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Bill Gates’ $5 Billion Plan: Let’s Put a Camera in Every Classroom
April 27, 2013 at 11:54 AM

The way public school teachers are evaluated is complicated—and highly controversial among educators.

In fact, two out of three teachers feel that the methods don't accurately capture what they do in their classrooms, according to a January report by the Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) project, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Tying teacher performance to test scores is the main factor that has teachers up in arms. It was one of the main reasons teachers went on strike last year in Chicago and why educators in Seattle boycotted the MAP testearlier this year.



Instead of focusing so much attention on test scores, philanthropist Bill Gates has another idea.

How about spending $5 billion to put a video camera in every classroom in America?

Anya Kamenetz of Fast Company reports that in a TED Talks Educationspecial airing on May 7 on PBS, we can expect to hear more about Gates' plan. Kamenetz writes that Gates "wants the country to spend $5 billion for every teacher in every classroom in every district to be filmed in action so they can be evaluated and, maybe, improve."

The philanthropist has dedicated resources in the last few years to identifying and developing effective teaching. His foundation funded the $45 million MET project designed to determine how to best identify and promote great teaching. They enlisted the help of 3,000 teachers and many experts to determine the best way to do this.

In regards to teacher evaluations, the MET project concluded that a three-step approach is best. This includes: student test scores, classroom observations by multiple reviewers, and teacher evaluations from students.

While we have yet to hear all the details of Gates' plan for filming teachers, his idea is already getting criticism. 

Nancy Flanagan, a former Michigan Teacher of the Year, explains on herEducation Week blog why she feels this is cause for concern.

"You just don't know what you're seeing, until you have a conversation with the teacher and examine the students' work products or listen to their discussions," she wrote.

This isn't the first time installing video cameras as an evaluation tool has come to the table. In 2011, Wyoming lawmakers proposed placing video cameras in classrooms to evaluate performance.

As for the Gates Foundation, this idea has been brewing for quite some time. Thomas Kane, a professor of education and economics at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the director of the MET project, said in a 2011 interview with Education Next that there are a lot of advantages to having cameras in classrooms. He said:

One is it gives you a common piece of evidence to discuss with an instructional coach or supervisor. Second, it will prove to be economically much more viable because you’re not paying observers to drive around to various schools to do observations. If a teacher doesn’t think that their principal is giving them a fair evaluation because of some vendetta, they can have an external expert with no personal ax to grind watch and give feedback.

To hear more of what Bill Gates has to say about cameras in classrooms, tune in to TED Talks Education on May 7. Other influencial speakers include Geoffrey Canada, the CEO of Harlem Children's Zone, and educator and activist Sir Ken Robison.


  • Generica
    April 27, 2013 at 11:58 AM

    I HAVE to quote a friends comment on this article...

    "To summarize Bill Gates and the state: 'We want to pump your kids full of experimental vaccines and then to get a real time field study, monitor their behavior. Thank you for your cooperation.' Your children belong to the state. Only you have the power to say no."

  • momtoscott
    April 27, 2013 at 12:39 PM

    This would be a useful tool for teachers.  What does a great teacher do, teaching the same material, using the same resources, that a bad or average teacher does not?  (And given the way some teachers have treated SN kids over the years, I would definitely welcome cameras in those classes.)  It is beneficial to kids to have more effective tools in use to train and evaluate teachers.    

  • meriana
    by meriana
    April 27, 2013 at 1:18 PM

    Well if they trained those cameras on the kids, perhaps they'd begin to realize that teachers need to have a means of more control in the classroom. Kids these days talk back to teachers, are disrepectful and behave in ways that we certainly would not have and get away with it because all the teacher, principle or anyone else can really do is give them detention or a suspension, which the kids tend to view as no big deal. I get that there are teachers that are not really good at teaching and who really do need to improve but it's certainly not always the fault of the teacher either. I can't honestly say it's a bad idea if it shows what a lot of teachers deal with while trying to teach those who do want to learn.

  • futureshock
    April 27, 2013 at 1:46 PM

    I like this idea because other teachers could watch videos of the best teachers to get ideas.

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