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caption: Teachers rally outside the Gates Foundation to demand changes to the organization's education strategies 
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Teachers rally outside the Gates Foundation to demand changes to the organization's education strategies
Credit: KUOW

Teachers Protest Gates Foundation-Backed Education Reforms

A coalition of teachers and their supporters marched through downtown Seattle Thursday afternoon to the headquarters of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The local branch of a national organization that calls itself the Badass Teachers Association was protesting the education reform efforts the Gates Foundation has generously funded, from charter schools to the new Common Core State Standards.

Many teachers oppose those reforms, and say the Gates agenda is tone-deaf to what they see are the main problems in American schools: high rates of child poverty and an underfunded education system.

Teachers and their allies marched through rush-hour traffic chanting, “Kids are not a test score,” and “Billions of dreams! Not billionaire schemes!”

The Seattle teachers’ union supported the march, which included teachers from around the region and a handful from other states.

Linda Myrick, who teaches fourth grade at Somerset Elementary School in Bellevue, called Common Core a "straitjacket."

"These standards are squelching creativity in our students and in our teachers. They’re squelching joy in our students. They’re leading to teaching to the test. They’re leading to inappropriate academic environments for young children and special ed children," Myrick said to cheers and applause.

Speaking ahead of the rally, Gates Foundation Director of Education Vicki Phillips said she was looking forward to reading the letters the teachers planned to deliver to Foundation officials.

Phillips said the foundation has actually been working closely with groups of teachers recently to see what it can improve.

"We’ve shifted some our strategy as a result. We’ve shifted some of the tools and supports. In fact, we’ve been co-designing a lot of those things both with teachers and based on what teachers tell us," Phillips said.

Phillips recently urged states and districts to delay using results of the upcoming Common Core tests to make high-stakes decisions about teachers and students until teachers have gotten used to using the new standards.

Many teachers say the warning comes too late to change the way they and their students are evaluated.

Those systems, they say, are already in place.