Again, several items collided in my caffeinated brain to bring me here to blog. Chief among them was the news story posted on Facebook about Microsoft abandoning its bell curve ranking of employees, a business procedure Gates has assserted would be well applied to education. In the old MS system, emplyees were ranked and rewarded and/or reprimanded or punished. Why not do the same with teachers via merit pay and VAM, wondered Gates. And so it came to pass despite a mountain of research that demonstrates it is not effective either in business or education. As someone whose pay raises are determined by such a system, I can easily point out the problems. We have to complete "portfolios" of sorts each year when there is money for merit increases (which is what pay raises are called at the university level). Last year, my merit was not even equal to what I make doing a day long workshop for educators. I havee no illusion that this year will be significantly different. Yet I do produce what is expected: publications, presentations, community engagement, committee work, and more. Does my merit indicate the time and effort? Not at all. Why do I do it? Because it is part of my job. I teach, I publish, I serve. It is no different from when I was working with middle school kids. I did my job. So why put me in competition with my colleagues? Why set department against department? How does this make for collegiality? How does this benefit students?
The bottom line is that merit does not work, especially in education. And yet, Bill Gates, that expert in education, spoke the words and it was done. Forget the research. Forget the fact that his own company has abandoned the practice he helped put into place in the schools. Maybe it is time to turn to some real experts, folks who have the classroom expertise, teachers who love what they do. I would love to see an Education Nation comprised of folks from the classrooms (and parents and students). Just once I wouuld love to see MSNBC (hmm, what does the MS stand for?) consult with folks with experience instead of turning to Michelle Rhee or Arne Duncan. And I would dearly love for a reporter to ask these new reformers for their credentials INSIDE of a classroom. I would love to see them point to all the "miracles" that have turned out to be a case of the Emperor's New Clothes. Maybe this will make it onto my Christmas wish list.
But for now, I will return to the balcony and gaze out at the ocean and drink another cup of coffee. Time to regain perspective on what is really important today.