Monday, June 17, 2013

Danielson: What We Lost – Creating an Environment of Respect and Rapport

Danielson’s Framework for Effective Teaching has been widely criticized as an evaluative tool by many respected educators including, ironically enough, Charlotte Danielson, herself. Without going too much into the history of the Framework it’s important to note that the four domains of effective teaching are, allegedly, the full description of what makes a teacher effective. According to Danielson’s books the Framework describes aspects of teaching that are essential to effectiveness. Others have tried to create general descriptive systems to analyze professions but few, if any professions actually use these descriptions to evaluate performance. One of the reasons is that there are many ways to perform effectively professional. In fact one might say that the very nature of professionalism is to be able to adjust one’s strategies and tactics in different ways under different situations.

But, of course, John King has, with DOE and UFT approval, made this framework 60% of our evaluations. While the general notion of using such a framework in this way undermines our Contract it will become clearer as we go through the framework.

First up, component 2a. Danielson’s Framework is divided into 4 domains and 22 components. Domain 2 and 3, the “on stage” domains represent ¾ of our 60% or 45% of our total grade. This is due to the observable nature of these domains. Domain 1 and 4, dealing with planning and professional responsibilities, deal with components that are “off stage” and not directly observable and must be inferred to be measured (more about this in another post).

Getting back to 2a a teacher will, starting next year, be rated on the type of environment that he or she creates in the classroom through teacher and student interactions. The framework concludes that teachers who use respectful talk, read body language and maintain fairness will demonstrate effective teaching in this component. Clearly a classroom that has respectful students who are treated fairly will undoubtedly have a classroom that is conducive to learning and the teacher has a part in inculcating this environment. But to rate the teacher and thereby making her responsible for these outcomes is absurd. There are so many factors that go into student behavior including school culture, student backgrounds and administrative support that to leave a teacher “out there” under this component shows just how insane this framework is for evaluative purposes.

When I was first assigned to a yearlong suspension center for students in the Bronx who were found to have committed some pretty heinous infractions I was assigned as one of four teachers in the site. The students rotated from subject to subject in each of 4 rooms. My room and the science room were separated by a wall with windows so the science teacher and I could see each other’s classes. Half way through my class one of my students yelled out, “Hey look, they’re tying up Mr. M.” Sure enough the science teacher was being duct taped to his chair. After school safety released him all I could think about was that they were coming into my room next.

Would my “rapport” with these students permit me to actually teach? Would the lack of any administrative intervention contribute to my ability to maintain respect in my class?

While it is very unclear just how an evaluator would actually evaluate on this component it is pretty clear that being evaluated on this component undermines the spirit if not the letter of our contract. Does this mean that teachers working in what the DOE euphemistically calls “hard to staff” schools can never be effective?

Perhaps under the new system a teacher who learns not to sit in his chair to be duct taped might score some effective points.

1 comment:

Allan W. Azouz said...

THey weren't misbehaving. They were engaging in meaningful, non-teacher-centered, group activity, which involved their evaluating their own work among themselves.