What’s Good for Bill Gates Turns Out To Be Bad For Public Schools →

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

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Why Self Pity is Ruining Your Life →

Donald Miller:

Over time I’ve realized my friend suffers from a victim mentality. I noticed it because I used to have it myself. But in the last few years I’ve realized a victim mentality costs me success, relationships and inner peace. A victim mentality means we consistently look for reasons life isn’t working out the way we want.

You know how the things we can't stand in other people are usually the things we dislike the most about ourselves? Yeah, this is one of those for me.

It's much harder to have an internal locus of control than an external one. My default line of thinking is usually defeatist. I have to stop myself and realize I am in control of a few things—namely myself.

Miller again:

Why do people play the victim? Because playing the victim means they don’t have to try, it means they don’t have to take responsibility, and often it means people will feel sorry for them and give them attention.

I wonder how many times I’ve reinforced the victim mentality in my own children and students. How many times have I made excuses for them to preserve their self-esteem, or to ease the pain of failure or disappointment. I need to remember it's doing more harm than good.

On golfing with Olympic Skater Scott Hamilton:

What Scott does, as a knee-jerk reaction, is to make a quick list of why the bad thing that happened could actually be good. Missing a shot means he learns something about his swing. Missing a shot is humbling, so he isn’t tempted to get arrogant. Missing a shot means he gets to teach the people around him how to keep a disciplined mind. In seeing the world this way, Scott continues to get better and better. It’s the mentality of a champion.

Teaching responsibility is challenging. I've long said the true right of passage to adulthood is to begin taking responsibility for yourself and actions. Mentality of a champion indeed.

Be sure to read Miller's whole post → Why Self Pity is Ruining Your Life

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How to Get Productive in Your Classroom With @RushTheIceberg →

I got to share a few of my productivity tips on Stephen Davis’s (@rushtheiceberg) blog.

This is a fun and helpful series. You can read his whole post here: Rush the Iceberg » Teacher Productivity Tips IV. Please check it out and share your own.

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The Poisonous Truth About Control (And What You Can Do About It) - Guest Post on @Edrethink

I’m excited to have a guest post on John Spencer’s blog. I offered to write a couple of posts while he is putting the finishing touches on his new book Wendell The World’s Worst Wizard.

I’ve enjoyed John’s writing on Education Rethink for years. I started reading when it was called Musings of a Not So Master Teacher. He is insightful and writes with an honest vulnerability that I admire.

You can read my guest post here → The Poisonous Truth About Control.

One NC husband who’s happy his overburdened wife is leaving teaching →

I was nodding my head the entire way through this article. Sometimes in agreement, sometimes in empathy, sometimes in disgust.

Matthew Brown on his wife quitting teaching—

After nearly seven years of her passion for teaching turning to dread, she is free to live her life unburdened by the oppressive hands of incompetent legislators and school board members who wish to micromanage education without actually getting involved with the people in it.

It makes me sick. I have no idea what to do.

As each passing year of new policies and tests fails to deliver the results they desire, rather than reform their thinking, these officials create new policies and new tests and pile them on top of the old ones. They, with the raising of a hand and a stroke of a signature, applaud themselves for their feigned ingenuity without thought or regard for those who will have to bear the burden of it.

True. But what to do about it? This is the kind of stuff I have to watch myself with. I can't focus so much on those things which I cannot change. The whole education reform movement seems to have an impotence when it comes to being able to affect change on a big level. There doesn't seem to be a unified rally or a focused effort that I'm aware of. I have no answers.

…I will not have to witness another new year with another new assessment and another new policy that further removes my wife from teaching her class just so some politician can have another metric on a sheet of paper.

This is the crippling emotion of knowing you have to give more than you think you can give—and it's not even for the right reasons.

I am glad because I know others aren’t so fortunate. Some teachers have vested so many years into their careers that leaving now would mean forfeiting their retirement. Unfortunately for them, they have almost no choice, and maybe the state is counting on that.

This reinforces my decision to leave the classroom, even if it was for a few different reasons. I'm glad I have the support to do such a thing.

This whole article makes me sad. I honestly have no clue of what to do about it. I am a small child throwing rocks at an Abrams tank.

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Failure is a Day, Not a Destiny →

Part of a poem by Jon Acuff—

But failure is a day, not a destiny.

An interaction, not an identity.

This is not your forever, this is your Wednesday.

A chapter in a story as long as your life.

Read on.

Throw the lights until they shame the sun.

Tomorrow is coming and fear will not win the day.

The whole poem is beautiful and stunning. I seriously wish I would have written it, but I'll count myself blessed for reading it.

I'm creeping up on two months since I resigned from teaching. Failure has been a word on the forefront of my mind since then. On my good days, I understand that people aren't failures. Our actions can often lead to failure, but we are not failures. I am not a failure.

Please, please go read Jon's whole poem today. His website appears to be down for a bit, but make sure you follow him on Twitter.

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Education Rethink: Rebel Without a Clue →

John Spencer—

I'm realizing that it's easy to avoid trouble as a teacher. You just find out what's important to your leaders and you do it. You put up the anchor charts and you add the word walls and you don't check out any technology so that it won't be on your head if something breaks. You assign homework even if you're not sure it's a great practice, because that's just how things are done. And in the process, you avoid meetings like the one I had today.

This paragraph sums up so many problems with teachers in schools. I've found many teachers to have a pleaser mindset. I know I do. They don't want to get in trouble or cause waves. It's so easy to do the easy thing, and so hard to do the right thing.

How many of us have seen other teachers in this spot? How many of us have done these exact things?

But as bad as today was, I'd rather look back on my teaching career and say that I tried to do right by my students than leave with the knowledge that I did everything I could to keep out of trouble. Because here's the thing: if you want to teach well, chances are you'll get in trouble. Not just a little trouble. You'll leave a meeting in tears and it will have nothing to do with your pedagogy or classroom climate.

That's what it really comes down to. The only thing that is going to make a difference is what is best for your students. Taking the coward's way out isn't going to help much. I have so much respect for John and other teachers willing to put themselves out there like this.

Make sure you read John's entire post. It's an honest take on a sad situation.

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