Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Gotham Schools and Danielson Rapidly Plummet Downhill

Now that Gotham Schools has redesigned itself into a super slick website, it's not nearly as user-friendly as it once was. I used to really use the Rise and Shine thing on days when I was at a loss for what to blog. Now you have to click on it to see it, and today's features several iterations of the all-important news that charter folks are worried about Bill de Blasio. Apparently, since de Blasio feels they should pay rent and stop displacing and destroying public schools, the astroturfers fear he may make them pay rent and stop destroying and displacing public schools.

Shocking stuff.

To encourage community participation, Gotham has removed the comments from the sidebar. I suppose when you're giving the charter folks everything they want, you don't want those inconvenient teachers blabbering all over your front page. Actually a lot of comments appeared to be about the perfidy of teachers lately, though for a long time they'd been largely about what an atrocity it was that teachers had pensions.

So here's the thing--today I want to write about Danielson, but I don't have enough info. My UFT contacts can't yet give me the answers I need, but as of today I think that the rules don't mean anything, that supervisors can write any damn thing they feel like, that they can manipulate the system just as much as they did before, and if they hate your guts, they can and will trash you.

I don't actually blame Danielson for that. I still see the framework as having elements worth striving for. Danielson might work in the context for which it was actually designed, which was to support and perhaps inspire good teachers. Sadly, rating teachers is an entirely different ball game.

And honestly, if your supervisor hates you and everything you stand for, that person can pick and choose what he or she sees, and will write about everything you did wrong. You may, of course, write a response, but who pays attention? If the supervisor sees fit to leave the flawed report standing, that's what's gonna be in your file and that's what's gonna determine how many points you get and whether or not you face the VAM firing squad.

So, essentially, while Danielson is not inherently evil or invalid, the same crazy people who could carry out personal agendas with the old system can do so under the new one. If your school happens to get good scores the VAM may help you. If not they may hurt you. Interestingly, AFT President Randi Weingarten just came to her senses and publicly opposed it. How that will help those of us who've written it into our state law I'm not at all sure.

But all in all the new system does not represent an improvement over the old one. The primary reason is the burden of proof. In the past, it was on the DOE to prove you were incompetent. That was not an easy thing for them to prove. Now, if you get a crap rating year one, you will get a "validator" year two, who will give you a thumbs up or down. If they say you don't suck, burden will still be on DOE. However, if they determine you do indeed suck, it's on you, and you will have to prove you are not incompetent. I have no idea how anyone accomplishes such a thing.

The NY State law has thus far been a disaster not only for working teachers, but also for supervisors who simply cannot keep up. I hope the UFT can negotiate something less insane with the new mayor, but I'm not holding my breath.
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