Steve Cantrell, a senior researcher at Gates, sent me an email last night in response to my post from yesterday asking for the MET results to be released. He said that I was right in suggesting that large, complicated projects sometimes take longer than originally planned. He said that final scores for coding the videos had just been delivered to the research team and that the full results for the 2009-10 year were now scheduled to be released January 5, 2012. It’s unclear whether that report will also contain information for the 2010-11 year as well. The MET web site will be changed to reflect this new schedule. (Update: According to another email from Steve Cantrell, the January release will only have the full 09-10 results. The final results including 10-11 and are scheduled for release in early summer of 2012 .)
Steve also clarified information on the cost of the project. Last year I repeated the New York Times and LA Times description of the project costing $45 million. More recently I’ve repeated the Wall Street Journal description of the project cost as $335 million. Steve resolved the confusion by saying that the MET study costs about $50 million and the $335 million figure includes grants to the partner districts.
Let me be clear that I think Gates has a lot of good and smart people working on the MET project. My concern is not that these are bad people. My concern is that Gates has a flawed strategy based on centrally identifying what educators should do and then building a system of standards, curriculum, and assessments to impose those practices on the education system. I don’t think this kind of centralized approach can work and I fear that it creates enormous pressure on good and smart researchers to toe the centralized line — even if it becomes obvious that it is not working. Everyone at Gates can see what happened to the folks who pushed small schools when the Foundation decided that approach was not working.
And unlike Diane Ravitch, Valerie Strauss, and the Army of Angry Teachers, I am not criticizing the Gates Foundation because I think Bill Gates is in the “billionaire boys club” and therefore somehow disqualified from using his wealth to try to improve education. I am critical of recent Gates Foundation efforts because I believe Gates can and should try to improve education by adopting a more fruitful strategy.