Monthly Archives: June 2014

To Bill and Melinda Gates

floydDear Bill and Melinda Gates,

I read in this Washington Post article that your foundation was able to help Gene Wilhoit and David Coleman establish the Common Core reform that is currently shaping the education landscape.  I expect that you are not insulated from some of the praises and complaints that the reform has brought.

I am hopeful to register two ideas for the improvement of the standards.  

  1. The first idea is a mechanism for feedback, to continuously improve the standards.  There are many flaws, and the rationale for a dialogue in the system is that it will help create improvement rather than revolt.  I teach third grade, where handwriting has been removed, for example, and I know that to be a bad decision for many reasons, one of which is stated here, another of which is stated on my own blog, here.  There are other problems, relics of curriculum inherited by the Common Core from “the way things have been done”, that you yourself have been an advocate of changing, such as learning code in school as part of the curriculum.  This should begin, like everything, at the elementary level, yet the Common Core holds none of that.
  2. The second idea is to increase teacher expertise and investment by having them be authors of tests and curriculum.  Much of the rebellion from the implementation of the Common Core comes from the minimization of the teacher’s role to almost an hourly laborer, a pass through who reads scripts of curriculum created by publishers, to prepare students, assembly line fashion, for the scrutiny of the unseeing test.  Rather than foster teachers as models of independent thinkers and innovators, teachers are systematically being asked to sit down and shut up.  This is creating other issues, not the least of which is the dispassionate distillation of knowledge in a mind numbing, Floydian machinery.  (Actually, a real world incident is here, I just like Pink Floyd’s version, too.)  There are other multiple issues with this, too, which could be eliminated if teachers were making the curriculum and tests, guided by criteria and approved by whatever entity, refined and ranked in collaborative online catchment, such as open source textbooks.  Teachers could then be paid, rather than publishing companies, or at least in conjunction with.

I am selfishly motivated, of course.  I am close to retirement, and live in the poor state of New Mexico.  I have seen excellent co-workers leave because of poorly implemented reform, which they felt powerless to counter.  I hope to leave the profession while it is still a profession, not a stepping stone to something else.  You have the ability to influence the course of this reform.  This could be an incredible tool for the cradle of democracy, or be very destructive for public education, and many people who cannot afford to escape it.

Thank you for your consideration.

Jeff Tuttle

Albuquerque, NM


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