Boredom, Thy Name Is Charlotte Danielson (On Rubrics and Misuse)

Jose VilsonEducation, Resources6 Comments

Charlotte Danielson

Charlotte Danielson

“And another thing!”

I’ve always wanted to start a post off like that, like I was in the middle of an impassioned diatribe and you just happened to step in to the thousand-person auditorium to hear me just get cooking. But then I snapped out of that dream and found myself in another boring Danielson training.

For those not in the know, the NYC Department of Education in conjunction with the United Federation of Teachers has agreed to use the Danielson framework, developed by professor Charlotte Danielson, to evaluate and support teachers. When I first heard her presentation a few years back, I didn’t think much of it. Four hours chock full of jargon and common understandings about the teaching profession might excite a few people, and got a few people hopeful for a person with the solution to examining the elements of a teacher’s performance.

I’m not one of them.

At one point, I remember United Federation of Teachers’ president tell a congregation of us from our district that he liked “Danielson” and calls her from time to time. He sifted through the rubrics and found them to be rather impressive, and they deserve rich discussions around them with accurate understandings from all parties involved in a teacher’s evaluation.

Yet, that’s not what happened. He said that, upon delivering the rubrics to city administrators, the NYC Department of Ed turned the rubrics into a checklist, contrary to what Charlotte Danielson herself seemed to intimate to everyone within earshot. Yet, few people on the ground get a chance to actually hear her. Rather, we get a thick packet with a bunch of boxes that will presumably push teachers to think outside those boxes.


Furthermore, educators across the city have now been subjected to soporific professional development sessions with papers upon useless papers brimming with information on how schools, districts, network support staff, and outside consultants will align behind Danielson’s word to judge teacher effectiveness, enumerating the innumerable. Even those with the best intentions might find themselves climbing down a wayward rabbit’s hole, eventually coming to the conclusion that disseminating information about the Danielson framework is a matter of how effective your direct instruction is, contrary to the teaching style Danielson prefers.

In the interim, these workshops will continue to bore our brains out while we could all spend our time working with one another, developing ideas, and catching up on life, as with anything. I don’t have personal issues with Charlotte or her work, but, to be sure, plenty of scientists’ Earth-shattering works have been used to destroy it. Much of the Danielson framework seems to hinge on whether we are willing to sit on our hands, smile, and nod, complain about the types of people who work at our central offices (youngish with little to no classroom experience), or we can roll up our sleeves and push back with our own solutions.

Until we as educators do anything of the sort, Danielson’s new name ought to be “boredom.” She might still inspire teachers to do their work better via her rubrics, but she’s provided a name for many more of us.

Mr. Vilson

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Comments 6

  1. I think Danielson’s rubric is pretty good. Like almost any tool, once you start trying to overly standardize and mandate and glorify and pasteurize and homogenize it, it may lose some of its appeal. Definitely sounds like a situation that calls for some differentiated and less formal PD, too.

  2. Post

    Thanks, David. I agree with that. I liken it to a scientist coming up with an invention, thinking it’ll be used for good, but someone puts their hands and intentions on it and becomes something different. I wish we had more thoughtful conversations around the rubrics because that’s important.

  3. Thanks for the post. Was wondering if you have seen the following quote from her, which basically says all you need to know about how her rubric is being used incorrectly:

    A lot of the policy types, they want a number. And this stuff doesn’t lend itself to numbers. But the minute a teacher’s performance rating is a high-stakes matter, people are going to do whatever they have to do to be rated highly. And the things you have to do to be rated highly are exactly the opposite of things you’d do if you wanted to learn–you wouldn’t try anything new, you would be protective, you would be legalistic about the ratings, and you’d argue. None of that makes you open to improving your teaching.


  4. It seems to me that most administrators don’t understand how the Danielson Framework should be used as an evaluation tool. They create checklists using them as an example of what teachers should be doing, and if a teacher doesn’t do it then its a “gotcha”. After examining the Danielson Framework closely it does mirror many best practices of an educator, the problem is that once an administration has made it into checklists it becomes difficult for a teacher to effectively use it. In fact I know of one NYC administrator who basically said the rubric is dependent upon the individual teacher and the situation. Which basically says to me that its use is going to be skewed to suit the administrators desires, rather than as a method of supporting students and fairly evaluating teachers.

  5. The problem with public education is there are to many people telling teachers how they want them to teach. Then when the students fail these useless State tests teachers are blamed and the people with the ideas leave with millions of dollars in their pocket. Danielson’s framework is more of a social event. Students are discussing with other students. To me it’s students teaching themselves as the teacher walks around. She appears to be against teachers teaching and students memorizing. Her framwork is not getting students ready for State tests. I don’t understand why Gates is involved in teaching. Oh yes, he can sell his software to companies, individuals an etc. who is making money off of education. Plus, her framework can now make it easy for principals to fire teachers calling them ineffective, the new word in education. We do not need frameworks or harsh evaluations, what our schools need is prayer back in them. If we all prayed to God then there would be no chaos going on in American Public Schools.

  6. I do not think the Danielson Framework is a good evaluation tool for teachers who teach academic subjects in primary or secondary schools. Perhaps in law schools her framework would be good. I find her framework frustrating and it is not focused on standardized testing. It is more focused on being nice to the students and your colleagues. And letting students take over the classroom and let them teach themselves. The problem in this country is the creation of words that sounds good to people. The new words rigorous, effective and engaged. I guess the people who create these words would summarize education as, An effective teacher will teach with rigor to keep their students engaged so they can think critically. This is just a punch of words thrown together and it makes no sense, this is what education has come to in America.

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