In his Washington Post op-ed titled “How teacher development could revolutionize our schools” Bill Gates correctly identifies a critical challenge looming before the nation and its schools, but misses one of the more intuitive solutions, particularly given his prior career.

Gates observes that declining state budgets necessitate that we “flip the curve” and make education more productive. In other words, we have to achieve better results for less money.

His solution is to better measure, reward, train, and allocate teachers.

Given that the biggest productivity leaps in history in every sector have happened through the use of technology—and given Gates’s understanding of its power—it’s strange that the use of digital learning would not be number one on his list. This is not to say that teachers are not important, but when thinking about productivity, missing this point is a mistake.

Former Governors Jeb Bush and Bob Wise have recognized this and launched Digital Learning Now to create a realistic solution.

Although Gates clearly understands the power of online learning—witness his remarks in his annual letter about it or his foundation’s work on next-generation learning, for example—he should shift his emphasis.


  • Michael B. Horn
    Michael B. Horn

    Michael B. Horn is Co-Founder, Distinguished Fellow, and Chairman at the Christensen Institute.