Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Andrew Cuomo's Teacher Evaluation System Mimics Microsoft's Fatally Flawed Employee Evaluation System

If you're wondering how New York State came to pass a teacher evaluation system that will put all teachers on a bell curve, evaluate them based upon test scores, and have the ones who are ranked on the bottom of the bell curve fired as "ineffective," look no further than education malanthropist Bill Gates' own company, Microsoft:

Analyzing one of American corporate history’s greatest mysteries—the lost decade of Microsoft—two-time George Polk Award winner (and V.F.’s newest contributing editor) Kurt Eichenwald traces the “astonishingly foolish management decisions” at the company that “could serve as a business-school case study on the pitfalls of success.” Relying on dozens of interviews and internal corporate records—including e-mails between executives at the company’s highest ranks—Eichenwald offers an unprecedented view of life inside Microsoft during the reign of its current chief executive, Steve Ballmer, in the August issue. Today, a single Apple product—the iPhone—generates more revenue than all of Microsoft’s wares combined.

Eichenwald’s conversations reveal that a management system known as “stack ranking”—a program that forces every unit to declare a certain percentage of employees as top performers, good performers, average, and poor—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. “If you were on a team of 10 people, you walked in the first day knowing that, no matter how good everyone was, 2 people were going to get a great review, 7 were going to get mediocre reviews, and 1 was going to get a terrible review,” says a former software developer. “It leads to employees focusing on competing with each other rather than competing with other companies.”

When Eichenwald asks Brian Cody, a former Microsoft engineer, whether a review of him was ever based on the quality of his work, Cody says, “It was always much less about how I could become a better engineer and much more about my need to improve my visibility among other managers.” Ed McCahill, who worked at Microsoft as a marketing manager for 16 years, says, “You look at the Windows Phone and you can’t help but wonder, How did Microsoft squander the lead they had with the Windows CE devices? They had a great lead, they were years ahead. And they completely blew it. And they completely blew it because of the bureaucracy.”

Starting next year, this vaunted Microsoft employee evaluation system comes to New York State public education under the guise of APPR.

Every year, two out of every ten teachers will be rated "highly effective," three will be rated "effective," three will be rated "developing" and two will be rated "ineffective."

Those "I-rated" two years in a row will be fired.

Sounds an awful lot like the employee evaluation system at Microsoft that has stifled creativity, caused employees to compete against each other, and just over all been a miserable failure.

How did this happen?

How did New York State (and many other states in the nation) come to pass a teacher evaluation system based upon a fatally flawed employee evaluation system at Microsoft.

Well, malanthropist Bill Gates thinks he knows best on everything, so whatever Microsoft uses to evaluate its own employees must be great to use to evaluate everybody else as well.

And Gates throws billions every year into his malanthropic work on education through his Gates Foundation, so he has managed to enshrine this system in state after state by heavily influencing the Obama administration's Race to the Top program.

And now, the employee evaluation system that has seriously harmed Microsoft as a company comes to New York's public schools.

It will not work out any better there than it has at Microsoft.

At what point do people start saying "If Bill Gates thinks this is a good idea, we'd better look twice at it because it probably isn't!"?

H/T: Teacher Out, commenter on Diane Ravitch's blogpost, "I Am Puzzled By The Gates Foundation."


  1. Fascinating. The Federal DOE and NYCDOE being led by the nose by a failing business leader. Typical, nowadays.

  2. The last time Wall Street became heavily involved with the working poor, the sub-prime lending meltdown was the result. Now we can expect a new but similar fiasco through Wall Street's involvement with education reform. Furthermore, Bill Gates is of course the champion of corporate mismanagement at Microsoft and his lack of a balanced vision is eroding Microsoft's ability to compete globally.

  3. Bill Gates, Andrew Cuomo, Michael Bloomberg are all corporate fascists. Their failed ideology will bring about the rapid decline of Empire America. They are allies in a flawed, fatal ideology. Together they make up a confederation of dunces! Michael Bloomberg is of course the laughingstock of
    leader of this regressive movement called education reform. No one should accept his self aggrandizing public propaganda. At every opportunity we must reject this laughingstock fascist!

  4. Apparently Enron also used the "Rank and Fire" employee evaluation system:,8599,129988,00.html

    More on this later. It's difficult to believe that NY State has decided to double down on the Enron/Microsoft "Rank and Fire" evaluation system for teachers, but they have.

    I think it is time for Tisch, King, Cuomo et al. to have defend this against the Microsoft/Enron angle.

    Do we really want to emulate failed (and in the case of Enron, criminal) companies in the public education system?

  5. I didn't sift all the way through the recently published APPR Field Guidance that you cited, but what is the evidence that

    "Every year, two out of every ten teachers will be rated "highly effective," three will be rated "effective," three will be rated "developing" and two will be rated "ineffective."

    If this really the case, it is truly outrageous - but I haven't seen the State mandating rating on the bell curve (either for Principals' rating - the 60 points - or for the testing/SLO part of the assessment - the 40 poitns).

    1. Peter...I think that they are referring to the 20% based on state test scores for 3-8 Math & ELA teachers. The metric that they have created to generate the HEDI score is based on a bell curve. So teachers will be rated that way...but ONLY in that area. The other 80% is not controlled by a metric. Either is a terrible way to rate and evaluate teachers...

  6. Here:

    The system is set up to have 10%-20% of teachers ranked "I" every year, regardless of performance, because SOMEBODY has to be rated ineffective the way the system is designed. It's built in.

    The eval system Microsoft put into place back in April of 2011 raised the "I" bar from 10% to 20% at Gates company. We'll have to see how the NY State system plays out, but right now it's looking an awful lot like the Microsoft system. Add performance pay to the mix and it looks even more like the Microsoft system:

  7. Thank you RBE - That's very useful.... Carol Burris points us to the NYS RTTT application which basically lays it out on page 39:

    "While we cannot force a normal distribution of overall ratings, we are setting rigorous, high standards so that only those who are well above average in their practice and student outcomes will earn a “Highly Effective” rating.    “Effective” will represent more accomplishment than today’s barely acceptable “S” rating.   More low‐performing teachers will be identified as “Ineffective” than today’s rarely‐used “U”, (although we do not expect that percentage to be as high as 30% in 2011‐12).  
    We expect that across large numbers of teachers, the result will resemble a normal distribution. "

    So the new evaluation system doesn't *require* or guarantee a certain percentage of ineffective ratings, but it is certainly designed with that goal in mind.


  8. How Shit Happens

    In the beginning there was a Plan.
    And then came Assumptions.
    And the Assumptions were without form.
    And the plan was without substance.
    And darkness was on the face of the Workers.
    And they spoke among themselves, saying
    "It is a crock of shit, and it stinks".
    And the Workers went unto their Supervisors and said
    "It is a pile of dung, and none may abide the odor thereof".
    And the Supervisors went unto their Managers, saying
    "It is a container of excrement, and it is very strong, such that none can abide by it".
    And the Managers went unto their Directors saying
    "It is a vessel of fertilizer, and none may abide its strength".
    And the Directors spoke among themselves, saying one to another
    "It contains that which aids plant growth, and it is very strong".
    And the Directors went unto the Vice Presidents, saying unto them
    "It promotes growth, and it is very powerful".
    And the Vice Presidents went unto President saying unto him
    "This new Plan will actively promote growth and vigor of this company, with powerful effects".
    And the President looked upon the Plan and saw it was good.
    And the Plan became Policy.
    This is how shit happens.

  9. We use the same stack ranking at my company, and it really sucks. The reason being that it is highly subjective, and in the end the Director of the department decides who gets what. If the Director does not know you well, you can expect to get mediocre reviews at best. It does not matter whether or not you exceeded your goals for the review period, and they will NEVER tell you what you need to do in order to get a stellar review or promotion. It's all about marketing/advertising yourself to your superiors. I have been with the same company for many years and am now looking to switch jobs. Blame Jack Welch for making this system popular.

  10. HVAC technicians are gaining popularity these days. HVAC Schools in New York