and learning. PERIOD. –KAS, a teacher of 28 years

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