High Schools Are 1.0 in a 5.0 World, Gates Says

Xtremehkr

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Original poster
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WASHINGTON — Addressing the nation's governors, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates delivered a scathing critique of U.S. high schools Saturday, calling them obsolete and saying that elected officials should be ashamed of a system that leaves millions of students unprepared for college and for technical jobs.

Gates was speaking as the invited guest of some of the nation's most powerful elected officials, at a National Governors Assn. meeting devoted to improving high school education across the country.

"Training the workforce of tomorrow with today's high schools is like trying to teach kids about today's computers on a 50-year-old mainframe," said Gates, whose $27-billion Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has made education one of its priorities.

"Everyone who understands the importance of education, everyone who believes in equal opportunity, everyone who has been elected to uphold the obligations of public office should be ashamed that we are breaking our promises of a free education for millions of students," added Gates, to strong applause.

Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner, chairman of the nonpartisan association, said high school education was in need of an overhaul to raise standards and to closely align instruction with the requirements of colleges and employers.

"It is imperative that we make reform of the American high school a national priority," Warner, a Democrat, said.

The governors' winter meeting coincides with a push by President Bush to extend elements of his No Child Left Behind initiative from the primary grades to the high school level.

The governors painted a dire picture of the state of public high schools, releasing statistics that, according to the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, showed 68% of ninth-graders graduate from high school on time.

But, measuring a different way, U.S. government statistics show steady increases in high school graduation rates, particularly among whites and African Americans, although less so for Latinos.

For example, the high school graduation rate for adults 25 years or older was at an all-time high of 85% in 2003, as was the 27% share of adults holding at least a bachelor's degree.

Behind the national numbers, there is general agreement that wide disparities exist among high schools and that geography, income, race and ethnicity affect the value of a diploma.

"Only a fraction of our kids are getting the best education," Gates said. "Once we realize that we are keeping low-income and minority kids out of the rigorous courses, there can only be two arguments for keeping it that way: Either we think they can't learn, or we think they're not worth teaching.

"The first argument would be factually wrong. The second would be morally wrong."

Gates said his foundation had contributed about $1 billion to improve the quality of U.S. education and was supporting reforms at more than 1,500 high schools.

His involvement began with a college scholarship program for minority students. But then he and his wife realized many of the students they were sponsoring did not have the academic skills to survive in college.

"The more we looked at the data, the more we came to see that there is more than one barrier to college," Gates said. "There's the barrier of not being able to pay for college, but there's the barrier of not being prepared for college."

Gates called for a new design for American high schools, based on smaller schools with higher standards for math and language proficiency, instruction that is relevant to students' goals in life and better support from teachers and counselors.

He also called for a get-tough approach toward schools that fail.

"When the students don't learn, the school must change," Gates said. "Every state needs a strong intervention strategy to improve struggling schools."

"This needs to include special teams of experts who are given the power and resources to turn things around," he said.
I don't like the guy very much, and this is probably done out of self interest (wanting better employees) but it is about time the quality of education was addressed in this country.

While his operating system takes a dive, at least Bill is paying attention to something that is important to the future of this country. Hopefully the rest of corporate America realises this.
 

the_mole1314

macrumors 6502a
Sep 16, 2003
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Akron, OH
I wouldn't know, since my school district is one of the best in the country (Henrico.) Biggest problem with Bill and those guys is that their solution is to buy their products, even if it dosn't help the kids. Look at this stupid iBook program we have... :rolleyes:
 
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Studawg7

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May 15, 2004
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Cville, VA
one thing that is missing from this entire discussion:

1. parents responsibility when it comes to their kids
2. kids responsibility for themselves.

secondly, let's break it down:

what makes a great school? intriguing faculty and devoted students
what makes a great teacher? exciting, creative people
what makes a great student? a supporting family

finally:
notice that none of those things require technology or technilogical training
 
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superbovine

macrumors 68030
Nov 7, 2003
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Studawg7 said:
one thing that is missing from this entire discussion:

1. parents responsibility when it comes to their kids
2. kids responsibility for themselves.

secondly, let's break it down:

what makes a great school? intriguing faculty and devoted students
what makes a great teacher? exciting, creative people
what makes a great student? a supporting family

finally:
notice that none of those things require technology or technilogical training
I agree with all those facts. However, I think he was speaking to the more technical fields in particularly. Looking at the University system for example Computer Science and Computer Engineering majors are expected to know basic programming concepts when they enter college now. However, 5-6 years ago this wasn't the case. I believe Gates was speaking to the broader picture of computer literacy when you enter college or the work force, but including in that is a micro picture of the needs the University to have some-what computer educated people entering their doors, imho.
 
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uaaerospace

macrumors 6502
Feb 15, 2005
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Alabama
As a recent graduate and member of the 2003 statistics, I have to agree with Bill. (Ahhhh...dang...that was hard.) There are a few major problems I see facing America's public schools (or at least in Tennessee). The first is the students do not care about their education. I graduated valedictorian not because I was brilliant, but because I cared enough about school to do my best. I am not sure exactly where this problem first arises, but I would gamble and point my finger at the parents. I don't think they care about their children's education anymore then the children do. To be fair, everyone is not so indifferent, but it is true for a large percentage of underperforming students. The second major problem pertains to the school system. Today, the focus is on getting the most money regardless of the quality of education provided. I know for a fact that teachers are encouraged if not required to "help failing students" (easy extra credit, a bump in the grade, etc but not real learning) improve their grade so that they can graduate. By creating a skewed facade, the school looks like it’s students are performing well; thus it receives more federal/state aid. The third problem with today’s schools is the teachers do not care about the quality of education their students are receiving. Before you start flaming me, let me make myself clear!!!!! I am in no way suggesting that all or even most teachers are this way. There are, however, some teachers that simply need to be fired and replaced. I am going to use my high school physics teacher as an example. His class was on of those fun classes that everyone wanted to take but one in which the students learned nothing. Instead of learning physics, we did hands-on projects. Yeah, they were physics related, but it would have been nice if we had discussed how our projects worked from a physics standpoint. Most of you are probably not aware, but in 2002-03 the TN state gov't was discussing whether or not to implement a state income tax. This physics teacher drove 3.5 hours, missed school, and protested with signs in front of the capital. He, along with the other 7 teachers who accompanied him, wanted a pay increase. I understand this man has a family to feed, but why should he seek a raise when he does not earn the pay he received before? This is just an example of one teacher that should be fired and replaced with one who actually cares about the students.

What to do about these problems...? I think the best thing is standardized testing. There was no type of standardized testing for physics in high school. Thus, the teacher did not have to really teach the students, but just give them easy tests. On paper, the teacher and students looked great, but in reality the students were not learning. Standardized testing is the only true way to tell if students, both state- and nation-wide, are learning what they are suppose to learn. Without some sort of standardized testing, there is no way to judge one school against another. Graduation rates are meaningless. If one school’s graduation rate is 98%, and another is 90%, nothing can be said about the quality of education of either school with respect to the other. I am sure someone will respond and say "teachers will just teach for the test." I say to them “so be it.” If the test is thorough, then who cares if the teachers teach to the test...at least the students will be exposed to the things deemed important enough to learn. When standardized testing is mentioned, the teachers automatically dismiss the idea. Why? It holds them accountable. If the teachers are teaching what they are supposed to be teaching, why should they fear standardized tests?

Of course, the final learning comes down to the students. If they don't care to learn, then they simply will not. It’s that simple. That's why parents must start early and help their children enjoy school and fully realize its significance.

Sorry for the terribly long post folks. I guess I am just one of those students that cares about my (and others') education. ~Josh :(
 
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angelneo

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Jun 13, 2004
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uaaerospace said:
I am sure someone will respond and say "teachers will just teach for the test." I say to them “so be it.” If the test is thorough, then who cares if the teachers teach to the test...at least the students will be exposed to the things deemed important enough to learn. When standardized testing is mentioned, the teachers automatically dismiss the idea. Why? It holds them accountable. If the teachers are teaching what they are supposed to be teaching, why should they fear standardized tests?
You really have to be careful about this. I think a balance needs to be maintain. The school system I experienced is very result based. The parents, students and teachers have become very exam oriented where teachers/parents neglected to teach their students/kids life skills, everything is buried in a pile of past year papers, tutions and notes. As a result, our generation (my country) has become very stiff, sure we can scores the top place in different international exams but we all lack the creativity or other life skills. It is like a country of robots, many people have expressed concern over this issue. Our education system is trying to break free and to embrace a more open way of teaching rather than putting everything down on a exam paper.
 
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JesseJames

macrumors 6502a
I'm with Bill on this one.
Why of all the developed countries in the world is the public education system of our country such a joke?
Bush's "No Child Left Behind" policy for schools is a joke. Children are being taught for a test. It's all rote learning and in the long run it's going to make for some diffident and feckless students who are turned off by "schooling".
 
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Brother Michael

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Apr 14, 2004
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Say what you will about Gates' personal motives, I for one am happy to see his money going to a good use. I think he and his wife are right, financial aide is not the only thing students need.

Mike
 
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hob

macrumors 68010
Oct 4, 2003
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London, UK
JesseJames said:
Why of all the developed countries...
I think most countries that would describe themselves as "developed" are infact far from it...
But don't worry, the UK education system is heading down the same path... It seems no matter what school you go to in the UK, if it's a state one then you're in trouble.
I went to a school running a scheme called "Technology College". This basically meant they got a fat sum of money for expanding their I.T dept. and their Design Technology dept., and also extra money for each student who took that course.
I remember being screamed at by a teacher towards the end of my time there because I protested that I didn't want to do Design Technology, I was no good at it, and was already studying way too many subjects for my own good. No surprise when I got an E for DT, and not a single A grade. I don't think this was down to my own lazyness, but instead the ridiculous amount of exams I was basically pressed into taking:
  • English (2 papers)
  • Maths (2 papers) + Statistics (1 paper)
  • Science (3 papers)
  • I.T (3 papers)
  • D.T (2 papers)
  • Media Studies (1 paper)
  • Music (2 papers)
  • German (3 papers + 1 oral)
OK, so in the summer of 2002, I took 19 exams...

Oh, sorry to go off topic - go gates... or something.
 
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blackfox

macrumors 65816
Feb 18, 2003
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4,232
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Studawg7 said:
one thing that is missing from this entire discussion:

1. parents responsibility when it comes to their kids
2. kids responsibility for themselves.

secondly, let's break it down:

what makes a great school? intriguing faculty and devoted students
what makes a great teacher? exciting, creative people
what makes a great student? a supporting family

finally:
notice that none of those things require technology or technilogical training
While I don't outright disagree, I believe there are components to consider for a successful learning environment. The first is what you mentioned. The second is that the school is funded to a degree where they are able to provide the necessary resources to there students, these including technology.

When I was in school (HS and below), I had more average or sub-par teachers than excellent ones. The few excellent ones did make a difference, however. Outside of that, however, providing resources for the student allows him/her to excel on their own iniative, if they choose.

In any case, education imo needs to be much better funded across the board, as it's importance to the health of a society is paramount. Increased funding provides money both for better teachers (with better salary offers) and better equipment/resources for both the teacher and student.

Without going into detail about NCLB, any system that bases funding on an arbitrary system divorced from context, and is based on punishment rather than encouragement, is going in the wrong direction me thinks.
 
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Chip NoVaMac

macrumors G3
Dec 25, 2003
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Northern Virginia
superbovine said:
I agree with all those facts. However, I think he was speaking to the more technical fields in particularly. Looking at the University system for example Computer Science and Computer Engineering majors are expected to know basic programming concepts when they enter college now. However, 5-6 years ago this wasn't the case. I believe Gates was speaking to the broader picture of computer literacy when you enter college or the work force, but including in that is a micro picture of the needs the University to have some-what computer educated people entering their doors, imho.
You are right in many ways. But is also an issue that we have lost sight of "community based" schools. And that MS and other companies have created a climate that requires a person to work 50+ hours, despite demands of raising a family. And that because of everyones greed, it now takes two incomes to raise a family.

I speak from experience on the community based schooling. I did substitute teaching for about 6 years. My last year or so was split between four schools. Two forced bussing schools, and the other two were community based schools. Hands down the community based schools had the better GPA and attendance, and parental involvement.

Sorry to bring politics into this worthy thread. But with NCLB, if those that support this endeavor would support decent living wages, allowing for those that choose to have a stay at home parent the opportunity to do so, we would be so much better off IMO.

It has been said that it takes a village to raise a child. i grew up not being able to spit in the street without my parents finding out. Today, I take and see a neighborhood child run out in the street, taking risks they should not be - and if I go to the parent of that child, I am told either to MYOB or that "children will be children".

There was a thread recently on MR about the differences in the expectation levels in education between the US and some other countries (IIRC it was Japan and Germany). It is all well and good to have NCLB, but until you provide the funding to make each school equal both in terms of the quality of the teacher and materials available, then the US faces being an also ran in the future.

We also can not forget the family or the community at the same point. If we allow jobs to be sent overseas, without penalty either in taxes or stock value - then we have no one to blame but ourselves when we loose the "edge" to other countries. For charity begins at home. And since so many on the "right" want to "thump" their "christian rhetoric" on so many issues facing our nation - remember that you can not remove the splinter from your neighbors eye, if there is a log in yours.
 
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Chip NoVaMac

macrumors G3
Dec 25, 2003
8,894
31
Northern Virginia
uaaerospace said:
As a recent graduate and member of the 2003 statistics, I have to agree with Bill. (Ahhhh...dang...that was hard.) There are a few major problems I see facing America's public schools (or at least in Tennessee). The first is the students do not care about their education. I graduated valedictorian not because I was brilliant, but because I cared enough about school to do my best. I am not sure exactly where this problem first arises, but I would gamble and point my finger at the parents. I don't think they care about their children's education anymore then the children do.
Some very good points. In previous posts in this thread and others, I painted the picture as I see in the DC area. In the DC area we have a better opportunity for a "quality" education than in many less "urbanized" states or areas. We tend to forget states like TN or WV, or similar states with what I call the "working poor".

I think you are right that it is the parents. But they can't be blamed alone. For when I was growing up in the DC area, it was easier for single parent to pay the bills, while the other "took" care of the home. My Mom did not seek a job because we needed as a family, but she needed as an individual. And never did that interfere with her or my Dad's involvement with my sisters or my schooling. To be fair my Mom bore the brunt, but only because of my Dad's law enforcement job and the hours required.

Today, we have to have both parents working. Whether it is to provide a basic standard of living, or to keep up with the Jones's. Here in the DC area we have rents that average $1200 for a two bedroom unit in "ok" neighborhoods to which to raise a child in. Those with less, settle for less. But to live the "American" dream, it costs more. The average home is now approaching $300k for the least amount, $500K for a "better" home and community.

Even at $300K, that means about $70K to $100K, depending on ones expectation level for "quality" of life for a family of four. For those from the DC area, just how many jobs are there paying that sort of salary? Someone has to take your money for groceries. Someone has to sell your your iPod or Mac mini.

And for states like TN or WV, it can be even worse as jobs get shipped overseas. And companies are allowed to locate themselves in countries that have no corporate taxes.

It is all well and good to cry about the state of education in the US. It is well and good, and looks good on paper that we "standardize" testing. But till we give families hope of a better life, then there is little hope that a vast majority of children will want better of themselves. For you are the exception of the rule. You; despite what ever obstacles, were able to succeed. And we here of such successes in the movies and media, and they make us feel good. But not everyone has that same opportunity. For other factors are involved. Some are able to be overcome by some. Others for what ever reason can't or won't. For those that can't; we need to address them with what ever resources we have. For those that won't we need to address them too, so that their children might not fall into the same downward spiral.
 
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ejb190

macrumors 65816
It's getting late - I'll keep this short:

1) Ironic that the schools that need federal/state money the most can't get it because their scores on tests aren't high enough...
2) A local school corportation placed all of their special needs children in one school to make the most effective use of trained teachers and staff. Since that school didn't make minimum scores on the state standardized test, the school is moving those kids back into all the schools so they don't loose state funds. And how is this cost effective? (In otherwords, let the educators do what they were trained to do -- TEACH!)
3) We seem to have this notion that every student needs to go to college. We can't keep catering schools to the needs of those who will go to college at the expense of those who don't. When schools have to choose between a computer lab and an industral arts class, who do you think is going to win?
4) Kids in junior high are now required to cover topics that I didn't see until a couple years into college (I graduated from HS in 1992). What is being dropped in favor of some of these high tech topics?
 
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superbovine

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Nov 7, 2003
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ejb190 said:
It's getting late - I'll keep this short:

1) Ironic that the schools that need federal/state money the most can't get it because their scores on tests aren't high enough...
DC area has the highest dollar per student ratio in the country and they still suck.
 
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Fukui

macrumors 68000
Jul 19, 2002
1,617
6
It seems the problem of education is two fold:

Cultural: we are more interested in finding ways to make money, and don't respect education as much as some...

System: american education, among many other systems has become a beaurocratic mess...

Just my feeling....
 
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the_mole1314

macrumors 6502a
Sep 16, 2003
774
0
Akron, OH
Fukui said:
It seems the problem of education is two fold:

Cultural: we are more interested in finding ways to make money, and don't respect education as much as some...

System: american education, among many other systems has become a beaurocratic mess...

Just my feeling....
Not that we want to make more money than learn, we want to do frivilous things such as be a pro basketball player, or work in movies that we practice or act more than studying! You have a greater chance of winning the lottery than ever making a dime in sports, yet there are shortages of scientists and engineers in the world. Do you think we need another ***** sports medicine graduate?
 
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ziwi

macrumors 65816
Jan 6, 2004
1,087
0
Right back where I started...
Is this because theay all use windoze or that the typical hacker that haunts M$ft is not from the US ;)

I do agree that the schools here leave alot to be desired - but who is Gates to speak out on it - is he thinking of a future in politics or something...hmmm
 
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When I look back at high-school, I realize I didn't need 90% of what was taught me there in terms of living a good life. You end up getting taught and tested on things that should either be hobbies or fields of interest, but are not valuable in the least for life as an adult or a worker. One could argue that a varied education makes for a more interesting individual and I'd agree, but testing on things does not make them interesting.

What most people lack and yet need very much when leaving high-school is a good knowledge of money-management and basic financial planning. They need better people skills, the types of behaviors one would learn in the old fashioned "finishing schools". They need a better understanding of how nutrition and exercise effect their bodies, not stuff like knowing what spleen looks like and what the gal-bladder does.

I don't really understand why we spend so much time and money preparing children for worlds they'll never be a part of outside of school. Ask any 35 year old what they remember about Chaucer's Canterbury Tales or logorhythms. The number of people who've made it through school and think they can live on Coke and chips while spending their money on sneakers and fake nails and treating people with disrespect in the most inarticulate fashion is ASTOUNDING.

I think Bill means well...
 
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I hate Standardized testing!!

My daughter is in the Spanish immersion program at her charter school. Since kindergarten, her classes have been taught completely in Spanish. At that age, the kids pick it up in ways that are impossible for anyone reading this forum. Now in 3rd grade, they're introducing more English, but the kids are understandably behind in this one area. To me, the benefits of learning a 2nd language far outweigh a few years lag time in getting their native language up to par with their non-immersion peers. Unfortunately, English is part of the standardized testing, so a break from their regular curriculum is taken in order to prepare for these tests which play a part in the school's funding. Overall, because of this program, the school scores lower on standardized tests, and yet in my daughter's class, 75% of the students qualify as "gifted".

School for schools sake...
 
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