Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Rank and Yank REACH

Stack this!

Microsoft made big news today when it abandoned its controversial, largely destructive employee ranking system called stack ranking where employees are pitted against each other to earn gold stars from their bosses. Sounds an awful lot like CPS's REACH

Stack ranking, or rank and yank, requires managers to rate employees against each other and assign a numerical rating.  These ratings usually follow a bell curve: 20% receive the highest rating, 70% receive a good rating, and 10% are rated lowest and shown the door. Critics argue this system is unfairly rigid, so we can see how it sounds like the ideal strategy to account for a dynamic, ever-changing school system!

Among the negative attributes of stack ranking are:
  • Employees unwilling to work with each other for fear of others receiving a higher rating.
  • Employees openly sabotaging co-workers so they maintain a top rating.
  • Short-term individual focus of getting the highest ranking versus a long-term focus of working toward a common goal.

As formal observations begin, we can already imagine the pitfalls of REACH:
  • Teachers who are unwilling to collaborate for fear their colleagues will get a better rating.
  • Teachers who begin volunteering for everything to score brownie points with the admin.
  • Teachers who are increasingly paranoid about the constant surveilling of their teaching practices, grades, room appearance, and attitude.
  • Teachers who no longer share a once-common goal of advocating for and helping students improve, but instead feel they must advocate for themselves first.
If schools can no longer follow the outdated model of "helping teachers teach" and must pick a corporation to follow, then they should at least follow Google's lead (and high stock price! Cha-ching!!) and encourage teachers to take time to pursue what they're interested in. However, this approach assumes that teachers are people whose thinking is valued, not just parts of the corporate education machine rolling over everything in its path all the while helping profiteers add to their bottom line.

Readers: has REACH changed your school? For our parent readers out there, have you noticed any change in teaching, good or bad? Click anonymous in the comment section and let us know!

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