Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Danielson Dials it Down

Charlotte Danielson, she of the Danielson Framework we all know and love, has penned a missive in Education Week. Danielson is concerned with the way teachers are rated. Let's get right to this jaw-dropping statement:

I'm deeply troubled by the transformation of teaching from a complex profession requiring nuanced judgment to the performance of certain behaviors that can be ticked off on a checklist.

Me too, actually. Maybe they don't have irony in Charlotte Danielson's neck of the woods, but she actually wrote the damn checklist and took a pile of money for having done so. I'm not altogether impressed by her crocodile tears years after the fact. If she's so troubled, she could always give the money back on principle and insist her framework not be used in this fashion.

My former co-blogger Arwen wrote a fabulous piece comparing the old process and the new one. It's quite clear which offers more value to a working teacher, and it isn't Danielson's model. A thoughtful and helpful supervisor could evaluate a lesson and offer valuable advice to working teachers. Of course, like many teachers, I would not take it for granted that supervisors are thoughtful or helpful. Danielson, of course, fails to consider that and why should she? It's not like she has any familiarity with or experience in the system she helped create, or even the largest school district in the country, the one that's using her system.

Where does Danielson go when she needs information? In her article she cites only only a few sources. One is TNTP, formerly The New Teacher Project, formed by Michelle Rhee, and another is Bill Gates, who funded a project called Measures of Effective Teaching, or MET. I've found TNTP to be less than thoughtful or credible, but of course I'm a New York City teacher, and unlike Danielson, I'm familiar with the system upon which she's inflicted her framework. I've also seen Gates MET program up close and personal, and found it less than impressive.

Charlotte Danielson doesn't look that closely at such things. She takes them at face value. Has she read Diane Ravitch? Who knows? What we do know is whose opinions she values. Those of us living through this reformy era know precisely what those opinions are worth.

In fact, the overwhelming majority of principals and supervisors have never taught under Danielson's system. Some may understand it, but there's really no evidence to suggest they do, or how many do. With Carmen Fariña openly advocating its use as a gotcha system, there's no reason to presume its validity. Fariña actually instructed some principal about a teacher she wants gone. Does any reasonable person think that teacher is going to get a fair observation, rubric or no rubric?

Full disclosure--there's a lot to like about the Danielson rubric, in my opinion. But it ought to be used as a growth tool rather than the gotcha tool it's become. That is, in fact, how Danielson first conceived it. For her to complain now, after having sold her idea for a whole lot of cash, that it's being misused, is the height of hypocrisy.

Again, if she really wants to impress us, let her give back the money she took and fight to withdraw the right of New York City to use her framework as a tool to fire teachers.
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