Tuesday, March 12, 2013

In What Other Jobs are Professionals Evaluated Like This?

The purported aim of this blog, at least originally, was to talk about ideas to actually improve education today.  It has since morphed into a whole new territory, but that's okay.  Today's post is in the vein of the original goal: improving education.  But, I'd like to focus less on what will improve it (you can click on the "teaching" topic in the "Posts by Topic" column to the left if you're interested in some of my ideas), and instead examine the INSANITY that is being legislated in an effort to "reform" schools.

I have a friend who is also a teacher, and she, too, has worked other jobs, and she asked me, "in what other job do supervisors evaluate you as you're doing your work?".  And it's a valid question.  Most everyone in office work has some sort of yearly evaluation, but I cannot think of one job where a superior comes to your desk or client meeting or conference presentation and pulls out a clipboard to perform an assessment of your skills.  Can you?   Do they question the client about why you are pitching the sale that way?  Or ask at the meeting why you are seated where you are?  Seriously? Because I need to know.

Well, in any case, this sort of evaluation has been in place for teachers since quite some time, but it is only recently that the powers that be have decided that this humiliating and undermining system be reworked into something humiliating, undermining and as convoluted as only a government committee could make it.  Or, a committee taking government money.  Introducing: The Danielson Framework!

This piece of rubbish "is divided into 22 components (and 76 smaller elements) clustered into four domains of teaching responsibility" that teachers are supposed to work into their forty-five minute lessons (at the rate of 2 per minute, one would assume).  Excuse me while I vomit on that bullshit quote from "The Danielson Group" above. 

This picture does not resemble my classroom in
so many ways: engaged, smiling children; working
cooperatively; technology from this century that is
not coated in gum, grafitti and retains all of its keys;
bright, clean surroundings; bright, clean kids...
I could go on. 
Okay, I have a wretched taste in my mouth, but I'm back.  This sort of garbage is where all our education money is going: to douchebags that put together gag-worthy documents and hire people to put pictures of happy, diverse children and educators collaborating in new, clean environments with cutting edge, functional technology all over their literature.  In other words, they haven't a clue about a real classroom.  I will not bore you with all the arcane details, but some things are just glaring problems with this "framework" and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure it out.  I will introduce to you one of the, uh, domains or subcomponents or whatever new lingo their copywriter came up with, of this overwrought behemoth:

Competency 3b - Using Questioning and Discussion Techniques

The teacher frames some questions designed to promote student thinking, but only a few students are involved.
The teacher invites students to resond directly to one another's ideas, but few students respond.
The teacher calls on many students, but only a small number actually participate in the discussion.

Discussions enable students to talk to one another, without ongoing mediation by the teacher.
Many students actively engage in the discussion.

Highly Effective:
Students initiate higher-order questions.
Students extend the discussion, enriching it.
Students invite comments from their classmates during a discussion.

From this small outtake, who can tell me the difference between a "developing" teacher and a "highly effective" teacher?  If you said "the students" you are correct!  So, a low-rated teacher will do all the right things, but the students will not be involved, respond or participate.  And that is the framework on which we are hanging all of our educational hopes on and spending all of our educational budget.  Yes, the teachers will be punished, with threat of losing their jobs, if the students don't engage in their own learning.  Believe me, if anyone would love for students to "initiate higher-order questions" or "extend the discussion", it would be teachers.  And a teacher with highly motivated students will simply sit back and the students will teach themselves!  How wonderful.  How utterly stupid.   


  1. I can't imagine high school kids actually doing that on their own.

    ...Gym class, maybe.

  2. Reminds me of all that frustrated the heck outta me when I taught Biology, Environmental Science and Anatomy & Physiology in DC.



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