Watch this until 3:15 first.
Yes, it’s Bill Gates, doing an interview with the Washington Post. Obviously, he has a lot to say, but he makes a few arguments that made me go “Hmmph” loudly. While I’ve voiced my displeasure with his position in education more often than not, I also want to work with the arguments he’s making. For the purposes of this specific arguments, I’ll just focus on his first comparison of student assessment and teacher assessment.
He is correct in stating that students get evaluated all the time, from the first time they enter a classroom all the way through college and beyond. Getting a degree demands having plenty of tests getting thrown at you, high-stakes or otherwise. These tests often determine if you achieve the next level or not, and whether we like them or not. That’s our current education system, so ramping up the amount of tests only perpetuates the status quo. I’m not in the camp that says, “Teachers shouldn’t get evaluated, but students should.” Professionals get evaluations all the time.
I just can’t help but wonder if we actually evaluate students the right way, and if the measure we currently have for student achievement helps determine success in life after college. One should argue that far too many factors come into play when looking on a case-by-case basis.
Bill Gates is often called the exception that proves the rule: he couldn’t care less about graduating from college and he’s had a longstanding seat at making decisions about education from a wealth amassed from not getting any degrees.
Conversely, we’ve seen a growing trend of intellectually capable poor students not get into college and driven college students stay unemployed for longer periods of time due to a stingy and inward-looking job market. Our supposed meritocracy isn’t that fair.
Thus, if student assessment as it currently stands isn’t the only driver for student achievement, then how can teacher assessment modeled after his student argument be trusted as a viable measure for determining student achievement? It’s odd.
*** photo courtesy of: http://www.time.com/time/photogallery/0,29307,1630529,00.html ***