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Puts Money Where Mouth is about Schools

Bob Geballe writes about Mountlake Terrace High School in Washington as ground zero in the effort to upgrade United States schools to world class standards.

Bill Gates said in February, “When I compare our high schools to what I see when I’m traveling abroad, I am terrified for our workforce of tomorrow. In math and science, our fourth-graders are among the top students in the world. By eighth grade, they’re in the middle of the pack. By 12th grade, U.S. students are scoring near the bottom of all industrialized nations.” In essence, most of our public high schools are unmitigated disasters.

The Gates Foundation has made a billion-dollar bet, granting money to 1,600 schools, half of those about the size of Mountlake Terrace. All are chanting the Gates Foundation’s mantra: Small is good.

Hubris on the part of the Gates Foundation and inertia on the part of school boards, teachers’ unions, and administrators can compromise the effort. Indeed, a close look at the Mountlake Terrace experiment shows that dealing with reluctant taxpayers, turned-off teenagers, and testy teachers might prove to be a lot more difficult than outfoxing IBM or KO’ing Netscape.

The article describes lessons learned at the high school in the past fie years. It is worth the time to read for all those interested in adjusting schools to meet new or amended standards.

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