Sunday, April 21, 2013

Walcott Confirms: Danielson is Official; Yet Why Does Unity Play Us for Dumb with Danielson Evaluations Doublethink Line?

Last Tuesday, New York City Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott sent an announcement through the DOE emails. It matter of factly mentions the use of Danielson in the quest "to strengthen teaching practice."
He cited the new onset of the new state tests, which we might add, are (rightly) producing a storm of negative popular reaction. (See here, in Patchogue-Medford, on Long Island, and here on the island's north shore; and in New York City itself --see here. John King, the state education commissioner is feeling heat state-wide, but is defiant: "King Reassures, But Testing Opt Out Movement Grows in New York". And here's one summary of the disastrous week of marathon testing in New York State.)
And the parents' push-back against standardized tests is gaining nationally. See this story from Pennsylvania on the PSSA tests.
For the past two years, you have led your students to write more, to engage in more critical thinking, and to solve more real-world problems. As students in grades 3-8 begin to apply some of these skills on the new State tests today, I encourage you to continue to create a supportive environment for your students.
He then goes straight to punch: the new evaluations and Danielson. Note how first he refers to some details are yet undetermined. This is in reference to the anticipated state-imposed evaluation system. Readers will remember that New York City United Federation of Teachers president Michael Mulgrew rejected mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposal without actually opposing the core facet, the test-based (VAM) essence of the evaluations. This way, governor Andrew Cuomo has taken Mulgrew off the hook, relieving him of the battle with the mayor. He then goes to cite Danielson. Again, remember that all of this is coming as a fait accompli, a pre-ordained decision. Make no mistake about this. This is a contract breaker. And watch Mulgrew do nothing and act like this is an act of nature that we cannot oppose.
Later this month,  as we all begin looking toward what lies ahead, one of the things that may be on your minds is the new teacher evaluation system that will begin this fall. While some details of the system will likely not be determined until June, it is important to remember that we have been preparing for this change for some time. More than 10,000 of you have been involved in an intensive pilot program that helped us build many tools, training materials, and understandings of best practices. Over the last two years, schools across the City have been using the Danielson Framework for Teaching or another research-based observation rubric to strengthen teaching practice.
Then, note that he directs readers to a new DOE site, for accessing information on following the Danielson Framework.
Today we are launching a new section of our website,, designed to keep you and your school communities informed about the new teacher evaluation system. The site will be updated in the coming months to communicate additional information about the evaluation system and the range of supports the DOE will offer you and your school leaders:
·         School leaders have been receiving hands-on training from DOE talent coaches—experts on the Danielson Framework—to build their ability to fairly and accurately assess teaching practice and provide you with support to continuously grow as professionals. In turn, before the start of the 2013-14 school year, each school leader will offer training on the new evaluation system to all teachers in their schools.
·         Beyond these school-based trainings, you will also have the opportunity to attend in-person information sessions on the new evaluation system this spring and summer with your district or high school superintendent, as well as training on the Danielson Framework led by the organization that created this tool.
·         This professional development can be supplemented by a number of online resources, all of which will be available on our new website throughout the spring and summer.
In saying, the organization that created this tool, he is referencing Danielson's group. Should be pretty awkward, as Danielson herself (read below) is protesting how her methods are being misused against teachers, at least in Louisiana. 
As we implement this new evaluation system, our primary goal is to make sure that you receive regular feedback on your teaching practice and useful information about your contributions to student learning. My team and I will continue to invest in the support you and your colleagues need to best serve the students of our City.
Note the manipulative language. Partnering. It's not like we have had any choice in the matter. We are only cooperating under threat of losing our tenure.
Thank you for your commitment, and I look forward to partnering with you in this important work.

Make no mistake: Danielson is a contract-breaker, plain and simple. The UFT membership never voted on this --perhaps because in deliberation on a vote, people would raise too many questions and note how it is perfect for writing biased hatchet-job evaluations of teachers.
* * *
The Danielson Frameworks, how they break the DOE-UFT contract, let us count the ways.

The breaking of the contract & the UFT's duplicitous message that Danielson does not count
First, there is the current rating. It remains satisfactory/unsatisfactory. Now, Michael Mulgrew and the Unity/New Action-led United Federation of Teachers are allowing the Danielson Frameworks replace this with a rating of four different possibilities.

In the reception of the Danielson Frameworks, the union is playing a dangerous game of recognizing a duplicitous verbal game with the New York City Department of Education. This allows the union to play a paradoxical dual role of calling the Danielson Frameworks oppressive and yet abiding by their implementation. The danger is that in a truly Orwellian fashion, the union is encouraging us to accept an argument that holds two contradictory arguments at the same time, alas classic doublethink, the ability to hold two contradictory beliefs at once; this relates to the relatively newer term, cognitive dissonance. New Action/Unity's game allows them to collaborate and oppose these repressive protocols at the same time. This is consistent with Mulgrew's standard operating procedure with deform: a) endorse the reform as common sense, addressing some need for good learning and good teaching, and then b) play the role of teacher's guardian when they get attacked via the same deform policy.

With all the cooperation and the duplicitous game of collaborating and "opposing," then we must call them the Mulgrew-Danielson evaluations. Mr. Mulgrew, please do not tell us that they are not supposed to be used in evaluations, when at the Delegate Assembly you endorsed their introduction. Please do not tell us that they are not supposed to be used, when they are being posted with due compliance, along with the Common Core Standards, across the city. Please do not tell us they are not supposed to be used, when at professional development sessions across the city they are the focal point of discussion of how to see what good teaching looks like.

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. Mr. Mulgrew, dissenters already see how the Danielson Frameworks are being used against teachers. Mr. Mulgrew, please stop your refusal to fight them one hundred percent.

What will the union say when the Danielson Frameworks roll in officially this September? Remember, the union is waiting until the next mayor for the next contract. By the time that the next contract rolls in, the Danielson Frameworks shall be fully implemented. If the union's contract negotiating team really does not like how the Danielson experience worked out, the union will be in the position of having to argue for the city to yield on the Danielson issue. A very unlikely prospect, I would contend. Throughout the 2013 to 2014 academic year, across the city, hundreds of teachers will get their Mulgrew/Danielson unsatisfactory ratings via the Mulgrew/Danielson Frameworks. They will deeply betrayed by the union.

Note that the implementation of Danielson shows exquisitely how mayoral control, in combination with a collaborative union administration can bring in a thoroughly questionable program. Danielson came in with no state law; the city council or the defunct Board of Education did not approve of it; it came in with the initiative of the city, with the full support of the union, under Unity's control.

Let's look at Danielson's Frameworks
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.

Ahem, let Danielson or the superintendent model how they will dot all of the 76 elements, reach the students and manage the class in a New York City classroom.

If you have any doubt, just read the MORE caucus UFT site for survey reports from the field on Danielson already in use in New York City schools.

And see this report of 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. And from the pattern of which teachers have been stuffed into the Absent Teacher Reserve ("ATR") --older, experienced, and expensive teachers, we can imagine which teachers will tend to be found ineffective. (So, Voila!, with accommodating to Governor Mario Cuomo's call for tougher teacher evaluation systems, the older-teacher elimination goals behind Mayor Michael Bloomberg's objective of ending Last In First Out --or LIFO-- would be accomplished.)
Savvy administrators, aware of the controversy the Danielson name evokes, currently use the Danielson rubric language in their observation reports. They just leave out reference to the specific numbers in the rubric. The Unity crowd in the UFT remains content because they can sustain the fiction that the Danielson frameworks are really not yet being used in the evaluations.

Essential reading is "A NYC teacher's observations on how the Danielson rubrics are being (mis)used" at Leonie Haimson's NYC Public School Parent blog, January 8, 2012. There she posts a letter by an anonymous teacher that points out several problems: sometimes there is one answer to a problem, a big problem in Danielson:
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.
A math class. You'd think that it would be easy to argue the above common sense point. Not quite; appealing observations is very difficult, next to impossible.
The teacher points to the 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.

Another significant report is Geoff Decker's "What Charlotte Danielson saw when the UFT came calling," November 7, 2011 at Gotham Schools.
The UFT reported that principals are using Danielson Framework elements as checklists to evaluate teachers. Note that Danielson herself disapproves of this practice:
When the UFT obtained a copy of one of the checklists, it shared it with Danielson herself to get her thoughts.
Danielson was troubled by the checklists and disapproved of them, union officials said. With that endorsement, UFT Secretary Michael Mendel wrote a letter to the DOE and demanded an immediate end to the practice. He even threatened to cut off negotiations toward a larger evaluation deal that is required by the end of the school year.
. . .
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.
Further annoying to the rank and file teacher, Unity/UFT has been the transmission belt for Danielson Framework implementation. Mulgrew did not just endorse --rather than oppose-- the Danielson program, since fall, 2011 Unity has led organizing UFT trainings on how to comply with Danielson rubric dictates.

Interestingly, Charlotte Danielson, showing professional integrity, 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. The news report on this originated in the Monroe, Louisiana "News-Star," "Creator of teacher assessment tool says La. adopted flawed system." As summarized by the Louisiana Educator blog, Danielson
believes her carefully designed system has been inappropriately abridged and modified to the point that it may no longer yield valid results. She warned that Louisiana may face numerous legal challenges as flawed evaluations lead to damages to teachers careers and compensation.
Ooohh, legal challenges, now Mulgrew doesn't want to hear that, does he?

And one blogpost, "The District 75 Danielson Pilot: CRASH! Burn! Fizzle," faults the Danielson Framework for having too narrow a conception, so that it ignores the special considerations in special education classes. The Frameworks are highly inappropriate for many special education classes. As the author writes, they penalize teachers that work with these populations of students.
“It is not a trivial issue. 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. Our union was formed in order to protect teachers from administrative malpractice… not to facilitate it. “
Aside from Danielson, the evaluations deal includes ten unannounced observations per year. As per the usual Orwellian spin of Mulgrew and the Unity reps and delegates that parrot his line, they tell us that this is a fair and objective observation measure.

The UFT lets information to critical information be a Chapter Leader elite only affair
The following is information in the UFT's April 12 email memo to chapter leaders.
As you know, between now and June, the city Department of Education, under orders from the state education commissioner, is required to train principals and teachers in preparation for the new evaluation system that will be in place in September.
. . . train principals and teachers in preparation for the new evaluation system . . . That training is the sound of the Danielson Framework being rolled in at professional development periods all over the city.
All chapter leaders should engage principals on all aspects of a new teacher evaluation system. You should focus on the fact that visits by the talent coaches should be supportive, not intimidating for teachers, and you should establish the ground rules and advocate for comprehensive professional development so our members will be ready when the new system is implemented in September. Chapter leaders also need to be vigilant. If your school’s principal is trying to turn this period of shared learning into “another ‘gotcha’ routine,” please notify your district rep and use our online form at For more detailed guidance, read our chapter leader alert on the DOE's training plan for the new evaluation system.
But note how the final line leads to a -dead end that says chapter leaders only. This section is for UFT chapter leaders only. If you are a chapter leader, please login to access this section of the website. How shameful. If this is information that is vital to members' evaluations, why leave the crucial details visible only to chapter leaders? Too often, chapter leaders lead infrequent meetings that are sparsely attended by the staff. Diligent chapter leaders need to have meetings during all lunch hours to disseminate the information to all. In that absence, the hidden information in that link needs to be accessible to all UFT members.

Again, we go back to the cognitive dissonance idea earlier in this piece. Teachers should beware of “another ‘gotcha’ routine”? But the 76 elements that no one can be perfect on, form a road map for gotcha routines against teachers.

Time for the UFT to stop falling for the false emergency ploy of the education deformers
Naomi Klein in her seminal work, The Shock Doctrine, wrote of how policy makers can create a false emergency, whip the public into a crisis frenzy, and then insist on their dubious policies.

We must now say declaratively, there is no educational emergency for which teachers are responsible. All of the deforms of the Bush-Bloomberg-Obama 2000s have produced no gains in New York City schools. Indeed, The Village Voice published a story noting that the percentage of New York City high school graduates needing remediation in City University of New York (CUNY) community colleges has risen from 71 percent a few years ago to 80 percent today.

The UFT must once and for all recognize the factors that poverty and class play in educational performance. Virginia principal Mel Riddile, writing in his Principal Difference column, "PISA: It's Poverty, Not Stupid," cited data that showed rising PISA scores with falling poverty rates between school districts.

Only a leadership so long removed from the classroom as the Unity leadership would have negotiated away such power; only a long removed leadership would be so insensitive to its members as to never consider putting this contract-busting protocol up to a membership vote. We need a leadership that will listen to its members.

You have a choice: Vote for the MORE caucus. Ballots are due April 24, 2013.