Gates Forum talks reform

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Gates Forum talks reform

Gwen Ifill moderated at debate for PBS Newshour at the Gates Learning Forum in Seattle. Left is Bill Gates, center is Melinda Gates, right is Gwen Ifill.

Gwen Ifill moderated at debate for PBS Newshour at the Gates Learning Forum in Seattle. Left is Bill Gates, center is Melinda Gates, right is Gwen Ifill.

Marialuisa Rincon

Gwen Ifill moderated at debate for PBS Newshour at the Gates Learning Forum in Seattle. Left is Bill Gates, center is Melinda Gates, right is Gwen Ifill.

Marialuisa Rincon

Marialuisa Rincon

Gwen Ifill moderated at debate for PBS Newshour at the Gates Learning Forum in Seattle. Left is Bill Gates, center is Melinda Gates, right is Gwen Ifill.

Jimmieka Mills and Marialuisa Rincon

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SEATTLE —  “Both the Gates and French Families instilled the values of volunteerism and civic engagement. Our families believed that if life happens to bless you, you should use those gifts as wisely as you can.”

Wherever you go in Seattle, you’ll find someone welcoming you to the Pacific Northwest. Even the ambiance at the first ever U.S. Education Learning Forum, a gathering of the nation’s greatest minds in education. The event marked the fifteenth year of the Gates Foundation’s involvement in the field of education. Most surprisingly, these geniuses were receptive and approachable.

“Hi, I’m Bill,” said the wealthiest man on the planet to the steady line of people waiting their turn to shake his hand.

Everyone at the Grand Ballroom of the Hyatt Regency Bellevue had done something extraordinary to be there. Some were glaringly obvious — Bill and Melinda Gates, co-chairs of one of the biggest foundations focused on education in the country. Some less so known, but just as important — Carlos Chavez, a Gates Millennium scholar, spoke about his experiences as a community college student in today’s America.

The forum focused on four key areas — advancing educational outcomes for learners in the twenty-first century, valuing and supporting great teaching, the promise of personalized learning and building a movement with students and educators at its core.

All of the teachers, students, administrators, entrepreneurs, politicians and lobbyists milling about at the breakfast buffet had one thing in common — they traveled to Seattle to put their minds together and work to reform the United States public school system.

Setting the stage for Gates’ keynote address were some of the leaders of the Gates Foundation and several past winners of the prestigious Gates Millennium scholarship — among the scholars were a recruiter for Google, a mechanical engineer, and a Juris Doctor candidate.

Marquita Davis, the executive director of the Jefferson County Committee for Economic Opportunity stressed the importance of good pre-K and kindergarten teachers, saying that, “education malpractice is trying to educate kids like they are robots.”

The Foundation’s Vicki Phillips agreed, “the greatest gift we can give is to make sure every teacher has all they need to help every child thrive.”

A parent and early learning educator for Kids Co., Sherrie Belt, spoke about her personal experience with primary education, “I saw an advantage in my youngest child’s school experience — it had everything to do with her pre-K teacher.”

The post-secondary strategy launched with the support of Warren Buffett, has helped spark the college completion movement and asserted the role of higher education as a bridge to opportunity.

“In today’s economy, you need some post-secondary credential to even have the slightest chance,” said Cheryl L. Hyman, Chancellor of Chicago City Colleges.

Addressing the Foundation’s involvement in global health, Melinda Gates said, “if you don’t start healthy, education is not relevant.”

Non-profit organizations like Young Invincibles receive funds from the Gates Foundation to help ensure that young people’s voices are heard in higher education reform debates.

It was clear the common goal was to support innovation that could improve U.S. K-12 schools and ensure that students graduate from high school ready to succeed in college.

Although this goal may seem universal, the Gates have still had difficulties in their quest for better education through their support of the common core standards.

In an interview moderated by Gwen Ifill for PBS Newshour, the Gates were asked what their least pleasant surprise was in regard to their fight for equal education,

Gates noted, “For me the most disappointing is that the work can go backwards. In the other areas we work [i.e., global health] if we come up with a new malaria drug or vaccine, nobody votes to un-invent our malaria vaccine.” To this, the crowd erupted into applause.

After a day of eloquent speeches and innovative research, there was a sense of triumph at Thursday’s breakfast. People had become fast friends the past two days — it would’ve been hard not to when everyone shared a common goal.

Far left is The Egalitarian News Editor Jimmieka Mills; Center is Bill Gates; far right is The Egalitarian Staff Writer Marialuisa Rincon. Bill Gates poses for pictures with attendees at the first U.S. Education Learning Forum Oct. 06, held in Bellvue, WA.

Far left is The Egalitarian News Editor Jimmieka Mills; Center is Bill Gates; far right is The Egalitarian Staff Writer Marialuisa Rincon. Bill Gates poses for pictures with attendees at the first U.S. Education Learning Forum Oct. 6 held in Washington state.

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Editor’s Note:

The Egalitarian’s Jimmieka Mills and Marialuisa Rincon were selected by Young Invincibles to report on the Gates Learning Forum Oct. 6-8 in Seattle. This is the first post in a series about U.S. educational reform and other causes discussed at the forum.

A previous version of this story incorrectly stated, “Non-profit organizations like Young Invincibles receive funds from the Gates Foundation to help ensure that young people’s voices are heard in the health care debate.”

The information has been updated: Non-profit organizations like Young Invincibles receive funds from the Gates Foundation to help ensure that young people’s voices are heard in higher education reform debates.

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