The City of New York has required of its teachers the strict adherence to Charlotte Danielson’s Framework for Effective Teaching by using it as the bulk and centerpiece of its new evaluation system in accordance with a number of Federal Regulations and top down “reforms” on the education systems. For those of you unfamiliar with the system it is a four component, twenty-two domain system that purportedly sets forth criterion for effective teaching based on the HEDI scale. HEDI is the acronym for the rubrics grading spectrum of Highly Effective, Effective, Developing, and Ineffective.
This system in accordance with the States convoluted and contrived formlas and algorithms for “value added” test score evaluation compose the system by which teachers will live and die, professionally speaking. The system itself is rigid, cold, and anxiety provoking as no human being could possibly adhere to all of the required practices in order to be deemed a highly effective teacher. However, a teacher’s ability to teach is greatly impacted by the resources and leadership they are provided with—especially when you factor in the robotically consistent style of boxed pedagogy the Department of Education is looking to engender in classrooms.
Therefore, it is only reasonable and fair that the City be evaluated based on the same criterion that its teachers as expected to and see if they might be hoist by their own petard. With that in mind, I took a quick look at just one component of Danielson upon which to judge the City—Component 1, Planning and Preparation based on my experience and knowledge of the DOE’s Elementary Schools. The reason component 1 has been isolated is due to the fact that without proper planning and preparation on the part of the system—and indeed the teacher—no effective learning or teaching can occur. I submit below, in strict adherence to the style in which teacher’s are being evaluated, an observation report for the New York City Department of Education.
In Component 1a of Charlotte Danielson’s framework (Planning and Preparation)—as distributed by New York City’s Department of Education—states that teachers need to be abreast of how teaching has evolved into the 21st Century, and should be aware and well versed in the internal relationships of the disciplines they teach. Further, Danielson asserts, that they should also be well versed in the best practices to teach each domain both in an integrated and stand alone manner.
In this domain I would rate the City of New York as Ineffective as show in the rubric attached to this domain. The reason for this ineffective rating is due to the fact that it commissioned and essentially mandated two Common Core aligned curriculum programs sight unseen with improper time to write, develop, test, revise, and localize.
The reading program, Ready Gen, while containing some interdisciplinary elements is not well developed, contains many typos, and does not accommodate multiple entry points for students who are reading below or above level for the texts required. Additionally, the reading program does not contain a reading and decoding component and therefor is actually mislabeled. Ready Gen is not ready, nor is it a full reading system.
The math program, while attempting to have interventions for students above and below level, does not integrate curriculum with the scope and sequence for the grade level, nor does it effectively outline strategies that enable students to quickly, easily, and accurately calculate numbers. Rather, then, the program employs obfuscating methods and confounding language to relay simple math strategies at a developmentally inappropriate time. The program also contains many errors in questions that lead students to answers that contain negative numbers before they have been introduced to the concept, or worse word problems that are missing necessary and key information required to solve them.
The indicators missing in the DOE’s plan for these programs include:
- Lesson and unit plans that accommodate prerequisite relationships among concepts and skills
- Clear and accurate classroom explanations
- Accurate answers to student’s questions
- Feedback to students that furthers learning
In Component 1b (Demonstrating Knowledge of Students) the Danielson framework requires, among other things, that students be taken as whole individuals in the planning process and that their cultural and personal backgrounds play significantly into the planning that is required for effective pedagogy. In this domain it is also evident that athletic, musical, and other extra curricular activities be accounted for in planning. Additionally, it requires that students be a taught at their developmental levels in a rigorous but reasonable way that allows them to grow. It requires assessments showing progress but also requires that teachers take part in culturally important or significant community events, and allow students to have teacher provided time to share their cultural backgrounds.
In this domain, the New York City Department of Education is rated as Ineffective, based on the grounds of the key elements of:
- Knowledge of child and adolescent development
- Knowledge of the learning process
- Knowledge of student’s special needs
While there are other elements also grievously underdeveloped in this domain, these three are core factors needed to have a successful school system and the Department of Education is failing miserably at understanding children and how children learn. This is painfully evident in the City’s adoption of the Common Core Learning Standards—a system of skills and objectives that are so nebulously and psychotically phrased that they require hours of detangling and unraveling just to approach them. Worse yet the CCLS remove the Eros and spirit of learning from the classroom experience, leaving it devoid of any joy in the face of cold and calculating examinations.
The DOE is overly reliant on formal assessment data such as summative standardized examinations, which besides being inherently biased and culturally incompetent by their very nature, do not measure the full gamut of a student’s ability to perform, nor do they measure the practice of gained knowledge in a generally natural or authentic setting. The DOE however, doesn’t put significant emphasis on formative assessment in terms of teacher input, nor does it subscribe to a significant or satisfactorily sophisticated portfolio system in which student work over time is judged to determine a line of progress.
Furthermore, the City does not offer enough technology, art, music, or athletics to its students—effectively not only barring students from developing skills and interests at an early age but also preventing and ignoring a key element in liberal arts and sciences education, and in many cases limiting the potential of hard sciences exposure.
Worse yet, the City fails to have enough service providers and proper facilities for students to have not only the appropriate scaffolding for what Piaget describes as the Zone of Proximal Development, but also fails to set up an environment that is conducive with the philosophies of Dewy (among others) that allows for and encourages learning. This proves the case that the Department of Education fails to provide or prove in depth knowledge of student’s particular needs both as a group, and unfortunately for the individual in far too many cases.
Additionally, as the Department of Education has moved away from having District Offices and has been practicing the closing of many community schools in order to open charter schools or smaller schools within single buildings, the ability of the schools—and by extension the DOE—to take part in a meaningful way with the communities they service has been incredibly hindered. Whereas in the past schools had been community centers, providing a certain space, experience, and general commonality for a particular serviced areas, this is rapidly decreasing and, beyond the legally mandated role as polling centers for elections, the school has a decreased value to the structure and nature of a community. This impacts the community in a number of ways and effectively amputates the personal, familial, and community culture from the building in lieu of a faux culture imposed upon the institution stemming from DOE and other’s educational mandates.
The indicators missing in the DOE’s display of knowledge of students include:
- Student interests and needs learned for use of planning
- Participation in community events
- Formal and informal information gather for use in planning instruction
- Opportunities for families to share their heritages
In Component1c (Setting Instructional Outcomes) the focus of the Danielson framework is that teaching should be a purposeful activity in which results are valued over activities, and where students should be able to demonstrate a working knowledge of the skills and lessons they have and are in the process of mastering. In this, Danielson states that there are a number of different kinds of knowledge that can be assessed including factual and procedural knowledge, conceptual understanding, reasoning, collaboration and communication. Additionally, they state that suitability for diverse learners is a significant area of importance.
The Department of Education is rated Ineffective based on the following missing elements of component 1c:
- Value, sequence, and alignment
- Suitability for diverse students
The ineffective rating earned by NYCDOE in this domain is tied specifically, and once again, to their choice of curriculum, the hastiness in which that curriculum was developed and delivered, their continued adherence to the Common Core Curriculum (this in spite of Danielson’s use of CCLS as a suggested and encouraged standard set to align to), their reliance on standardized testing, and their inability to properly service students with special education needs.
In the choice of their preferred curriculum—Ready Gen and Go Math—not only are the programs themselves hastily written and laden with confounding typos and errors, they also have not—in cases—been properly aligned to the scope and sequence for a particular grade. For example, there are integrated elements of the Go Math curriculum that provide context to word problems that are generally superfluous to instruction, but also contain confounding and confusing information that requires precious instructional time for math to be explained. These attempts at an integrated curriculum also fall out of line with the scope and sequence of the integrated content area creating confusion.
Moreover, the integrated content area is not consistent throughout the unit, which undermines the entire affair. Basing computation and word problem solving exercises on these examples, therefore, defeats the very purpose of integrating the curriculum because the integrated areas are not being built upon in conjunction with the math skill—there is no cumulative effect of the information.
Further, the strategies and explanations of math concepts and processes are boggling for adults, and students are equally if not more confused—because more often than not, their instructors don’t understand what the program is asking of them. The wording of the questions—beyond the lack of proper strategic equipping—is purposefully confusing and incompetently edited to such a degree that, assuming the work was developmentally appropriate, it would still be difficult to ascertain the nature and operation (as well as units and amounts) required to solve the problems. This is leading to many classroom teachers seeing a huge deficit in the number of standards that students are able to meet, even at the onset of the school year.
In the case of Ready Gen, there is a more consistent effort to integrate curriculum, but the program is unclear in its components and does not make a clear suggestion for pacing or activity choice. Rather than placing the blame squarely on the publisher, it should be noted that this program was commissioned, adopted, and employed sight unseen by the DOE while it lacked a full two-thirds of the estimated development time. This has resulted in a hastily disseminated product that has many faults and requires a lot of simple copy editing before any real instructional choices and corrections could be made.
However, it is important to note again that the program does not contain a decoding provision, nor does it have a traditional writing or spelling component. For the amount of time the program assumes to dominate in a school day, one might consider that it should at least teach the to the width of an entire domain before presuming to integrate with others.
In the case of balance and suitability, we return again not only to the programs—Ready Gen provides no realistic scaffolding for students below the level of the text for a variety of reasons including the ones mentioned above—but also the reliance and the mandate of standardized testing for all or most of its students. For example, students who are English Language Learners at any level of ELL status should not be required to take grade level standardized examinations in English, or possibly at all. These students are by definition not performing at grade level due to their special need—while there is no objection to their performing in a test set to measure their ESL progress (such as NYSESLAT tests)—there is no reasonable justification for the other practices.
The areas of Components 1d-f of the Charlotte Danielson framework, most of the content and indicators are largely the same as the previous sections. They relate the need for teachers to demonstrate a knowledge of resources—which the City has failed at miserably by not only failing to repair dilapidated technology, but more detrimentally their inability to properly provide curriculum materials in the 2013-14 school year to Elementary Schools across the boroughs. They also refer to Designing Coherent Instruction which, if the City’s contracted publishers of Pearson and Houghton Mifflin are any indication by their Ready Gen and Go Math products, the City fails as well. In the area of Component 1f, the framework measures the Design of Student Assessments, which by the City’s over reliance on Standardized examinations, and lack of use of its own data (i.e. the continued practice of social promotion due to logistical issues and compounding the over crowding which would certainly ensure the failure of most-if-not-all of the Component 2 domains) the City is ineffective there as well.
The fact that the City requires that teachers be evaluated on this system when the City itself cannot effectively manage its standards is not surprising, but is certainly irrational and probably immoral. Additionally, in practicing with the rubric as an evaluative tool it is fairly obvious that this system was never intended to be a concrete checklist for teachers—it would set up an inhuman standard. My 29 years of extensive experience as a human being makes it evidently clear that these rubrics and frameworks were intended by their developer to be a conversation piece around which a more equitable and concrete system would be mediated in proper supervision, and with brainstorming for next steps. It occurs to me that the individuals responsible for its implementation as a concrete system instead must not have any parallel experience to my own in that regard, as the full execution of these suggestions and examples as exemplars is thoroughly impossible to flesh and blood human beings.
Honestly, I could have probably found a way to align all of Danielson’s components and domains into each other because their wording and their nature is cyclical in nature, and there is much overlap, however I became personally frustrated as I worked with this rubric because it is highly subjective and malleable. The truth of the matter is I could probably find ways to justify the Department of Education as High Effective (which I wouldn’t), which also goes to prove how ineffective it is as a stand alone system—but also proves that teachers are in a precarious way and are under the thumb and subject to the whims of administrators with axes to grind.
It comes as little surprise that along with several other acts of misconduct the use of this evaluation system is the cause of a Union Initiated Grievance on the part of the City’s Teachers. It also comes as no shock that Charlotte Danielson is not pleased with the implementation of this research is planning to sue the City of New York for misappropriation or some similar charge. This system utilized in this manner does little for students and does nothing but add undue and unneeded stress to teachers. In fact, one might be so bold as to say that using the Danielson Framework as a standalone evaluative too is in itself, ineffective.