Bill Gates Visits Hillsborough School Teachers, Students

Bill Gates with 11th grader Angel Lozada in a web design class at Tampa's Jefferson High School Wednesday.
TAMPA (2011-11-9) -

Bill Gates gives Hillsborough Schools an "A" for effort on the district's progress, so far, on reforming teacher training, evaluation and pay.

Gates and his wife Melinda visited Tampa Wednesday checking in with teachers, administrators, principals, evaluators, mentors and students.

The district is in its third year of a $100 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Its focus is to pioneer a teacher evaluation system that other school districts can adopt.

Gates talked with a select group of news media in the late afternoon after spending a full eight hours listening to the stakeholders at Jefferson High School in Tampa.

"They’re learning as they’re going. They talked about constant adjustments that they make and how they’ll continue to do that," Gates said. "But, the sense of progress, the sense of improvement is really phenomenal and I do believe this is how it should be done nationwide."

Gates got the lowdown directly from students. He and his wife visited the Advanced Placement Chemistry class of Danielle Gutierrez, Jefferson High Student Government Vice President, and then ate lunch with her.

"They asked how teachers reacted when observers came into the classroom," Gutierrez said. "(They asked) If teachers have improved over the years since I came to this school; What improvements have I seen in teachers also they asked about our future a lot what we wanted to do and if the teachers motivate us wanting to go to college."

The answers she gave Gates: some of the teachers change when observers come in but for most of her teachers, their teaching stays the same.

"I think the good teachers are the ones who do the same thing whether an observer is inside or not, and the other teachers who are usually not prepared are the ones who change their actions when an observer is in the classroom," Gutierrez said.

Melinda Gates praised the collaborative effort between district administrators and the teachers' union adding that the spirit of cooperation was reflected in the students.

"The kids themselves are incredibly articulate about how this evaluation system that the teachers are going through has changed the classroom environment for them," Melinda Gates said. "They're seeing the teachers teach in a more rigorous way. They're feeling it as kids and they're absolutely loving it."

She said the seniors she talked to have noticed a difference in the teachers since the grant started and they are more confident that they're learning what they need to be successful in college.

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