charlotte danielson Archives - The Jose Vilson

charlotte danielson

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

photo c/o –


You Have No Idea What To Count, So Shut Up

by Jose Vilson on January 1, 2012

in Mr. Vilson

Ira Socol, the unabashed scholar he is, dropped my first favorite quote of 2012 in his meme on December 30th:

Things I don’t want to hear in 2012: (3) “Accountability” – you have no idea what to count, so shut up.

Gospel. I almost fell on my face laughing. How did he jump in my skull and pull that thought out? After the recent news that the UFT (yes, my union) and the NYC Department of Education (yes, my employer) came to an impasse about how teachers ought to be evaluated, I could only think of the tense conversations that happened in that room.

DOE Rep: If you read the Danielson framework carefully, you’ll see right there that it says you can fire teachers at will.
UFT Rep: No, it doesn’t.
DOE Rep: I’m telling you, if you read the appendices and the fine print, she says so unequivocally.
UFT Rep: No she doesn’t.
DOE Rep: But we want to fire teachers.
UFT Rep: No.
DOE Rep: Please?
UFT Rep: No.
DOE Rep: Ummm … you really don’t understand. There were … umm … a few dimensions she just added …
UFT Rep: Where?
DOE Rep: Umm … they’re right … there. It says it. Why are you so difficult?
UFT Rep: I can read.
DOE Rep: You saying I can’t read? I’m insulted.
UFT Rep: Oh ok.
DOE Rep: So … when can we start firing teachers?
UFT Rep: Nope.
DOE Rep: Nope is not a good time. Nope isn’t even a time. What are you talking about?
UFT Rep: Not happening.
DOE Rep: Aww man. Well, we’re telling the media.
UFT Rep: #shankershrug

All this over a cool $60 million in funds that probably won’t go straight to the schools, but will be in “deliverable goods” like third party vendors and the like. They’ll eventually swim right through the schools, the city will have to foot the bill when the funds run out, and then they’ll be back to square one. $60 mil is a good spot of cash for any public school system, but if there is a school system that won’t do the money justice, it’s ours. Instead of investing in experienced teachers and administrators, we invest it in people we may or may not see a few times a year.

Naturally, some of my detractors might say that if I don’t believe in the DOE proposal for evaluating teachers, then I believe in the status quo. Well … not exactly. Sherman Dorn did a good job of addressing the issue of status quo a while back, but here’s something else: I do believe in teacher evaluation. However, if we’re going to do it, it’ll be under some stringent conditions, ones that might *ahem* revolutionize the school system as we know it.

  1. Evaluators need to have been in the classroom for five years or longer i.e. become a good teacher.
  2. Teachers ought to see and understand the nuances under which they’re evaluated.
  3. People should be taught the difference between tenure and due process, the latter which should be afforded to all teachers.
  4. Administrators should assure that the systems created help everyone in the system grow as professionals, not just make them punitive measures.

That’s only my off-the-cuff thoughts on teacher evaluation. Based on the Danielson model, it’s harder to “count” things or make them into checklists for administrators to see, but people have done it already anyways. In the meantime, the idea of mutual “counting” never happens here. It happens to the people at the school level (generally), but, for the person who controls it all, there is no accountability. No slap on the wrist. No expose in Newsweek or ABC Nightline. If a feeling of disappointment and a grimace are somehow the means for accountability, then we’re very far from an education system for all.

If it’s about $60 million, we ought to just give it back. Outside of that money, we don’t even know what to count.

Jose, who will savor as much writing as he can do for the next few days …

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That’s 21 of Your Validators Ate Up At The Same Time

by Jose Vilson on November 7, 2011

in Jose


I‘m not a regular competitor, first rhyme editor
Melody arranger, poet, etcetera
Extra events, the grand finale like bonus
I am the man they call the microphonist
With wisdom which means wise words bein spoken
Too many at one time watch the mic start smokin’
I came to express the rap I manifest
Stand in my way and I’ll veto, in other words, protest
MC’s that wanna be dissed they’re gonna
Be dissed if they don’t get from in fronta
All they can go get is me a glass of Moet
A hard time, sip your juice and watch a smooth poet
I take 7 MC’s put em in a line
And add 7 more brothas who think they can rhyme
Well, it’ll take 7 more before I go for mine
And that’s 21 MC’s ate up at the same time …”

- Rakim in “My Melody”

A union meeting with UFT President Michael Mulgrew would rile me up. I won’t share too much about the things I experience today, but I’ll give you a hint:

I’d love to emphasize the urgency I have about the myriad of people who swear they have all the answers to education’s problems. Before this post, I had a list of people I wanted to put on a Wanted List for all sorts of edu-terrorist activities, but I can’t blame them anymore than the system that continues to allows these open sores to spread all over its own epidermis. Our education system has the wherewithal of a Lernaean Hydra, and the breath of one, too. For, should I dismantle one talking head’s argument, another two show up with confounding and equally disgusting arguments.

What does it say about a system that lets Joel Klein influence the likes of Michelle Rhee and Arne Duncan?

Underneath those usual polemic figures lies a slew of third party vendors, some of whom base their research on years of experience and literature, and others who (admittedly) aggregate what they like and re-sell it as their own product? It seems as if we’re selling off whole chunks of our education system to the highest bidder, but the bidder never actually bids, and makes way more money than he / she invested to begin with.

At this point in my career, I’ve seen schemata and schemes to make me question everything, no matter how trustworthy the source. I’ve had equal parts experience with America’s Choice and Institute for Learning, but only one of those I respected. While the former sought to dismantle what they perceived as stern egos, the latter sought to interweave their research-based vision with what the teachers already knew content-wise. The latter assumed our intelligence whereas the former literally tried to embarrass me and my colleagues in front of each other in an obvious set-up. (I let them know as much too).

But if I came in last year, and both of those organizations came to me with their proposal for how to transform my teaching in the classroom, I’d diss them both. As a matter of fact, a couple of years ago, when I didn’t feel so hot about my teaching, I heavily critiqued people from Learner-Centered Intiatives and, before them, Marilyn Burns. First, I distrusted them because their representatives weren’t racially diverse. At all. Frankly, most of the people who came to “visit” were White, and they weren’t talking in terms of the race consciousness that threw peanuts at our heads with its big trunk. More importantly, these visitors were forced upon us without any regard for what the staff might actually need. We’d have to sit there for hours and listen to a random stranger tell us what’s wrong with our teaching.

“Shut up already and get to the point,” I’d say.

Then one day, I decided to do some of the research for myself. As it turns out, not all the third party vendors were bad after all. It depended on a few more factors than I originally considered. For one, did the person in front of me teach for a considerable amount of time? If so, did they look like they’d be able to take over my class for a few periods if given a chance? Did they engage me or just work from a deficit model?

As I considered some of these things, I was enveloped in another set of pedagogy wizards who could fix every school’s problems. In NYC, the focus is on Mike Schmoker and Charlotte Danielson. I’ve ragged on Danielson a fair amount less because of the content of her teacher rubrics and more because NYC has already forced her wares upon its schools with no regard for understanding the intent of the creator. Upon reading Danielson a few years ago, I was curious about her beliefs about teaching, and found her respectful of the profession she researched. Professorial, sure, but most of the intelligent people I know actually respect her work. Plus, it’s nice to have a self-evaluative tool. She didn’t rely on Rob Marzano or Heidi Hayes Jacobs to feed everything she knew about teaching. She didn’t aggregate whatever she thought she liked and resold it as her product, nor did she chomp whole bits of Ted Sizer’s philosophy and hustle schools into believing it works right now.

Which is exactly what Schmoker does.

That’s not his fault, though. There are plenty of school systems seeking some validation for the shock doctrine-style invasions they’re going through, and only certain people have the genital fortitude to pet and stroke this infected beast. Whether the ideas generated by these folks is a good idea or not, the way it gets presented to teachers via e-mail / memo / local right-wing newspaper can get mutilated to the point where it loses all effect.

This is not to say that all hope is lost. Some of those third party vendors do the work of the people, and we need solid support wherever we can get it. But the minute one of those vendors gets out of line, the people in the classroom ought to turn the desks around on these people and call them out on their nonsense. We ought to seek endorsement for the things we do, and help in the things we need to improve. We don’t need validation, because that’s what we seek from our children.

Mr. Vilson, who wants you to disagree when necessary …