"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Charlotte Danielson Who Is Getting Rich on the Misuse of Her Intellectual Property

Charlotte Danielson has built a fence between herself and the misuse of her teacher evaluation scholarship.   I call it scholarship rather than research because there is little hard evidence that her system works to improve teaching.  Even so, CorpEd has paid the Danielson Group millions to use her materials to create a ridiculous rubric for high stakes teacher evaluations, even as Danielson publicly decries (when asked by Chelsea Clinton) the use of teacher evaluations for high stakes purposes.

Perhaps when Danielson is named as a litigant in the lawsuits that are brewing over CorpEd's crackpot schemes to evaluate teachers, then she will have a bit more to say publicly on the subject.  As teacher Brandon suggests in the following post, she could save her reputation, perhaps, if she were to do the honest thing, rather than the most lucrative one.

This commentary is from Polite on Society:

The currents of education are turbulent and ever changing. Ask any teacher who’s been in the classroom for a certain numbers of years, and they’ll tell you about all the educational fads, jargon, and theories that have passed through their classrooms like water from a colander in their careers, and they’ll prove to you the fickle nature of educational trends. Unfortunately, there is a powerful stormbrewing, and many wonder if these current tides bring poor tidings for education and educators. Programs and theories have never seemed so powerful, all encompassing and engrossing, or downrightdamaging as they have in the past ten years or so, since the passing of the No Child Left Behind Act and have laid the heavy burden of standardized testing as the ultimate measure of teaching and learning upon the profession and calling of teaching.  This kind of testing has led to an entire dehumanizing movement that addresses teaching as “one size fits all” and also assesses teaching in the same manner.
While I could speak until I drop about the absurdity of standardized assessment as the heavy indicator in learning, what is equally—if not more baffling—is the way in which teachers are handled and currently evaluated according to new systems across the country. They are based on Charlotte Danielson’s Effective Teaching Rubric and the rubric, as implemented in New York and many, many other states, is composed of 22 domains and sub-domains of observable and non-observable teaching practices or requirements that are meant to determine not only the effectiveness, but the development of a teacher along a spectrum that ranges from ineffective to highly effective.
Teachers, of course, use rubrics all the time so it only stands to reason that they might be employed in their own professional evaluations, however not only is such a comically huge rubric off-putting and worrisome, this particular one has no scientific research, focus group, control group, or experimental backing—no evidence based research of the sort teachers are legally mandated to employ themselves in classroom practice—that has ever been presented to justify its ubiquitous installation in national standards.
Additionally, Charlotte Danielson herself appears to have very little substantial evidence to credential her existence. The artifacts are few and far between. There are rumors swirling that she is a fiction developed by the Danielson Group to propagate their highly lucrative consulting services and texts. Purportedly she appears and speaks about her research, and is generally dismayed at its usage…but there is no empirical evidence of this in the media, and the Google Results yield very little beyond corporate propaganda and this very theory.
If it were me, and I was disgusted at the use of my research in the way that the Danielson Rubrics have been weaponized against the very populations I aimed to help by developing them—especially on such a large national scale—I might find myself standing on my soap box and hollering pretty loudly on newsprograms, networks, and the internet as loud as I could. In fact, Diane Ravitch who helped helm the push and study that lead to the abominable NCLB legislation, does just that—not only apologizing for the error of her past thinking, now fighting the good fight to undo its destructive and confounding mandates. Ravitch is outspoken, visible, and passionate in the public eye—hardly a serious debate occurs without her being cited or paraphrased towards dispelling the curse and plague upon our nations education systems.
While Danielson is reported to have studied at such notable institutions as Oxford and Rutgers, and her group’s webpage describes her as a globally recognized expert on education, her absence from the politically charged debates swirling around education is painfully obvious. Who is this person that has designed the system by which we are all judged? What is her body of work experience? Where has she taught? There was an enormous credentialing movement (Birthers) based entirely on finding out President Obama’s background—and he empirically exists. There is actual evidence of his physical existence, regardless of his credentials or experiences. Where is the birther movement to prove the existence of Charlotte Danielson? It leads one to wonder “Who is Charlotte Danielson?” in much the same way Ayn Rand’s “oppressed” denizens of Atlas Shrugged despairingly exclaimed “Who is John Galt?” in disgust, defeat, and disinterest in the goings on around them.
Teachers are battered, afraid for their jobs, and confused at what the expectations are—not because they cannot read what rubrics ask of them, but because they are vague and largely untenable when placed in the context of reality. But some with gallows humor and others with the glint in their eye of a cornered animal, we soldier on. There are kids to teach and minds to feed…but that mindset is part of the problem too. Teaching is a profession and an occupation, sure, but as I stated earlier it is also a calling…and an idealistic one to boot.
We are blinded by this calling to keep taking, absorbing, feinting, bobbing, and weaving through the pugilistic critical blows dealt to our field out of a desire to continue teaching and provide our students with the academic (and sometimes emotional) support that they hunger for. With one arm around our students it’s hard to fight back and take a stand. This is especially true in a climate so very prepared to privatize the public system and break the backs of our unions, the last organization with any willingness to listen to us and hear our concerns and frustrations, our fear and our anger. The unions are the last ones willing to defend us rather than defund us, but even the unions can’t stop the Danielson and Common Core Learning Standards blitz.
When you compound Danielson with those equally nebulous and cumbersome Common Core Learning Standards, you get the “Perfect Storm” of obfuscation and miscommunication. These standards are so vaguely written that schools run weeks long Professional Development and Inquiry Time just to “unpack” them and “decode” them so that they can be understood and tackled from a practical perspective. Few people actually believe it because of the scape goating that has been practiced in the media over the recent years, but teachers are actually rather intelligent folks—what with their multiple higher education degrees and certifications—so if it takes weeks for a room full of them to inspect the nouns and then verbs of edicts, and then debate the best route to their implementation, something must be very wrong in the wording.
In that way, above all, Danielson and CCLS are a match made in committee-hell: deadly for the future of our children our education systems, and our nation on the whole. One is a weight upon evaluation and the other a weight upon instruction…and like prisoners in a medieval stretcher; teachers all across the nation are reaching a breaking point.
Those of us who are young in our practice are second guessing our choices and those of us who are veterans and masters of the art find themselves standing in landscape they’ve never seen, confused as to how or why they got there and how they can get back home. We’re left not only wondering “Who is Charlotte Danielson” to sit as our judge but also “What is the Common Core” by which we are bound?
At the center of all the drama, politics, and strong arming are two women—one fighting for vindication against research that was misguided and misappropriated, and another whom few could identify in a line-up but whose impact is felt exponentially as you walk from the Principal’s Office into the Classroom. Diane Ravitch and Charlotte Danielson—or at least their bodies of work—have been used to fundamentally quantify and dehumanize the American Education system. Ravitch has since begun to rage against the machine that she helped design while Danielson may be the very image of Big Brother on the viewing screen—a careful crafted face of intrusive oversight, the face of a clockwork machine with many unfeeling, ever spinning gears.
Regardless of the actual existence of the philosopher, the philosophy has been used to Machiavellian ends to assist in the destruction of public education by removing the art from teaching. There is no room for creative, thoughtful practice. There are no teachable moments. You have to follow the script outlined by CCLS and Danielson—this is the unfathomable “even worse” evolution of the boxed-curriculum. Both the CCLS and Danielson leave very little room for creativity—indeed they call for so much mathematical data and assessment they hardly leave time for teachers to have lives. If the turbulent tides of education don’t soon change course—almost entirely—you can expect that many teachers won’t hive livelihoods either, because the system and the expectation, in light of the disorganization, misinformation, and under-resourcing of public education is designed to drown the system and sink us all in the crashing waves of an engineered perfect storm.
We have to tread hard and fight the raging currents set against us.

1 comment:

  1. Charlotte Danielson is a puppet. See http://wdhaverstock.blogspot.com/2012/03/chapter-thirty-one-charlotte-danielson.html