David Morris on Gates and teacher evaluations:
Using hundreds of millions of dollars in philanthropic largesse Bill Gates persuaded state and federal policymakers that what was good for Microsoft would be good for public schools (to be sure, he was pushing against an open door). To be eligible for large grants from President Obama’s Race to the Top program, for example, states had to adopt Gates’ Darwinian approach to improving public education.
Adopting the Microsoft model means public schools grading teachers, rewarding the best and being “candid”, that is, firing those who are deemed ineffective. “If you do that,” Gates promised Oprah Winfrey, “then we go from being basically at the bottom of the rich countries [in education performance] to being back at the top.”
Race to the Top is a contest. It’s a competition, but we’re not all on the same team. In order to win, someone else has to lose. Why would you help someone else win?
Some states grade on a curve. Others do not. But all embrace the principle that continuing employment for teachers will depend on improvement in student test scores, and teachers who are graded “ineffective” two or three years in a row face termination.
Grading on the bell curve? No school would actually do that, right? No matter what, people are going to lose. Half will always be below the line no matter their skill.
And now, just as public school systems have widely adopted the Microsoft model in order to win the Race to the Top, it turns out that Microsoft now realizes that this model has pushed Microsoft itself into a Race to the Bottom.
In a widely circulated 2012 article in Vanity Fair, award-winning reporter Fair Kurt Eichenwald concluded that stacked ranking “effectively crippled Microsoft’s ability to innovate.” “Every current and former Microsoft employee I interviewed—every one—cited stack ranking as the most destructive process inside of Microsoft, something that drove out untold numbers of employees,” Eichenwald writes. “It leads to employees focusing on competing with each other rather than competing with other companies.”
Really? Stacking people against each other causes competition? You don’t say.
This month Microsoft abandoned the hated system.
Sue Altman at EduShyster vividly sums up the frustration of a nation of educators at this new development. “So let me get this straight. The big business method of evaluation that now rules our schools is no longer the big business method of evaluation? And collaboration and teamwork, which have been abandoned by our schools in favor of the big business method of evaluation, is in?”
Big business can turn on a dime when the CEO orders it to do so. But changing policies embraced and internalized by dozens of states and thousands of public school districts will take far, far longer. Which means the legacy of Bill Gates will continue to handicap millions of students and hundreds of thousands of teachers even as the company Gates founded along with many other businesses, have thrown his pernicious performance model in the dustbin of history.
Sigh. Once again we have another failed attempt to help fix our educational system. It’s only made things worse. And once again I feel helpless to do anything at all about it.
You can read the whole article here → What’s Good for Bill Gates Turns Out To Be Bad For Public Schools | On the Commons