Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Gates Foundation focused on teacher education in low-income schools; Gates visits E. Ky. school

Microsoft founder Bill Gates said during a recent speech that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is working toward solving the problem of teachers who are "unprepared, unsupported and ineffective—especially in low-income schools," reports Meredith Kolodner for The Hechinger Report, which is funded in part by the Gates Foundation. The foundation's goal is to prepare 80 percent of high school graduates for college. In the Class of 2015, 59 percent of students who took the ACT were college ready, Caralee Adams reports for Education Week. Numbers are typically lower in rural areas.

Gates said he believes improving the quality of teachers, especially in smaller schools, "could dramatically improve learning and argued that top-quality teachers 'would completely close the income inequity of learning in the entire country' if they were in place for three years nationwide," Kolodner writes. Gates, whose foundation has spent $980 million on improving teacher effectiveness since 1999, singled out Denver, Washington, D.C. and Kentucky as places where focusing on teacher quality was bringing in big results.

The focus on small schools was evident during a recent visit by Bill and Melinda Gates to Betsy Layne High School, a school with about 400 students in Eastern Kentucky. Floyd County Schools Superintendent Dr. Henry Webb told the Floyd County Times, “Basically, the Gates Foundation contacted us about visiting Betsy Layne High School, and that visit occurred (Nov. 5). They called this a 'learning visit,' and their purpose was to see how Floyd County Schools and Betsy Layne High School does what they do for KIDS, from the roll out of the Common Core and other initiatives to every day instruction." The visit was kept confidential until afterward at the request of the Gates Foundation. (Wikipedia map: Floyd County, Kentucky)

The visitors met with faculty and students and "interviewed the Young Professional Forum that consisted of college students and former graduates outside the field of education who left the region to attend college and returned here to work," reports the Times. Webb told the Times, “Betsy Layne High School has made outstanding progress for kids, and that’s what attracted the Gates Foundation to come here for the learning visit. From the Professional Growth and Evaluation System (PGES) to graduation and college and career readiness rates, they asked questions. And simply the answer is that you have the greatest team members doing whatever it takes for the best kids in the nation, and you have Betsy Layne High School.”

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