Sunday, January 8, 2012
A NYC teacher's observations on how the Danielson rubrics are being (mis)used
I'm an English teacher at a NYC high school. There are several major problems with the way the Charlotte Danielson rubrics are being used and misused. Here are some that I have observed at our school.
We have an AP who is unqualified to do these observations. Hitherto, he has overseen budgeting and technology and has never been involved with instruction. He is now being told to do observations because the principal is unable to do them all. In his feedback to teachers, he has demonstrated a lack of understanding of basic instructional strategies and has not been able to provide suggested improvements to accompany his critiques.
Story one: We have a new teacher and three people walked into her class and observed her for five minutes (during the starter, aka "do now") and then left. Her observation report cited her for insufficiently interacting with the students, yet made no consideration for the fact that this was a time for independent student work by design. This is a very hard-working and devoted teacher and afterwards she was visibly upset. Again, they watched the first 5 minutes of an 80 minute lesson and made sweeping conclusions based upon that.
Story two: An English teacher (me) was instructing students in how to write a critical lens essay. Then students began their essay and the teacher helped them individually. The feedback given said: "All discussion is between teacher and students; students are not encouraged to speak directly to one another." There was no reason for students to be speaking to each other during this portion of the class, in fact that would have detracted from what they were accomplishing in that time frame. This is how the rubrics can be misused.
Story three: An excellent tenured math teacher was given an "ineffective" for questioning because he used questions with "a single correct answer." This comment comes directly from the Danielson rubric, yet this was a math class where yes, there often is a single correct answer and students do need to get that. You would hope that anyone would realize this was not how to use the rubric, but you'd be mistaken.
There are more stories along these lines, but when observers miss most of the lesson, teachers feel it's unfair for an all-encompassing rubric to be applied to specific instructional snippets. They also aren't being given specific feedback.
All teachers are being told to watch ARIS Learn videos, which are overly general and most veteran teachers are already familiar with much of the material covered. Other recommendations are very superficial or generic. But then, how could it be otherwise, when the observer only saw 5 or 10 minutes of class? No one is being given subject specific or lesson specific feedback, and the only real outcome of this new teacher effectiveness system has been teacher demoralization.
For the time being I would prefer to remain anonymous so please refrain from using my name or the the name of our school. My main reason for this is that I don't want to embarrass our administrators whom we see as being unfairly caught up in the respective mess on their side of this broken system.