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Teachers Invited to the Blue Room

by Susan Ohanian

I know nothing about the classroom expertise of the four teachers President Obama invited for lunch and conversation in the Blue Room "to discuss efforts to ensure that every student is taught by an effective educator" on July 7, 2014, but I've learned a little about their pedagogical alliances.

Four teachers and Arne Duncan were at the table, discussing education policy. I could find no information about LaShawna Coleman other than she's a 13-year veteran Philadelphia teacher. Maybe that's a big plenty. Information on the other three seems to make them Poster Teachers for what the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Obama Administration agenda. No surprise there. This was not a "Guess who's coming to lunch?" event but a gathering of people solidly aligned with The Program

Somewhat odd: There were no guest teachers east of Arkansas or north of Philadelphia.

  • Justin Minkel: 2000 Teach for America recruit; member of the Center for Teaching Quality's Collaboratory; blogs for Education Week. As Arkansas teacher of the year, Minkel has been featured in numerous pro-Common Core events. One was to keynote speaker at Arizona State University Pre-Service Teacher Conference, "Together We Learn: Teaching with the Common Core."

  • Since 2007, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has given Teach for America $12,964,845 for projects such as "catalyzing reform efforts in New Orleans" (Translation: Firing Teachers) to "validating Teach For America's Teaching As Leadership rubric" to "retaining effective teachers" (Translation: Ending tenure). And so on.

  • Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Grants to Center for Teaching Quality
    *2010: $2,577,857 to support the development of a high-functioning well-informed, online community of young teacher leaders

  • *2012: $3,062,093 to support virtual communities of teacher leaders Center for Teaching Quality Common Core Resources

  • Leslie Ross: New Teacher Project award winner

    From 2009 to 2013, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded the New Teacher Project $24,000,280 for items ranging from general operating support to "improving the overall effectiveness of teachers." If this New Teacher Project alliance with Student Achievement Partners doesn't scare the beeswax out of you, check your pulse.

  • Dwight Davis, Teach Plus Teaching Policy Fellow. Played professional basketball overseas, graduated Princeton Theological Seminary. Davis was featured in an Education Week special on Common Core, Common Standards Drive New Reading Approaches.

    Teach Plus has received $9,594,388 from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The first grant was to "create a national network of informed teachers"; the second was for "Turnaround Teachers Teams Initiatives." Translation: the revolving door is being speeded up.

  • As I've reported before, all three of the Teach Plus teacher leadership programs "connect to Common Core implementation." This means Common Core conferences in Boston,Washington, D.C., Indianapolis, Chicago, Memphis, and Los Angeles. More intensive work goes on in places like Chicago, where, if you're willing to give a credit card number, you can get a Common Core Curricululm. Common Core at Chicago Public Schools -- Teach Plus Inc, a pdf file, is free.

    It's nice that four teachers had a lovely lunch in the Blue Room. I just wish the guests had more more representative of teachers across the country.

    Here is a transcript of what President Obama said.

    Reminder: On August 29, 2012 @BillGates Tweeted this:

    @LearnZillion offers 1500+ free, Common Core lessons from top teachers -- great resource to start the school year. http://b-gat.es/TvwbRS

    C'mon, now: How would Bill Gates distinguish a good lesson from stink weed?

    How would Arne Duncan?

    How would President Obama?

    I wouldn't presume to know anything about the teaching quality or depth of understanding of the four teachers honored at the White House. But I know a lot about the projects most of them associate with, and I'm very very very troubled by that.

    — Susan Ohanian




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