Inspiration for Leaders

Enjoy this news and reflection blog brought to you from the LHRIC Technology Leadership Institute!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

School Administrators Turn Out to Hear APPR Expert Speak

Approximately 200 representatives from a variety of local school districts, including superintendents, assistant superintendents and administrative teams responsible for their districts' performance review decisions, turned out Jan. 12 to hear the much sought-after APPR expert, Charlotte Danielson, advise districts on the implementation of new teacher performance reviews.

Ms. Danielson, an internationally recognized expert in the area of teacher effectiveness and the author of the Charlotte Danielson Framework for Teaching, was joined by Mark Atkinson, founder and chief of Teachscape.

The presentation, which was hosted by the Lower Hudson Regional Information Center, was held at the Edith Macy Conference in Briarcliff.

The consulting firm recently teamed up with Ms. Danielson and her company, The Danielson Group, along with the Educational Testing Service (ETS), to develop the new Framework for Teaching Proficiency System, which is based, in part, on the Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) research project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Teachscape's system is the online solution to Ms. Danielson's research-based work to improve and assess the quality of classroom instruction, a critical component of the state's and federal government's recent policy initiatives that place a greater emphasis on performance-based teacher evaluation systems. The LHRIC has partnered with Teachscape to help districts implement these solutions.

For educators practicing in New York State, Gov. Andrew Cuomo's recently released Executive Budget stipulates that school districts will not be eligible for state aid increases unless they fully implement this new policy, which was enacted in 2010, and helped the state win almost $700 million in Race to the Top funds.

Under the new teacher review process, ratings will be compiled based on classroom observations, state test scores and other locally-decided measures. The Danielson model is one of several teacher and principal evaluation models that are in effect this school year for math and English teachers in grades 4-8 and their building principals, and for everyone else in the 2012-13 year.

Teaching, a Complex Job

At the start of the three-hour presentation, Ms. Danielson listened to some of the concerns that districts representatives have regarding the much talked-about process. Some shared their teachers' skepticism toward a one-time-only observation of classroom teachers, while others wondered how special education teachers might be judged.

Part of the problem, said Ms. Danielson, is that all teachers are being examined in the same way and that those outside the teaching profession are unaware of the difficulty of the job. "If you think about the complexity of the work that doctors do and the fact that they see only one patient at a time, well, we would call that tutoring," quipped Ms. Danielson. "The minute you add 26 additional students, you are talking about something much more complex."

Ms. Danielson admits, however, that the quality of the teaching can "always be a bit better." In fact, it's the obligation of every teacher to be engaged in a career-long endeavor that strengthens his or her practice, she added. But implementing a teacher evaluation system that focuses on professional efforts and the promotion of learning as a collegial endeavor would be more practical, said Ms. Danielson.

Reflective Practice and Self-Assessment

"Using my framework, learning is done by the learner through an active intellectual process," said Ms. Danielson. When a teacher is being observed, she noted, the observer should be looking at both the students and the teacher to determine if indeed the students are learning, if the teacher is being thoughtful in his or her method of teaching, and if he or she is making actual connections with students.

To define effective teaching, Ms. Danielson looks at what teachers actually do, in other words, how well they do the work of teaching, and what they accomplish as result of that, or how well their students learn from them.

Ms. Danielson, who has taught at every level from kindergarten through college, cited several studies on teacher practices and performance evaluations in various school districts across the nation, noting that value-added models of teacher effectiveness are often highly unstable and are dependent upon the kind of statistical model that is used to measure it.

To conduct a fair system for teacher evaluation, Ms. Danielson suggested that districts have a clear definition of teaching, have the appropriate instruments and procedures available to provide evidence of teaching, provide trained evaluators who can make accurate and consistent judgments based on evidence, provide professional development for teachers so that they understand the evaluation criteria, and have a process in place for making final judgments.

Her latest work, the "Framework for Teaching, 2011," is grounded in active student engagement, said Ms. Danielson, and also encourages a reflective assessment practice, which means that in addition to teachers reflecting on their practice in the classroom, observers must also identify what they saw, withholding judgment about it, and then taking the time to discuss with the teacher the circumstances surrounding that observation.

To implement the practices that Ms. Danielson suggests in her Framework, Mr. Atkinson recommended that districts consider Teachscape's observation tools. They include the Teachscape Walk, Reflect Live and Reflect Video programs.

To see a video of the presentation, which is housed in the RIC's Ensemble library of videos, go to discover more about the services Teachscape offers to school districts, visit:, or to find out how your district can work with Teachscape, contact Leslie Accardo at or by phone at 914-592-4203, ext. 3406.