I am writing in response to statements made by Don Opacic in his Jan. 28 letter “The Gates Money.” What he may not know is that the money the Pittsburgh Public Schools receives from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is used almost exclusively to pay for consultants and programs to promote and implement the controversial Empowering Effective Teachers program in the district. Very little, if any, of these millions of dollars actually flow directly into school budgets, teacher salaries or, most importantly, services and programs for our students.
These dollars have been used to promote an evaluation program that is fundamentally flawed. This is the teacher evaluation program that uses student test scores, as part of a complicated formula that has not been adequately explained and defended, as far as I am concerned, to rate a teacher. It is also the program that uses fuzzy math to calculate the rating of a teacher.
I am a middle school special education teacher in a city school. I work with the students who really struggle with reading every single day, who are unable to read the standardized tests they must take at grade level, students who hate school because of how hard it is for them. My students know how much I care about their struggles and successes. They know that I do whatever it takes to help them succeed. I am “dancing as fast as I can.” I am working fervently to get my students to “dance as fast as they can” as well.
Yet the Gates money is not helping me to push my students forward. It is not providing the technology I could use. It is not giving me an extra pair of hands to help me with the paperwork and the preparation. Instead, it is a source of total frustration, ridiculous demands, unfair benchmarks and systematic devaluation and deconstruction of public schools. How I wish that the Gates money would have assisted me and my colleagues in building better public schools that would never leave any child behind.