Sunday, April 08, 2018

No One Likes Danielson

It's kind of funny to hear leadership say that our evaluation model ought to be emulated statewide. They appear to base this on percentages, and if percentages are all you examine, their conclusion might be sound. If the only factor that's relevant is which percentage of teachers get ineffective ratings, then let's have a party. We're in the best of all possible worlds. That appears to be leadership's contention.

So why, then, does almost every single working teacher hate this system? Of course, there are exceptions. There are teachers on the union payroll whose jobs depend on loving everything adore this system. Also E4E, paid off by Gates, seems to like it, and leadership seems to have become soulmates with them over restorative justice. This notwithstanding, I hear complaints about it each and every day. It doesn't even matter if you get decent ratings. I hate it. My colleagues hate it. Even the more reasonable supervisors hate it.

People tell me stories about changing their plans the moment a supervisor walks into the room. I was gonna do fractions today but it looks like I better do Danielson today. I can do fractions tomorrow, but today I'll ask a bunch of broad questions and have the kids put up their red and green cards to indicate whether or not they understand. Tomorrow I'll walk around the room and check their work instead, because we're having a test next week and I need to really know whether they understand. I'll have to put it off one day because I've lost another day to Danielson.

I see supervisors hunched over computer screens. Sometimes they put gatekeepers outside their doors. They have no time to help anyone who needs it because they have to finish another 20 reports by the end of the week. Leadership says that's great because it keeps them busy. Yet in my world, at least, supervisors still find time to write disciplinary letters over baseless nonsense. Who knows how they do it? Maybe they teach it in principal school.

I don't buy the premise that if supervisors are kept busy writing endless observation reports they don't have time to be petty and vindictive. If I spent each and every day writing redundant reports I might need to be petty and vindictive too. What if I'm thirty years old, I don't actually know how to write anything whatsoever, and yet my job entails writing 180 reports a year? I must be pretty pissed off.

Over at 52 Broadway, there's no APPR, and not one single officer has ever been Danielsoned, ever. Yet many UFT employees  (who've also never been Danielsoned) will tell you to your face that being observed four or six times a year is no big deal. They should know. They've seen the stats. But they have no idea how demoralizing it is when some 30-year-old Boy Wonder supervisor says you are developing or ineffective because you did this or that. It's particularly dispiriting when you did neither this nor that, and the fact that it's utterly false gives you no basis for an APPR complaint.

No matter how few double ineffectives there may be, having the burden of proof on the teacher at 3020a is unacceptable. How do you prove a negative? A sitting Executive Board member argued with me on Twitter that it was great the burden of proof was on the teacher. That way the teacher could own it. This was one of the stupidest arguments I've heard in my entire life. Doubtless this person is bound for glory in UFT. I wonder how much money it costs to buy people off so thoroughly they'll utter nonsense of that magnitude.

As if that's not enough, week after week I hear from teachers who work under Principals from Hell. In extraordinary circumstances, communities are awakened and the media jumps in, but often Principals from Hell sit unchallenged for years. Sometimes even after the press covers them nothing happens. You read about a principal falsifying observations at Banana Kelly, and I know a person who suffered that who's as of yet been unable to reduce her negative rating. How many more such stories are there that we haven't yet heard? Who knows?

When we stand and ask leadership to require fewer observations for people who do well with them, they argue that people do better with more. Yet we only asked for fewer observations for people already doing well. They have no notion of the stress this system causes day to day. Let's face it--the entire system is predicated on the assumption that teachers suck and need to be fired. The most recent iteration was, in fact, based on Andrew Cuomo's public outcry that plenty of teachers suck and not enough were being fired.

UFT leadership needs to step out of its self-imposed cone of silence. It needs to speak more frequently to rank and file who aren't on the payroll. I don't understand why Janus isn't a wake-up call. Everyone hates Danielson except those who have never experienced it and those who are paid to say everything is wonderful and we are in the best of all possible worlds.

Were I in leadership, I'd make it priority number one to hear and respond to the prevailing point of view otherwise. This would be a win-win for sure. Have they got the courage to open their ears?

Only time will tell.
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