The Forest and the Trees: Performance Management Addition


Over at Valerie Strauss’ Washington Post Blog, William Doyle penned a piece arguing that “corporate reform” is an insult to corporations.

William’s intention, I believe, is to demonstrate that public schools would be better off without the reforms which he opposes, including: common core standards and assessments, multiple choice assessments, and test score based teacher evaluations.


As a counterpoint to these reform efforts, Williams details how Microsoft has stopped force ranking its employees.

His point is that corporations such as Microsoft are moving away from the type of human capital reforms that are being implemented in public education.

This argument seems to be missing the forest for the trees.

The “trees” here are how one corporation is overhauling its human capital system.

The “forest” is that the company is doing this because it exists in a competitive landscape. William quotes from an article:

The internal change mirrors the shift CEO Satya Nadella is working to effect externally, charming and collaborating with startups and venture-capital firms so that Microsoft doesn’t get left behind.

The point is this: there is no perfect evaluation system; whatever is the best system today will likely not be the best system in perpetuity; by having organizations compete against each for talent, the best systems will emerge.


Charter school districts, such as exists in New Orleans, require schools to compete for talent. How are they responding? You can read about that in this Slate piece. The piece also details the efforts of YES Prep:

The network announced earlier this month a series of initiatives to improve retention, including across-the-board pay raises. In addition, more seasoned teachers will have a personal budget to spend on professional development, and more input on how their job evaluations will work. The network has also cut back on school hours and mandatory after-school activities.

Doug Lemov also recently wrote about the connection between school choice and teacher wellbeing:

In short, more choice would likely lead to higher teacher satisfaction—who wants to spend their career at odds with the organization they work for or trying to hide from the training it offers?


William’s bio indicates that we was just selected as 2015-2016 Fulbright Scholar to study global education best practices, and that he previously he managed budgets totaling over $200 million for public U.S. media companies, including HBO.

I hope that William’s Fulbright experience will allow him to study education systems, such as New Orleans, that harness competitive principals for social aims.

The point is not that schools in these systems necessarily have the best human capital systems.

The idea is that, over time, they are more likely too than schools in traditional systems.

In a city where only one organization operates public schools, there is only way to evaluate talent, and there’s only one place for educators to work.

This is not a recipe for success.

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