Sunday, December 8, 2013

Quantifying an Art

A frustrating development in teaching this year has been the advent of the Danielson model for evaluating teacher effectiveness. In Pennsylvania, as in many other states, it has become the rubric by which teachers are being formally judged. As with a lot of reforms in education, an idea starts with good intentions and clear rationale, but becomes bureaucratized and oppressive.

So far, it seems the model is creating a lot more work for administrators as well as some greater amount of anxiety for teachers. To summarize it succinctly, the Danielson model sets up a somewhat unrealistic expectation for distinguished teaching, making it likely that most teachers (those who are mediocre, average, good, and great) will be rated as proficient. I heard that some technocrat in Harrisburg quipped that distinguished is only a place one visits. Turns out I was wrong . . . Danielson herself said that, many times over. At the end of the day, however, it really only matters if the teacher is evaluated proficient. Whether or not the rating is proficient or distinguished, the same final judgment is put down on the ultimate teacher form.

Mustering the artifacts to render judgment on a teacher in this model takes time. There's a program for it, of course, which now brings to a total of five the required computer programs I must use on a somewhat regular basis to do my job (in addition to Microsoft Word, Infinite Campus, SchoolWires, and Outlook . . . and let us not forget the recommended programs I use to effectively reach my students such as Promethean, Powerpoint, and Excel). So, Danielson takes more time on the part of administrators (especially) and teachers, leads to pretty much the same conclusion, but adds some seasoning at the end that makes the professional more frustrated that they haven't attained the highest level, a level which might really be unreachable. A PDF on the website for the Danielson Group details what distinguished teaching looks like.

In an attempt to inspire excellence, the Danielson Framework instead ventures into arrogance. It's one rubric for a job that is guided a lot by intuition and subtle decisions that build important relationships. It's a job that involves children as young as five and as old as eighteen, in subjects as diverse as handwriting, music literacy, and physics. It's also a job that involves kids in a wickedly diverse set of strengths and shortcomings for a equally diverse set of reasons. It presumes a lot to have a one-size-fits-all rubric that identifies what great teaching is for as varied and diverse as our job is.

No comments: