Monday, April 1, 2013

How the UFT Misleads and Obfuscates on Danieleson "Pilot"

Our union was formed in order to protect teachers from administrative malpractice… not to facilitate it. Yet , with the “pilot” unchallenged by UFT leadership and now in its *second* year,   the pedagogy of teachers of severely and profoundly handicapped kids will again be analyzed and  rated according to Danielson’s  ”spam-in-a-can” criteria.
Danielson doesn’t work in D75. Mulgrew knows this.  Alas, the rest of UFT … even ( and I really don’t  quite *get* this part)   the Special Ed  section of  UFT…does not seem to understand what I’m talking about...
....after twenty-six years on the lookout for this sort of thing, I can recognize a truckload of DOE  *stupid* from a mile away. Especially when it’s headed right at me.
So when I saw this… this thing, “The Danielson Framework”, unveiled in September of 2011 and renamed ( Why?)by the NYC DOE ,”Talent Management Pilot”, I recognized a code-blue situation immediately and made a bee-line to my union leader, President of the United Federation of Teachers, Michael Mulgrew.
I managed to corner him  after the  UFT monthly Delegate Assembly  in October. I told Mr. Mulgrew that my District 75 “Network” ( group of NYC schools) was “piloting” ( testing) the Danielson Framework as a teacher observation tool in D75.  He exclaimed, and I quote: “They’re using *Danielson* in D75 !?”  He squinted, his brow furrowed. Then  he rolled his eyes. I slapped some related paperwork into  his hand.
 ----Paul Hogan, The District 75 Danielson Pilot: CRASH! Burn! Fizzle………..
Paul Hogan is a retired District 75 teacher and MORE member. He has become active with MORE because of the outrage at not only the DOE but of the tepid, misleading response of the Unity/New Action UFT leadership.

A comment from a mentor to teachers at ICE:
Danielson is being used as a tool for observation all over the place. D 75 is using it -they are said to be "piloting" it. Even though Danielson herself said it is inappropriate for special ed. She said she would be hiring someone to develop a rubric for special ed but it has not happened. Instead there will be an accompanying piece of things to look for-but the rubric is not changing. Principals will be trained in it and it is being rolled out on June 1st citywide and being tauted as the first time everyone in the city will be on the same page. What a claim!!!!

Paul Hogan posted a detailed analysis on his blog. Below are a more excerpts below but read it all at:

The District 75 Danielson Pilot: CRASH! Burn! Fizzle………..

25 Mar
Can Charlotte Danielson “cure” Down’s Syndrome?  Can she make it “go away” ( i.e. render it educationally irrelevant)?  What about cerebral palsy? Fetal Alcohol Syndrome?

Ms. Danielson  is the creator of the now-famous “Danielson Framework”. It is  a teacher observation/evaluation tool that is all the rage  in  those school districts  around the country that are  right now undergoing what is generously described as school “reform”.  So my admittedly loaded  question is this: Can she ( or *it*; i.e. the Framework)  enable a  16-year-old quadriplegic — with irreversible birth trauma-related organic brain damage, no spoken language capacity, and profound intellectual disability — to miraculously rise from his wheelchair and his wordlessness and lead his  classmates in a grade-level discussion of , say, Shakespeare’s break with  Renaissance literary convention in “Romeo and Juliet”?

All reasonable people agree: no. But the NYC Department of Education, particularly in the Bloomberg era,  treats  “reason” as one would  sensibly treat a contagious disease.  And, after twenty-six years on the lookout for this sort of thing, I can recognize a truckload of DOE  *stupid* from a mile away. Especially when it’s headed right at me.

Mulgrew used to teach in D75 and *instantly* saw the problem: Danielson’s work is  normed on general education teachers of general education students in general education classrooms. District 75, in contrast,  serves students with severe and profound intellectual and/or behavioral handicaps, often compounded by physical disabilities,  who are taught in specialized, *self-contained*  ( i.e. special ed only) classrooms by teachers who are trained and licensed to do  this highly specialized — and very different — type of teaching.

In short: NO gen ed students, NO gen ed classrooms; NO gen ed teachers in D75. This being the case, it seems inarguable that  mistakes were made ( a lot of them) when, last year:

1. the DOE  assigned 11 schools in District 75 to the so-called Talent Management Pilot ( DOE-speak for its version of Danielson);
2. the UFT agreed to go along with it;
3. no one bothered to consult the Special Ed professionals ( many with post-graduate degrees in Special Ed. and decades of experience working with the student population affected) in those 11 schools; the teachers whose professional lives were about to be turned upside down by the astoundingly *dumb* idea of test-driving  the Danielson Framework through District 75 .

Here’s the problem: Danielson doesn’t work in D75. Mulgrew knows this.  Alas, the rest of UFT … even ( and I really don’t  quite *get* this part)   the Special Ed  section of  UFT…does not seem to understand what I’m talking about. In November of 2012, more than a *year* after my ‘brief encounter” with President Mulgrew at the DA and, after a  lengthy  and complicated correspondence with the UFT VP for CurrIculum  that seems to have gone  absolutely *nowhere*,  I emailed said VP as follows:

“It is not a trivial issue. Evaluating teachers of severely  multiply-handicapped children with a rubric that is designed to evaluate teachers in general education settings with general education students is tantamount to punishing and penalizing teachers who go into this demanding , difficult and highly *specialized* type of teaching. Our union was formed in order to protect teachers from administrative malpractice… not to facilitate it. “

The simple fact is that the vast majority District 75 kids cannot, by definition, perform to the standards  required by the Danielson Framework.  (That’s WHY they’re in District 75!)  Yet , with the “pilot” unchallenged by UFT leadership and now in its *second* year,   the pedagogy of teachers of severely and profoundly handicapped kids will again be analyzed and  rated according to Danielson’s  ”spam-in-a-can” criteria.  The inescapable consequence: artificially low ratings for the aforementioned Special Ed teachers. It’s hard to explain to people  outside of the district  just how   ridiculous this  is; how *utterly* mismatched the tool is to the task;  how blatantly unfair to the specially-trained and  specially-licensed special educators who are — along with their students , of course — its  primary victims.  And, one increasingly suspects, its *targets*.

Ridiculous, you say?  It can’t be? Well, let’s look at some examples. In  Danielson’s  “Domain 3: Instruction,” the classroom teacher can earn a rating of “Highly Effective” ( the highest rating possible; it corresponds to a rating of 4 on a 4-point scale)  *only* if his/her students are observed by the evaluator ” formulat(ing) high-level questions.” Additionally, said students must “assume responsibility for the success of the discussion.”  In short, if one’s students aren’t observed doing this ( i.e. assuming “responsibility for the success of the discussion”) the teacher cannot be rated as “Highly Effective.”  These behaviors are, evidently, what Ms. Danielson expects of high school students in general education.

Now.  Perhaps we can excuse Ms. Danielson. ( And perhaps not . Her website bio says she has experience in teaching “all” levels, which is clearly not the case.) Statistically speaking, we are talking about kids that are outside the norm: 5% or less of NYC public school enrollment. It’s unlikely that Ms. Danielson understood this initially — I told her later —  but many of the youngsters in District 75 programs cannot speak. I don’t mean to say their language is “weak”. Or that they don’t speak *clearly*. I mean to say they literally “cannot speak”.  At all. 

Is something analogous happening here? It’s difficult to know. But  I  do think it’s incumbent on Ms. Danielson… given Gates’ scuzzy  history… to make plain the full  extent of her collaboration with him and be utterly clear on the question of exactly who  is paying exactly whom for exactly what.
Corporate influence aside, other disturbing questions are raised by the D75 Danielson Pilot.   The public trusts that there are responsible and knowledgable adults in charge at  NYC DOE  who  presumably SHOULD have put the kabbosh on a no-go notion like Danielson in D75 but did not, have not, and … apparently… will not. Does not the district have a Superintendent? Do not these 11 schools have a Network Leader? Do these education leaders not understand the nature  and  learning characteristics of the student population whose interests they purport to serve? Did they really read and  really understand the Danielson Frameworks before they decided to take the education of NYC’s least advantaged children out for  what amounts to a two-year joy ride? Do they really know what they’re doing?
Ms. Danielson has a vaguely  worded — and weirdly redundant ( Three paragraphs. Paragraph 3 repeats paragraph 1, nearly verbatim. BTW,should we rate that particular writing sample  1, 2, 3 or 4 ?) — official bio her on  website. She was kind enough to send me two meatier resumes on request. Likewise, Kirsten Busch Johnson, the DOE official in charge of the aforementioned Talent Management Pilot ( the Danielson Framework slightly ——and pointlessly, imo— revised by NYC DOE)  boasts a google-able online resume . Three years teaching experience right out of college. Before going to work for Microsoft, i.e. Gates. (Hey, she must be an expert.)

But what about the Superintendent ? And the Network Leader? You know, the upper-level DOE managers who are really supposed to know these D75 kids. Who are these people, really? I know their names and their faces and have met and spoken with both. Yet I can’t find an online  resume for either. I’m wondering if there’s a reason for that. How much do they really understand about this population? What is their training and education, exactly?  How many years– if any — have they spent  working in classrooms with these profoundly  impaired kids? Did they spend enough time  there to really absorb the nuances and complexities of getting these kids to learn?  Frankly, one doubts it. In any case, this taxpayer  wants to see the resumes.

Alas, we are kept in the dark.  And, while were at it,  let’s look at the building administrators: our principals  and their  assistant principals —  the bottom rung of the ed admin  ladder and consequently the paramecia, if you will, of  the now-immense corporate “reform” movement food chain.  These grim souls  do the dirty work.  Now functioning as professional nit-pickers and fault-finders,  they are in fact  ex-teachers (usually) with very limited ( almost always) hands-on experience themselves.  They nonetheless  go into  classrooms, ( in teams, if you can believe it) observe the instruction in progress and try to make the Danielson-based Talent Management Rubric sound relevant to a situation where no  objective, clear-thinking adult believes it has the slightest applicability.

One could almost feel sorry for them. It’s a fool’s errand if ever there was one.  But, by dutifully following   orders from the “big fish” in this particular  bureaucratic swamp, the small fry get to keep their  out-of-classroom jobs, along with the attendant perks.  So they  play along (or should I say “swim along”), aiding and abetting when and where they are needed. Classroom teachers, consequently,  take on a serious risk by teaching profoundly impaired  kids what they actually need to learn….as opposed to what’s in Ms. Danielson’s  Framework… and  doing so in ways that help those kids to actually *absorb* it.  Whatever her intention,  Ms.Danielson, by her own admission, has no clue as to what they need to learn. Nor how to deliver it. And her rubric reflects that. But what’s really alarming is this: neither do  the DOE “suits” who brought the Framework   into the D75 buildings.  And they’ve been involved with the D75 population for years. At this point , it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that they just don’t care.  At least not about the education of handicapped kids.

So, what do they care about then? Again, I’ve no idea. I’m neither mind-reader nor psychiatrist.  Some people don’t care about anything. Let’s leave that  ”to Dr. Freud along with the rest of it!”  But instinct ( and experience)  tells me  that the Talent Management Program’s application  to D75  is  concerned less with education than it is with *defamation*. This being the case,  it becomes more of a labor/management issue ( or a legal matter) than  an educational one. As to possible motive: it’s a lot easier to fire people if you can manage to professionally  discredit them first… even on the basis of such absurd  evidence as that yielded by the use of the Danielson Framework as a teacher observation tool. And it’s easier still to create a hostile work environment falling just short of the legal standard of  “hostile work environment” by setting them up to fail.  The Framework is useful for this purpose as well.  Then you don’t have to fire them. You can just drive them away.

So… where were we?  OH! Right! Now our union leader is going to do….well…. what exactly?


  1. Even if the NYS Education Department approves of the use of Danielson, specific actions of local school districts relating to its misuse can be appealed to Commissioner of Education King under Section 310 of the Education Law.

    1. You have to be kidding. You mean the same john King who is making his second appearance at an E4E meeting this Thursday? The same charter anti-public ed guy? The same guy who does not demand charter school teachers be subject to the same eval system he is forcing on the union teachers? Oh, let's appeal to him. Clearly, you are an apologist for the Unity line.

  2. This has absolutely nothing to do with "the Unity line."

    John King and Beth Berlin have continued the NYS Education Department's longstanding policy and practice of having Commissioner's decisions ghostwritten by the NYS Education Department's Office of Counsel.

    Whether the decisions go in one's favor or against, they are quite erudite, and contain citations to law, regulations, court decisions, prior Commissioner's decisions, etc.

    Here's an interesting decision involving co-location which provides great insight into the legal thinking that goes on at the NYS Education Department:

    It's quite informative, and sometimes entertaining, to research the decisions of the Commissioner of Education:


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