Randi Weingarten, the President of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) has joined forces with the Gates Foundation over teacher evaluation.

The Gates Foundation – an outfit run by Microsoft boss Bill Gates and his family – has billions of dollars at its disposal to influence health policy in many parts of the Global South. It also has a particular interest in education ‘reform’ in the US. Needless to say these efforts are democratically unaccountable, while demanding high levels of accountability from teachers, based on standardised test scores and other forms of evaluation. Such education ‘reform’ is based not on objective research but on the kind of managerialism which has presumably worked in Microsoft. It is also worth noting that the accountability measures, which are central to the reform, necessitate huge amounts of computer software – the very product from which Bill Gates continues to make his billions.

At the moment in the US there is a growing campaign against high stakes testing – spreading from the magnificent campaign in Garfield High  School, Seattle. Yet just at this time Randi Weingarten, AFT President has chosen to publish an sponsored jointly by the Gates Foundation and the AFT: ‘Six steps to effective teacher development and evaluation.’

The article is based on four years of joint working between the AFT and the Gates Foundation. Among other things,  it recommends multiple observations of teachers by trained ‘raters’ and using students’ test scores to evaluate teachers (though not placing ‘inordinate weight’ on them – whatever that means.) Central to the evaluation is alignment to the Common Core Standards – another development which is hotly contested by teachers who – as one student put it – do not want to create ‘standard’ children.

Like the World Bank, Rupert Murdoch, Pearson Education and all the other organisations and their advocates who are making megabucks out of education, the Gates Foundation couches the reform it propagates in the rhetoric of equal opportunity and education for all. It seems to this teacher that the leadership of the AFT needs to consider what effect such reform is having not only on its own members but also on the students who are at the heart of their work and effort.