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What King decreed, Part I: Danielson, observations, and video

Over the past 48 hours since State Education Commissioner John King set a new teacher evaluation system for New York City, both sides in the dispute have sought to position themselves as winners. First out of the gate was the Bloomberg administration, which compiled a chart outlining its victories and boasted about publicly. But, as union officials argued in an email highlighting their own “wins,” it was a cherry-picked list.

King imposed the plan after reviewing policy papers (that still have not been made public) and hearing hours of testimony last week. In his written explanation of his decision, he summarized where the two sides differed and where they occasionally agreed — and where he sometimes disagreed with both of them.

We’ve rounded up some of the biggest disputes and how King settled them. In the first part of the roundup, we look at King’s decisions on issues relating to teacher observations, which will count for 60 percent of teachers’ scores next year.

Version of the Danielson rubric
Outcome: DOE win

One of the only issues, it seemed, that the city and the union could agree on when it came to observations was which rubric to base them on. It turns out they lacked consensus even there.

The union proposed using the version of Charlotte Danielson’s rubric, called the Framework for Teaching, that teachers have used since the city’s Teacher Effectiveness Pilot started three years ago. The city advocated for the updated version, which came out this year and accounts for instructional practices required of teachers as the state transitions to the Common Core learning standards.

King, who has driven the state’s adoption and rollout of the Common Core, imposed the updated version.

Danielson components
Outcome: UFT win
The Danielson Framework contains 22 “components” broken down into four “domains.” Arguing that the framework’s elements are interrelated, the UFT wanted principals to have to consider all 22 components when rating teachers. But the city asked for only a subset of seven components to count. Both the city and UFT agreed that the domains that have to do with in-class instruction should get more weight than the domains that deal with teacher’s planning and after-class reflection.

In his ruling, King sided with the UFT. Since all of the components work together, he said, they should all factor into teachers’ ratings. He awarded 75 percent weight to the domains that the UFT and city agreed were more important.

Face-to-face meetings
Outcome: DOE win
City officials had previously expressed skepticism that principals should have to provide formal feedback to teachers after observing them. But in their proposal to King, the city proposed setting a 90-day timeline for feedback that could be exchanged online, by email, over the phone, or in person. Citing surveys where teachers said written feedback was just as useful as verbal feedback, city officials said they did not want to limit the options for principals.

Union officials, on the other hand, asked King to require feedback sessions to happen in person. Acknowledging the need for flexibility, King went with the city’s proposal.

Number and structure of observations
Outcome: King win

In their formal proposals to King, both the city and UFT proposed that each teacher should be observed twice during the year.

But King wrote that during the hearings he held last week, both sides also “endorsed the approach” of having more frequent, shorter observations. So he introduced a choice: Teachers can opt to have one formal observation and at least three shorter observations, or they can choose to have an administrator come to their class at least six times for shorter periods.

Both options include more observations than either side had proposed. But one of the options that King endorsed included features that the union proposed and the city had not, including a full period observation that included meetings with the teacher both before and after the class.

Video observations
Outcome: UFT win

Increasingly, video is considered a useful tool in teacher observation. The Department of Education asked for the right to require teachers to submit videotaped lessons, which would allow administrators to cite specific elements of teaching more easily to justify their ratings. The UFT opposed videotaped lessons being used for observations.

King sided with the union. He allowed teachers the option of deciding at the start of the year if they want to be videotaped for observation purposes. And he inserted a recommendation that video was a useful tool to give teachers feedback even if it’s not used for evaluations.

Correction: A previous version mischaracterized how video can be used when it is not part of an evaluation. In his written ruling, King recommended that video observations be considered “for formative purposes,” but did not rule on whether teachers needed to give their permission or not.