Sunday, June 01, 2014

On Danielson Evaluations--Lazy Administrators Do Whatever

I've been receiving a lot of complaints from teachers about ridiculous observation reports that declare them developing or ineffective with no evidence whatsoever. Has this happened to you? You get rated poorly and the comment is something like, "Goes to meetings only when physically dragged there," or "Fails to accept my word as tantamount to that of deity?"

Actually that's unacceptable. Aside from being lazy, it's just using a random quote to buttress the administrator's highly subjective opinion. How does it help you to hear that? If you were really doing something unacceptable, there'd be evidence. Rather than saying, "Questions are of low rigor" the administrator ought to quote the question. Your actual behavior in the class ought to be described.

If you're falling asleep in front of the class, the administrator ought to be saying so, and then tying it to some piece of Danielson. If you aren't, the administrator ought not be quoting Danielson to suggest you are. Danielson should be used to highlight what you actually do, not what the administrator thinks you do, in his or her fertile imagination.

It's not your fault if the administrator doesn't know how to write, and therefore opts not to. It's not your fault if the administrator has happily spent the last decade ignoring everything that goes on in classrooms. Nor is it your fault that administrators now has to write 4-6 observations a year, and no longer has time to sit in an office and ponder the mystery of what they are actually supposed to do in there. (However, if you fail to point out the lack of evidence in a response, that is your fault.)

The job of the administrator is to support you. It's not the job of administrators to plot vengeance against you for not sharing a vision, particularly if said vision entails your working 5 classes in a row, teaching oversized classes, washing their cars, or picking up their dry cleaning. Random quotes from Danielson, whatever PD geniuses may preach for 80 minutes every Monday, will not improve your practice.

Under the new UFT contract, there will be fewer areas of Danielson from which to quote. This may further limit the ability of some administrators to give the appearance they know what they're talking about. However, that is not your problem.

The problem, really, is that of people who can't wait to get out of the classroom. If that's what motivated someone to be an administrator, it's likely that person wasn't the best teacher in the world. If that's the case, how on earth will that person teach you how to be "highly effective?" Danielson, though much-maligned, is not the problem. The problem is the assumption that a rubric precludes subjectivity. Actually, nothing precludes subjectivity. Anyone who already has a bad opinion of you, your teaching, the horse you rode in on, or whatever, will seek text in Danielson to bolster that opinion. That's the nature of prejudice.

Let them pretend to write low inference notes. Or not. But the fact is the new evaluation forms, in the wrong hands, are every bit as subjective as the old ones.
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