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New evaluation for untenured teachers calls for greater detail

City officials are planning to unveil a new evaluation system for un-tenured teachers and have enlisted the help of a prominent educator.

The Danielson Group — run by Charlotte Danielson, the creator of a widely-used taxonomy of teaching called the Framework for Teaching — is consulting with the Department of Education to create measures of good teaching tailored for the city.

Sources said the new evaluation system will be used for probationary teachers — those who typically have fewer than three years experience — and will guide principals in making tenure decisions. The new evaluation system has yet to be unveiled to teachers and principals, but DOE officials have shown it to network leaders, who will be charged with training principals in its use.

Meant to be in place by the time tenure decisions are made this spring, the new framework is part of Mayor Bloomberg’s push to make tenure more difficult to attain. In a speech delivered on NBC in September, the mayor said that tenure should not be a “formality” for teachers and vowed that this year, principals would use a new evaluation system.

The evaluations for probationary teachers will be distinct from the teacher rating system agreed upon by the State Education Department and the teachers union last spring. Both will rank teachers in one of four categories, but the new framework will be specifically used to guide tenure decisions.

DOE officials said Danielson’s framework will be part of the new evaluation system, but would not say how it will be weighed against other factors, such as students’ test scores.

Danielson’s rubric is incredibly detailed. It breaks teaching down into 22 components that fall within four areas of responsibility for a teacher: planning and preparation, the classroom environment, instruction, and professional responsibilities. Teachers are then evaluated on each of these components and placed in one of four categories: unsatisfactory, basic, proficient, and distinguished.

Cities like Chicago and Cincinnati have incorporated Danielson’s framework into their evaluations of some teachers.

Currently, New York City principals fill out a brief online form when recommending a teacher for tenure. If they want to deny tenure or give a teacher another year in which to improve, they must justify their recommendations to the superintendent. However, granting a teacher tenure requires little explanation.

Sources said the new system will reverse this so that principals will have to justify giving a teacher tenure through evidence drawn from observations, reviews of students’ work, and analysis of students’ test scores.

“Is this a much more rigorous process for principals? I do think it is,” said Michael Mendel, secretary of the teachers union. Mendel said that city officials briefly showed the new rubric to the union before taking it back.

Danielson said she was not personally involved in consulting the city on its new evaluation system, but she had words of advice: “One of the things we discovered in the training of evaluators, which in this case mostly means principals, is it’s not only essential to do well, it’s really hard to do well,” Danielson said.

“I just hope New York will budget enough time and resources for that because the system hinges on that, especially for making high stakes decision,” she said.

Teachers union president Michael Mulgrew echoed Danielson’s words.

“Charlotte Danielson’s work is very good but it requires real professional development and training before it is used, both by administrators and teachers,” he said.

The Danielson Group consultant working with the city did not return calls for comment.

A sample rubric for one of the components (the questioning and discussion one) is below: