One of the common themes in education ‘reform’ is that teacher performance can be improved by being more like a business (though hopefully not 23andMe?), as Bill Gates stated:
At Microsoft, we believed in giving our employees the best chance to succeed, and then we insisted on success. We measured excellence, rewarded those who achieved it and were candid with those who did not.
At Microsoft, this was manifested by the ‘stacked ranking’ model, where each unit ranked its employees. No matter how well each employee did, a certain percentage were guaranteed to be poor performers. Needless to say, this neither encouraged teamwork nor helped morale. This year, Microsoft axed this program and replaced it with a program centered on these concepts:
•More emphasis on teamwork and collaboration.
•More emphasis on employee growth and development.
•No more curve.
•No more ratings.
Meanwhile, what does this mean for Bill Gates’ attempt to transform U.S. education policies into failed Microsoft policies? Well:
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. This 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, has thrown his pernicious performance model in the dustbin of history.
While these policies have affected all schools, they have used poor children as guinea pigs. As always, the well-heeled (not to mention the flat-out rich) want to apply educational philosophies to other people’s kids, not their own.
And to think: there were other tested models that we could have tried instead.