Dear Mr. Gates,
Microsoft’s “stack ranking” management practice has been in the news lately, most recently on Valerie Strauss’ blog The Answer Sheet (Microsoft’s lesson on what not to do with teachers, Washington Post, 8/26/13).
Strauss writes that this practice, which Microsoft employees have called “poisonous”, has shaped your education reform belief that teachers, too, should be rated and ranked in a similar fashion. In New York City, for example, the new teacher evaluation plan called Advance sorts teachers into four different categories: ineffective, developing, effective, and highly effective. Arguably, if you take into consideration the 20% local measure component, 40% of a teacher’s rating is tied to standardized test scores.
However, as we see in Strauss’ article, which cites both Will Oremus’ story on Slate.com and Kurt Eichenwald’s 2012 piece in Vanity Fair, Microsoft employees view “stack ranking” as “destructive” and divisive. Fearful of obtaining a low ranking, which could result in termination, employees, particularly those who are high-ranking, shy away from collaboration.
The opposite occurs at Mission Hill, the school we are showcasing on this website as an alternative model to corporate education reform. Mission Hill is a K-8 public pilot school in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston, MA (note: since filming, the school has relocated to Jamaica Plain). As you will see in chapter 6 of the video series, collaboration among teachers, students and parents is a powerful tool used to strengthen instruction and to address the individual needs of each student. Mission Hill has created a strong sense of community, and members remark that the school “feels like home, it feels like a family.” One teacher claims that this type of school culture forces him to grow and to challenge himself to become not only a better teacher, but also a better human being.
Your top-down, “stack ranking” practice of evaluating teachers is highly destructive. Mission Hill is proof that an alternative, which calls for collaboration in a safe learning environment, works.
Teachers’ Letters to Bill Gates