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

Jose Vilson Education, Resources

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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