Saturday, November 22, 2014

Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte Danielson: Pushing Great Teachers out the Door

Two years ago my school district lost an administrator who was thoroughly and universally loathed. At the time, he was teaching two classes of freshmen and serving as an administrator the rest of the day.

The principal replaced this departed insect with a strange "new" teacher. The "new" teacher, I'll call her Mrs. X, was a recently retired parochial school educator. Mrs. X had taught school, had been a principal, and had been a superintendent of diocesan schools in the area. Basically, she came back to teach at my school because she was handed a public school salary in keeping with her level of expertise, plus she was drawing a pension from her former job. This lady was set to rake in the cash, and she was thrilled about it.

Frankly I was thrilled about it too. Mrs. X, slender and stern, walked in and took charge. She was old-school, and watching her enriched my own teaching. An easy truce was established when I explained why I was out of school on Samhain (maybe this was the education she needed about the plurality of public schools). After that we were in complete understanding of each other. I didn't even resent her higher salary or her devotion to Roman Catholicism. To my way of thinking, she was an expert and deserved the ducats, and her faith took a back seat to her teaching.

It's ironic that this high-level educator found herself on the receiving end of evaluations again, after doling out evals so long. She accepted her "newbie" status with grace and was open to all feedback about her practice. Not surprisingly, she got good evals. She took her feedback with humility and grace. Bottom line, Mrs. X was an asset to our school.

And then came Charlotte Danielson.

Charlotte Danielson is not a person. Well, she is a person, but she's more like a thing these days. And that thing is a draconian teacher evaluation rubric steeped in epic complication.

During the second year that Mrs. X was on our staff, our administration announced that it would begin using the "Danielson Framework for Teaching" evaluation system at the beginning of the next school year. Mrs. X had heard of this pestilence. She had even used it -- but in a wise way, in a bits-and-pieces way. She had not used it in the wholesale way that my district iintended to use it.

Upon hearing that my school district was going to use the "Danielson Framework" in a comprehensive manner, every nut and bolt, Mrs. X tendered her resignation. "This is too much aggravation," she said. "It trumps the money."

My dear three readers, welcome to the era of "school reform."

"School reform" is supposed to get rid of the "bad apples" in teaching. You know, the teachers who sit on their behinds all day, showing videos, basically cashed out.

Well, I don't know about those teachers. I haven't seen any of those in my school. But I do know that the first person pushed out of my school district by the Charlotte Danielson "Framework for Teaching" was a master educator who had actually used Danielson and knew all about it.

In other words, "school reform" robbed my high school of a gem. A person I admired. A person I miss.

Occasionally Mrs. X comes in for a day of substitute teaching. (I always ask them to hire her for days when I'll be out.) She misses the gravy train she was on at my school, but no amount of money could induce her to stay and sweat out Danielson evaluations.

If you are the slightest bit curious about an evaluation tool that sends master teachers running back to a life on a parochial school pension, stay tuned. I'm on the front lines of school reform, and I want you to see what it looks like.


Anonymous said...

What a shame.

Stacy said...

She sounds like an awesome teacher. I was homeschooled for a number of years before moving and returning to public school for my last two years of high school and there were a lot of teachers who just showed us movies and never actually taught anything. I never once took my books home because I could pass and do my homework during class because I was so bored. I was challenged a lot more when I was doing on online/at home program. So, I guess I understand them wanting to get rid of the "bad apples" as you said lol. I am sorry Mrs. X was pushed out. Whoever is in charge of the evals and stuff obviously still needs to do a lot of work to figure out how to weed out the bad apples.