Teacher Evaluations

gerri.songer's picture

Happy New Year Education Association!

With the a new school year ahead of us, and upcoming negotiations upon us, I'd like to urge members to take time and consider the effectiveness of teacher evaluation. Is it doing what it should be doing? How is it working in districts across the country? The following blogs definitely raised my eyebrow:

In a blog posted by Geo Kara regarding Danielson implementation in New York City schools, Kara asserts, "Charlotte Danielson said that she envisioned her Frameworks were intended as a device for constructive criticism, to aid the professional growth of teachers. Unfortunately, her Frameworks are being used by the Department of Education as a micromanaging program for attack and control." (http://nyceye.blogspot.com/2013/04/walcott-confirms-danielson-is-officia...)

Kara goes on to say, "Essentially, the Frameworks are an all-purpose plan to take down careers. With 4 domains, 22 components and 76 elements, it will be exquisitely easy to nitpick at a teacher's style and pave the path for career termination. Teachers ideally should be concerned with teaching a topic, within a unit, and connecting with students, not navigating this 4 - 22 - 76 maze."

The author references the results of the 2011 trial roll-outs of Danielson in Queens high schools, "Bryant High School (Queens) Chapter Leader Sam Lazarus called for voting against a resolution endorsing the use of Charlotte Danielson's Framework for Learning, arguing that the application of Danielson at his school has meant that nearly two-thirds of the teachers evaluated under the new system were rated sub-standard, setting them up for termination under 3020-a proceedings."

"Appealing observations is very difficult, next to impossible," Kara noted, "additional problem of judging an 80 minute class by a 5 or 10 minute drive-by informal (but written up as official these days). An observer might notice problems, but might not notice that the problem would be resolved in latter (unobserved) parts of the class."

Principals were "using Danielson Framework elements as checklists to evaluate teachers. Note that Danielson herself disapproves of this practice: The checklist she saw, Danielson said, was inappropriate because of the way it was filled out. It indicated that the observer had already begun evaluating a teacher while in the classroom observation. She said that’s a fundamental no-no."

Charlotte Danielson "has now identified the misuse of her Framework in Louisiana, with the added reliance on VAM measures, as having great potential to improperly damage professional teaching careers."

Another concern addressed in this blogpost is that they are "highly inappropriate" for many special education classes, and they penalize teachers working with this population, " Evaluating teachers of severely multiply-handicapped children with a rubric that is designed to evaluate teachers in general education settings with general education students is tantamount to punishing and penalizing teachers who go into this demanding , difficult and highly *specialized* type of teaching."

In a blogpost by Alan Singer of Huff Post New York, Singer argues, "nobody, not the Times, the New York State Education Department, the New York City Department of Education, nor the teachers' union have demonstrated any positive correlation between teacher assessments based on the Danielson rubrics, good teaching, and the implementation of new higher academic standards for students under Common Core." (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alan-singer/who-is-charlotte-danielso_b_34...)

Singer points out that training from Danielson Group comes with a high price tag, "you have to apply for their services to get an actual price quote. Individuals who participated in a three-day workshop at the King of Prussia campus of Arcadia University in Pennsylvania paid $599 each. A companion four-week online class cost $1,809 per person. According to a comparison chart prepared by the Alaska Department of Education, the "Danielson Group uses 'bundled' pricing that is inclusive of the consultant's daily rate, hotel and airfare. The current fee structure is $4,000 per consultant/per day when three or more consecutive days of training are scheduled. One and two-day rates are $4,500/per consultant/per day. We will also schedule keynote presentations for large groups when feasible. A keynote presentations is for informational/overview purposes and does not constitute training in the Framework for Teaching."

Singer concludes, "unless the standards are separated from the high-stakes testing of students and the evaluation of teachers and schools they will become an albatross around the neck of education and a legitimate target for outrage from rightwing state governments, frustrated parents, and furious teachers, and they will never be achieved."

State standardized test scores have not yet been used in teacher evaluations by Township High School District 214. When they are used, the current plan is to use student growth per building rather than student growth within individual classes. The practice of utilizing standardized testing was abused in the state of New York, "New York State United Teachers has filed suit against the Board of Regents and State Education Commissioner John King, declaring regulations adopted last month violate state law and exceed the Regents' authority, including a regulation that allows school districts to double the weight of state standardized test scores in teacher evaluations." (http://perdidostreetschool.blogspot.com/2011/06/nysut-sues-regents-nysed...)

In another blogpost, Geo Karo criticizes the cost of the Teachscape online Teacher Evaluation training, "2011 seems to be a good year for Danielson: a great number of news reports dated in 2011 on implementation or purchasing of her (and Teachscape's, a collaborating entity) systems. An interesting pattern is that the names of school systems that are recently publicized as using Teachscape are urban school systems that are facing budgetary crises, actual or threatened teacher layoffs, yet millions of dollars are available to spend on the deploying (the industry's word) Teachscape video evaluation system." (http://nyceye.blogspot.com/2011/11/sparks-at-uft-da-over-new-evaluations...)

Karo alluded to those who benefit monetarily from the Danielson system rollout, "And like many new developments, there is a money trail: links to familiar foundation and institution names, from Teachscape's own PR press release: Teachscape's partners include Kogeto, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Stanford University, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and Charlotte Danielson to help shape its vision, its products, and its strategies."

Studies do not support the efficacy of using incentive programs to raise standardized test scores, "Incentive programs for schools, teachers and students aimed at raising standardized test scores are largely unproductive in generating increased student achievement, according to a new report researched by an expert panel of the National Research Council." (http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12521#description)

Karo points out another study that supports these findings, "The report, together with a number of other studies [summarized by Diane Ravitch] released in the past year, effectively serve as a warning to policymakers in states that are moving to implement laws, with support from the Obama administration, to make teacher and principal evaluation largely dependent on increases in students’ standardized test scores."

"The researchers concluded not only that incentive programs have not raised student achievement in the United States to the level achieved in the highest-performing countries but also that incentives/sanctions can give a false view of exactly how well students are doing."

Ravitch, in her blog, addresses the issue of "Why teachers should never be rated by test scores." (http://voices.washingtonpost.com/answer-sheet/diane-ravitch/ravitch-why-...) In this blogpost, she cites the most tragic of consequences, "While I was in Los Angeles, a teacher committed suicide. Rigoberto Ruelas, 39, had taught 5th graders for 14 years. He was known as unusually dedicated and caring; he worked in a gang-ridden, impoverished neighborhood. Most students in his school were English-language learners. Friends and family said he was depressed by the poor rating he received in the L.A. Times. No one will ever know what caused him to despair and take his own life. Colleagues and former students wrote beautiful tributes to him. They thought he was a wonderful teacher."

"It's worth noting, however, that Los Angeles Deputy Schools Superintendent John Deasy said that Mr. Ruelas had a "great performance review" from his supervisors, but Mr. Deasy couldn't release the personnel records because they are confidential. So only the test scores were released to the media, not the laudatory reviews by professionals who observed his work."

Ravitch laments, "Now I hear that more districts, prodded on by U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Race to the Top principles, want to release value-added rankings. More teachers will learn that they are sub-par or superior when judged by flawed, dubious, inaccurate measures."

"How many other ways can we discover to ruin teachers' reputations and encourage teachers to abandon their profession? Why isn't there a public outcry that such tactics undermine professionalism and the quality of education? When will we learn that we have turned education into a numbers racket, and we may lose the best teachers along with the worst?"

In a commentary by Norman Scott, Danielson is quoted as follows, "“Let me give you a story of when it’s not done well. I was contacted early on by a large urban district in New Jersey that … had a horrible evaluation system. It was top-down and arbitrary and punitive and sort of “gotcha.” And they developed a new one based on my book, and it was top-down and arbitrary, and punitive. All they did was exchange one set of evaluative criteria for another. They did nothing to change the culture surrounding evaluation. It was very much something done to teachers, an inspection, used to penalize or punish teachers whom the principal didn’t like … [and] I discovered that if I didn’t do something here, my name would get associated with things people hate. So I thought about what it would take to do teacher evaluation well. And I discovered that doing it well means respecting what we know about teacher learning, which has to do with self-assessment, reflection on practice, and professional conversation.” (http://www.rockawave.com/news/2011-10-28/Columnists/School_Scope.html)

It is apparent that Danielson-based teacher evaluation has the potential to be disastrous. If it is to implemented properly, "respecting what we know about teacher learning, which has to do with self-assessment, reflection on practice, and professional conversation" are paramount in the process. My personal perspective is that Danielson is a strong tool to use in staff development, but it has no place in rating the effectiveness of teachers. It begins with an ideal of perfection, and then whittles away at a teacher's effectiveness both within and outside of the classroom based on subjective measures. It is a tool that tears down rather than builds up. Yet, the Danielson-based evaluation model was voted in by a majority of EA members. Therefore, I strongly urge EA members to learn all they can about the model through Danielson study groups and to take advantage of opportunities such as Peer Observation Groups that are available in virtually every building in Township High School District 214. Also, EA members should consider developing ePortfolios to help administrators evaluate them accurately by providing as much evidence as possible.

Consider page 16 in the following manual and compare the Danielson Model to state standards:


Is there a more appropriate way to meet these standards? Let's talk!


Gerri K. Songer
Education Chair

As educators continue to define the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary for student success in this changing global economy,how much time are we devoting to defining what teachers will need?

The new evaluation system forces me to confront essential questions such as, What makes me excellent? What is it about my teaching that makes me indispensable? Why, in the age of the new media ecology, am I still relevant?

Do performance reviews motivate or irritate you?