Chapter 86: Highly Effective Lesson Rated Unsatisfactory
Covering Her Ass
What was my ATR supervisor up to when she rated a highly effective ELA lesson “unsatisfactory?”
Covering her ass, of course. Read on.
As I said in Chapter 82, when the premise is faulty, everything that follows is nonsense. Like a student highlighting a text, Annellisse Falzone, an ATR field supervisor, has set that point off in bold face with an observation that took place on Dec. 9, 2014 at the Women’s Academy of Excellence (WAE) where I was assigned as a maternity leave replacement through the end of the 2014-15 fall semester (end of Jan. 2015). Of course, assurances to ATRs are written in dry erase if not lines in the sand. I was assured on Nov. 10, 2014 that I would remain at my 3rd school assignment for the rest of the semester. Principal Quintana of Bronx H.S. of Medical Science gave me this assurance. As it turned out, two weeks later I found myself at WAE. Not only did I not stay at Bronx Med. Science for the semester, that became my shortest ATR stint yet. Not surprising that the opposite of what you’re told by DOE people turns out to be true.
Neither was I was surprised to receive an email from Ms. Falzone on Monday afternoon, Dec. 8 informing me that I would be formally observed the following day. I wasn’t surprised because on the preceding Friday, Dec. 5, she had called me into a “disciplinary” meeting where I had remained, like many Bronx students, "oppositionally" defiant for insisting that she had acted improperly and unethically by observing me in a coverage of an advisory period. On Dec. 8, she didn’t indicate which class she would be observing on Dec. 9, just that she would be showing up.
Show up she did. Ms. Falzone observed as I taught a 10th grade ELA class. Unfortunately, there is no video tape of this lesson, which by even the faux-objective Danielson criteria was nothing if not highly effective.
Attached here is Ms. Falzone’s Formal Observation Report.
At least Ms. Falzone got the date right and didn’t have me talking to imaginary students in the room, as one previous “supervisor” had me doing. (See: A.P. Erica Clarke Observation Report)
Ms. Falzone fairly describes the groupings that I used for the lesson. Grouping in this class was relatively easy since these were high functioning sophomores all either at or above grade level. This was the best group of kids I have ever taught in 14 years in the DOE. It was a pleasure and an honor to be their teacher. It will certainly be the highlight of my year as an ATR in spite of the “unsatisfactory” rating for the observation.
The reason this was an honors group was clear and would have been clear to any Bronx teacher. They were learning and excelling because they had the ability to sit quietly, listen, and focus. They were academically inclined and certainly the ones who really should be in a college readiness course of study. But this is true for perhaps 20% of Bronx public school students. The idea that every student should be college ready is as ludicrous as a 4 ounce pint of Guinness.
In any case it was a very simple workshop / jigsaw lesson. Notice that Ms. Falzone failed to include in her report the actual handout that the students were working from. It was Pearson’s Open Book Test for “The Monkey’s Paw.” These worksheets are designed for class discussion and text analysis and for students who can function in an academic setting, i.e., a classroom, they are useful. I will attach the worksheet here: Pearson Open Book Test: "The Monkey's Paw"
It’s common for teachers to be accused of lacking rigor in their questioning. It’s common because it is completely subjective and comes down to the supervisor’s word against the teacher’s but the teacher is the one who best knows the level of his/her students. The teacher, in fact, is the only person in a position to evaluate the appropriate level of rigor in any given class or with any given student or in any given questioning situation. Yet it is the outsider who has the last word on this.
Nevertheless Ms. Falzone did not even attempt this common “gotcha” evaluation technique in this class but not because the level of rigor wasn’t clearly evident. It was. I suspect that she declined to take this route because I was using Pearson materials. If she had suggested that my lesson “lacked rigor,” she would actually have been accusing Pearson’s common core aligned materials of lacking rigor. They certainly don’t want to upset the Pearson juggernaut in its quest to monopolize educational materials and the hundreds of millions of dollars they stand to make via the common core scam. (See chapter: Common Corps.)
So I guess I passed the “rigor” test. That, in fact, is the reason I’ve been happy to use Pearson materials for the past few years. I think that virtually any materials can be useful in the hands of teachers who know the subject and care about communicating it and students who are interested in gaining everything they can in the short time they have to spend with their teachers. Pearson materials, like any others, can be used in this way and they become a de facto method of averting that onerous “lack of rigor” criticism that lazy and ignorant supervisors often resort to.
So what didn’t I pass? Let’s take a look at her positive comments first. You’re always supposed to begin your criticism with something positive. It’s like giving you a shot of bourbon before punching you in the face. Who can’t appreciate that?
On page 3 Ms. Falzone listed 3 items headed “Effective Instructional Strategies:”
1. You reviewed with students past learned material in preparation for an examination.
2. You provided your students with clear and concise board notes to copy into their note books [sic] as a running record of what was learned.
3. Students supported their responses using text-based evidence in their writing and discussion with their classmates.
According to Ms. Falzone herself, the students began by reviewing previous material. They then answered questions posed by the experts at Pearson by discussing these questions with their classmates and referring to the text in order to support the arguments or positions in answering these questions. Meanwhile, I tracked these discussions by keeping “clear and concise” notes on the board as a means of recording what was learned and of monitoring student behavior and accountable talk.
So far so good.
Furthermore according to Ms. Falzone’s Description of the Lesson” on pp. 2-3 of her report, I grouped students into 5 groups and assigned each group 2 of the 10 Pearson questions to answer and present to the class. “Students were asked to give evidence,” Ms. Falzone notes on p. 3 in presenting their conclusions. Thus the class was organized according to both the workshop and the jigsaw models, both of which are still in vogue. Additionally, as administrators have been cleverly taught to use as a transition ad infinitum!! - I also displayed, according to Ms. Falzone’s description, the “aim Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS) [sic] and task instructions on the white board.” Thus, the lesson was aligned to the common core, as Pearson now swears all of their materials certainly are. Who am I to doubt!
It can be readily inferred from both this description and the effective instructional strategies that this was a highly student centered lesson. The role of the teacher was merely to monitor behavior and record the results of what students were discovering in their efforts both individually and collectively to respond to the questions presented by Pearson, questions which were aligned to the Common Core and which ran the gamut of the DoK (Depth of Knowledge) chart, currently in vogue, or of Bloom’s taxonomy, formerly in vogue but amounting to the same thing.
This, I would argue, constitutes not merely an effective lesson but a highly effective lesson. But what do I know? I was merely an observer as was Ms. Falzone. I watched as those kids worked. So being unsure of whether the objectives were met and the standards covered, let's resort to that expert in all things educational, our great guru, the Charlotte Danielson Puppet. What would Charlotte Danielson have to say about this lesson? Let’s take a look.
1c: Setting Instructional Outcomes
Distinguished (Level 4): The teacher’s plans reference curricular frameworks or blueprints to ensure accurate sequencing.
Again Pearson comes to the rescue. These students had worked their way through the introductory materials including reading and vocabulary warm-ups, the “get connected” and “background” videos, and were using this Open Book Test, as observed by Ms. Falzone “in preparation for an examination.” (Effective Instruction Strategy #1, p. 3). Pearson ensures accurate sequencing.
Distinguished (Level 4): Teacher connects outcomes to previous and future learning.
Brushing aside for a moment the fact that there is no difference between this standard and the previous one - just different wording - I’d cite Ms. Falzone’s notation in the same “Effective Instructional Strategy: “You reviewed with students past learned material ….”
Distinguished (Level 4): Outcomes are differentiated to encourage individual students to take educational risks.
For this I would again cite Ms. Falzone: “You asked students if they agreed with the answers presented.” (P. 2, paragraph beginning, “At 11:19 AM ….”) In other words, I encouraged students to exchange alternate opinions or points of view and to debate them using textual evidence. This is risk taking. The discussion allowed for a variety of differing perspectives, i.e., differentiation.
Considering that 2 or Ms. Falzone’s criticisms were classified under the heading “Demonstrated Classroom Management Skills” (p. 3.), what would Charlotte herself have had to say about this lesson.
2d: Managing Student Behavior
Distinguished (Level 4): Student behavior is entirely appropriate; any student misbehavior is very minor and swiftly handled.
As pointed on in chapter 31 of this blog, The Charlotte Danielson Rubric for the Highly Effective Husband, which see, it’s impossible for student behavior to be “entirely appropriate” and yet minor at the same time. Nevertheless, this is the nonsense by which teachers are now being evaluated. What does Ms. Falzone have to say about this: “You allowed a student to sleep throughout the entire lesson ….” This I did and yet I would argue in all seriousness that her behavior was entirely appropriate. She was, after all, very sleepy, as evidenced by Ms. Falzone’s observation that she not only slept, she slept through the entire lesson. This student had told me that she wasn’t feeling well. Clearly she was in need of sleep. I took up the lifestyle situations that might have caused this sleepless condition later with her counselor.
Distinguished (Level 4): The teacher silently and subtly monitors student behavior.
I would note some of the direct notations made by Ms. Falzone of my activities during this lesson:
“You displayed the heading, aim Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS) [sic] ….”
“You displayed the group names and questions they would answer.”
“While students worked with group members … you walked around and provided guidance.”
“Students were asked to give evidence, [sic] by citing their class notes … and the reading passage.”
“You continued to assess which groups were ready to present.”
“Students were prompted to support their answers by citing evidence from the text."
“You asked students if they agreed with the answers presented.”
“You asked, ‘Who is the most frivolous person in this room?’”
I think it would be entirely plausible that these observations are of a highly effective teacher conducting a highly effective classroom according to this Danielson rubric.
Perhaps the sleeping student falls under the umbrella of “classroom management,” though she presented no misconduct to be corrected silently or otherwise. Ms. Falzone’s second point in this area, however, my failure to include “the use of an agenda,” has nothing at all to do with classroom management. In fact, as I point out below, there was an agenda in place with timing and sequencing made explicit and Ms. Falzone made note of it in this very report. What was missing was her cookie cutter formula agenda. Such an agenda would have been highly inappropriate for this high functioning group.
But enough of Charlotte Danielson. Let’s not give credence where none is due. The Danielson rubrics are nothing more than a pretense of objectivity. There is nothing objective about them. They are a fraud and a scam. Madoff would be proud.
Of course, I would not credit myself, Pearson, Charlotte Danielson or Bernie Madoff for this highly effective lesson. I would credit the students. With the single exception of the student who slept, the other 22 young ladies present were all high functioning students with a real desire to think and learn. They were grouped together for this very reason. They had strong study skills, the ability to focus on a task and perhaps most importantly, as mentioned above, the inclination to listen to others respectfully, express themselves in an appropriate manner and think for themselves. Unfortunately these scholarly traits are lacking in more than 50% of the Bronx students that I have taught. This was an exceptional group of kids.
So how did Ms. Falzone manage to turn a highly effective lesson into an unsatisfactory one? Let’s take a look at the “Instructional Areas in Need of Improvement” (p. 3).
Promotes Positive Student Learning Outcomes
In spite of the very optimistic heading, this section is actually about areas in need of improvement, i.e., reasons for running a teacher out of the teaching profession.
First, the lesson was “void of a summary ….”
That is not merely a strong statement but, as I taught my students in that first “unsatisfactory” lesson back at Mott Hall, the one in which I was observed during a coverage of an advisory period - that is a very strong visual image. (Maybe Ms. Falzone learned something about sensory images during that “U” rated lesson!) A “void” suggests a vacuum that sucks in everything within reach. My “void” of a summation, therefore, sucked in every positive attribute of the lesson, leaving it “void” of value. Nice metaphor, Ms. Falzone. Too bad it’s so easy to see through your specious use of figurative language.
Since this “void of a summary” must have taken place near the end of the lesson, let’s take a look at exactly how this lesson was concluded. There is an interesting gap in Ms. Falzone’s description of the lesson. After noticing the sleeping student at 11:18, students began answering assigned questions at 11:19. Note that at the top of the report, it is stated that the class ran from 11 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. It actually ran from 10:59 till 11:44 but we won’t quibble about attention to detail in the critical area of teacher evaluations. What would be the point in demanding an accurate description of an objective Danielson based work of pure science?
At the beginning of her description at the bottom of page 1, Ms. Falzone quotes me as saying:
“There are ten questions on The Monkey’s Paw to be answered. Students will have 20 minutes to answer the questions and 20 minutes to share their answers with their classmates. You displayed the heading …. [sic]
Unfortunately Ms. Falzone failed to note where my words stopped and hers began but who hasn’t failed to close a quotation from time to time? More importantly, whether in these words or others, I told the class that they would have 20 minutes to get their answers together with evidence and then 20 minutes to present. Ms. Falzone got that part right.
Given these strong academic students, they were able to begin their presentations a minute early at 11:19, as noted by Ms. Falzone (or right on time if the exact time of the class period is used). Without noting how much time had passed, Ms. Fazlone then says:
After reviewing the questions you displayed a list of 22 vocabulary words. Students were asked to use the vocabulary words in a sentence.
Ms. Falzone goes on to note that I got students to interact with one another in a real life exchange using the word “frivolous.”
Since Ms. Falzone failed to note just when this part of the lesson began, I will fill her in. It began at about 11:42. At that point it was clear that as a result of the discussion generated by the Pearson Open Book Test group activity, the class was not going to be able to answer all 10 questions in a single period. The final group had yet to present their findings for questions 9 and 10. Thus I announced that we would finish the presentations the following day.
Strangely, not a single student raised her hand to ask if that was an adequate way to end a lesson. Not a single girl demanded a summary of what had just happened in the class and what they had all recorded on their worksheets. Not a single student wanted to know what to expect the next day - the presentation of the final two questions. Even the kid who was asleep was happy to find when she awoke that class would continue as expected the next day.
Nevertheless with 3 minutes left there was time to review vocabulary for their weekly vocabulary quiz, one of the routines I quickly established. Instead of summarizing what they had just done and what was fresh in their minds, the class ended with students using words taken from the reading and highlighted in Pearson vocabulary worksheets, which the students had completed before the reading of “The Monkey’s Paw.” It seems to me that I’ve heard or read somewhere that vocabulary ought to be worked into the lesson in any way possible in order to allow for repeated exposure to the word. I swear I’ve heard that somewhere!
So to conclude about Ms. Falzone’s criticism of the lesson, that there was a “void” where a summary ought to have been, I would simply point to her own notations, which show something other than a void. While a spectacular visual image - nothingness has led to the creation of religious movements - “void” by definition is not what Ms. Fazone got at the end of that lesson. The class was not suddenly sucked into the nothingness of a void during those last 3 minutes.
The students, in fact, spent that “void” learning vocabulary. Ms. Falzone recommends at the bottom of page 3 that an effective lesson allows for 10 minutes for the “Summary Component.” Ms. Falzone would have had me trade 10 minutes of classroom activity to go over what had just been done with students who knew very well what had just been done, had recorded what had just been done and who were eager to continue - trade those last minutes of discussion and vocabulary study for a review in order to avoid the “void” that thinking about vocabulary was in her estimation. I would argue that following Ms. Falzone’s recommendation would have turned a highly effective lesson into a developing or even ineffective one as a result of wasting valuable class time (though only 3-10 minutes).
As for timing the lesson down to the minute, as the cookie cutter agenda recommended by Ms. Falzone suggests, I would ask this question: Should I have been able to predict accurately that this group of students would only be able to research in groups and then to present merely 8 of the 10 questions in 20 minutes? In truth I would have been happy to get through 6 of the 10 in that amount of time. But these students worked efficiently. Having taught them for 8 days previously, I knew they were good, but didn’t yet know how good. Even so, it would have been impossible for anyone to predict how long this activity would take. It was open ended and allowed for as much debate and discussion as might be generated. Even for this same group, on any given day it might have taken longer or shorter. There is no cookie cutter formula for this sort of student oriented activity. What was important was that the maximum amount of time possible be devoted to the learning activity. That was my only priority.
Demonstrated Classroom Management Skills
As it turns out, this “void of a summary” is the only criticism that Ms. Falzone was able to come up with for this highly effective lesson. That’s not surprising. It’s hard to come up with criticism of a highly effective lesson. Nevertheless, she was forced to come up with something more than the mere “void” of a summation and so there are 2 problems listed under “Demonstrated Classroom Management Skills.” The first of these involves a student who slept through the entire lesson. Ms. Fazone is not remiss in this description. That student lay down on one of the 2 sofas in the room and slept soundly through the entire period. This much is true.
I wonder how much time Ms. Falzone spent observing sleeping beauty? In the observation report we hear from Ms. Falzone that at 11:19, right on schedule after 20 minutes, the class began to present their findings. The next we hear from Ms. Falzone in this report is just after the bell at 11:45 when she asks about this student who slept through the period. (I wonder if Ms. Falzone took a cue from that student and nodded off herself for a bit? After all, it must be fairly tedious to sit through a lesson when the outcome has been predetermined.)
This particular student was the single low functioning student in this group. Although I had been teaching that group for less than 2 weeks by Dec. 9, I had already established a rapport with many of them as well as class routines. Establishing a rapport with the one dysfunctional student was going to take more time and care. She had failed the first marking period. She had already demonstrated an inability to focus and participate. She had already demonstrated an ability to intimidate the other students in the class and to disrupt an otherwise well functioning group. I was hoping that by the end of the marking period I would have established some sort of relationship with her that would help me to motivate her to study. Thus, when she told me at the start of the class that she wasn’t feeling well, I decided to allow her to sleep if that was what she was going to do - and sleep she did - and to talk to her counselor later that day, which I did.
I would ask two questions about this situation. The first is this: what does it have to do with the quality of the lesson? Was I being evaluated on my teaching, i.e., the quality of the learning environment during classroom activities, on my ability to make decisions more related to the social sciences than to teaching or on both? The lesson itself was highly effective. If Ms. Falzone considered my decision on how to treat this one student a bad decision, is that enough to turn a highly effective lesson into an unsatisfactory one? My decision was based on the well being of the group as a whole. 22 students experienced an excellent learning opportunity. I was not going to allow a single student to deny them that.
My second question would be this: Is a supervisor coming into a classroom infrequently and with no knowledge of the students under observation in a position to evaluate the teacher - student relationship? The teacher - student interaction is crucial to the success or failure of any lesson, regardless of learning objective, common core (or other) standard, motivation, lesson development or anything else that is used to discredit good teaching. Thus, is a person unfamiliar with classroom dynamics in a position to make any evaluation at all on how to manage dysfunctional students? If Ms. Falzone disagreed with my decision in this case, she ought to have spoken to me afterwards and tried to gauge my perspective on the situation. She did not do this. She simply stated that it is unacceptable for a student to sleep through a lesson. Naturally teachers don’t want students to sleep through a class. The unfortunate reality is that there are occasions when allowing a student to sleep is the best decision that can be made at the time and with the best interests of all taken into consideration. Only the classroom teacher is in a position to make such a determination.
I would argue that this situation has nothing to do with classroom management. This was a special instance that demanded an individual response that had to take place outside of the classroom. Teachers know full well how much instructional time is lost dealing with the individual needs of one or two students. I was not going to allow this student’s individual needs to impact the good of the group. Therefore, this “criticism” had nothing at all to do with the evaluation of the lesson but everything to do with an agenda that seeks to ostracize teaching according to mandates and dictates send down from school reformers who have their own agendas that have nothing to do with educating kids.
I might note that not one of the other 22 students was distracted by the presence of this sleeping student. They were all too familiar with that student’s waking behavior. In fact, they were relieved that she was asleep and not disrupting the class but, of course, there was no way for an outsider to know that. Ms. Falzone could not have known that. Ms. Falzone would not have been aware of how much less tension there was in the room with that one student rendered, for all practical purposes, unresponsive. Ms. Falzone could not have known, but I had learned that very quickly.
The other classroom management issue noted by Ms. Falzone on page 3 is an alleged lack of an agenda. This is the same agenda that would have had me waste the last 10 minutes of this class reviewing material just learned, but be that as it may, I would point again to Ms. Falzone’s own words in her description of the lesson. On the one hand she states:
“You did not include the use of an agenda to aid you in pacing your lesson ….” (p. 3, #2 under “Demonstrated Classroom Management Skills).
But recall that in Ms. Falzone’s description of the lesson earlier, she noted that I had written “task instructions” on the white board and that I had told the students that 20 minutes would be devoted to creating a presentation and 20 minutes to making the presentation, leaving 5 minutes for any unanticipated turn of events, as any open ended “agenda” ought to do. If that is not an agenda, what is?
But let’s just stipulate that there was no agenda. Let’s forget about the fact that I had told the students what they would be doing and for how long they would be doing it. Let’s pretend that Ms. Falzone’s insistence on a lack of agenda were true and let’s see what happens if I apply Ms. Falzone’s recommended agenda to this class.
Do Now: 4 minutes. I could have wasted this time asking students to remember something from the previous day that they wouldn’t have forgotten and would have had to access in their notes during this lesson anyway.
Motivation: 3 minutes. I could have wasted this time giving them a pep talk when all they wanted to do was to start the lesson.
Lesson Development 5-8 minutes. I could have wasted this time modeling how I wanted the questions to be answered ignoring the obvious fact that these students clearly understood exactly what I was asking them to do and were eager to do it.
Independent Practice / Learning Activity: 20 minutes. In fact, as noted in Ms. Falzone’s report, the students actually spent 40 of the 45 minutes of the class in independent practice and learning as the teacher (me) in her words “walked around and provided guidance” to the groups (p. 2). (3 of the other 5 minutes were spent merely learning vocabulary.)
Summary Component: 10 minutes. I could have wasted this time beating a dead horse.
In short, according to Ms. Falzone’s recommendations, I ought to have wasted 25 minutes of this 45 minute class period. That’s more than half. Evidently the last thing Charlotte Danielson wants to see is students actually working.
But it’s true that the Danielson rubrics have little to do with learning and everything to do with pretending that teaching is an exact science and that the interactions in the classroom can be objectified in the way that a test tube experiment pretends to be objective. The Danielson rubrics are meant to give administrators “reasons” for their subjective opinions, opinions that now are mostly preordained by education reformers desperate to break unions, sell educational materials, turn education into assembly line production and create illusions of intensive rigor no matter what level of development the child may have achieved. The Charlotte Danielson puppet strings are in the hands of corrupt plutocrats masquerading as politicians, greedy salesmen, and “educators” who are more interested in the state of their pension than in the state of learning in their schools. Charlotte Danielson couldn’t care less about the learning that goes on in the classroom. She exists at the behest of the reformers who have teachers in their sights - teachers, the front line in the war on education as a human right.
But getting back to the observation at hand, I have to admit that it isn’t often that I’ve conducted a class in which so little class time was wasted. Again, I credit no one but those incredible students. It was unfortunate for Ms. Falzone that she picked this particular class to observe, the highest functioning class I ever taught in the Bronx. I’ve conducted many classes in which it would have been much easier for a supervisor to come up with reasons to flunk me. This was not one of them.
Maintaining an Ongoing Commitment to Learning
As a final nail in the coffin of this excellent lesson, Ms. Falzone finds it relevant that I failed to maintain “an Ongoing Commitment to Learning,” as described on page 4 of her report. She notes my response to her opinion that every lesson requires a summation: “That’s ridiculous!” I’d argue that she failed to accurately convey the tone of my comment but leaving out the exclamation point.
But what does my “commitment to learning” have to do with the lesson anyway? If the lesson is effective, does it matter how committed the teacher is to learning or anything else? Does it matter what the teacher’s commitments are if that teacher is performing his duties in the classroom and overseeing and directing an effective learning experience?
But again, this final criticism boils down to the one and only fault that Ms. Falzone found with this lesson - the summation “void.” Clearly Ms. Falzone is trying to turn one small criticism into several overblown ones. It’s obvious that a summation has little to do with the quality of a lesson. Lessons so engaging that students continue working right up to the bell are the most desirable. It seems to me that I read once that teachers ought to conduct “bell to bell” lessons. Of course, this had more to do with classroom management than with instruction, but I swear I heard that somewhere.
If I were more committed to learning, in Ms. Falzone’s opinion, I would have followed her formula and wasted most of the time for these high functioning students. But the formula that constitutes her criteria doesn’t apply to a group of high functioning students like this group. It would be malfeasance to interrupt good work to conform to a cookie cutter formula for what a lesson should look like. Teaching and baking cookies are two different things.
But school reformers are handing cookie cutters to supervisors and telling them that if the lesson doesn’t come out perfectly round and with icing on top, it’s distasteful and unsatisfying. That is not how teaching and learning work. Only people who have never been in a classroom would make such demands. Only people desperate to hold onto their jobs would allow themselves to help perpetuate such a farce.
Covering Her Ass
As noted elsewhere in this blog, in Oct. 2014 Ms. Falzone observed as I taught an ELA lesson in a coverage of an advisory period. She rated that lesson “unsatisfactory” for the same reason she rates this lesson unsatisfactory - a “void” for a summation. I objected, of course, and made both her claim and my objection public in this blog. In fact, I no longer write for my DOE file. I write strictly for this blog now. This is a response to another evaluation but I won’t bother to put it into my DOE file. This is meant as a more objective and impartial record, one that exposes the bigger picture of what is going on in current school reform.
Ms. Falzone knew that she didn’t have a leg to stand on with such an observation. You can’t legitimately observe an English teacher covering an advisory period where most of the students as well as the teacher are on a class trip. It’s not just useless as evidence for evaluation, it’s unethical.
So Ms. Falzone knew she had to cover her ass. She had to rate me “unsatisfactory” in a real English class in order to justify her earlier bogus evaluation. Unfortunately, Ms. Falzone picked one of the best groups of students in the Bronx to observe. I used recommended materials (Pearson) in recommended groupings (workshop / jigsaw) and demonstrated highly effective classroom management according to the Danielson rubric - there was nothing but accountable talk and monitoring student behavior required merely a look (though there was no behavior to modify). Fortunately, the sleeping student didn’t snore.
Ms. Falzone now finds herself in an even worse dilemma although maybe it won’t matter if I don’t send this to the ATR administration or insert it into my DOE file. Maybe it won’t count - as if teacher rebuttals counted anyway. Maybe it won’t be on the official record and Ms. Falzone won’t have to worry about it. Maybe it will only be seen by the few people who read my blog.
But a dilemma it is nevertheless for Ms. Falzone. She needed to rate me unsatisfactory to justify her first hatchet job. Thus she was forced here to ignore her own mostly honest observations of what happened during the class and rate a highly effective lesson “U.” She had to ignore her own evidence. Ironic, isn’t it, that as I was teaching students to back up their answers with textual support, Ms. Fazlone was doing the exact opposite.
So I will conclude this response to an observation in the same way the observation report itself concludes.
Promotes Positive Supervisory Outcomes
The observation noted many of the important details and components of the class, omitting merely to note periodic time increments between 11:19 and 11:45, a fairly large chunk of the class being observed.
Supervisory Areas in Need of Improvement
Refrain from determining the outcome of the lesson before observing it.
Do not allow the need to cover your ass affect how a lesson is rated.
Align the final evaluation of the lesson with the evidence presented.
Accurately portray the tone of a teacher’s comments when quoting them even if they have no relevance to the observation. For example, “You’re wasting my time,” was clearly expressed more emphatically than related near the top of page 4.
Observations should be confined to baking cookies.
Finally, I would recommend that Ms. Falzone be brought up on charges of fraudulently rating me unsatisfactory. The only evidence required would be her own observation report, a report that describes a highly effective lesson and yet rates it “unsatisfactory.”
Why would someone honestly and accurately describe a highly effective lesson and then dishonestly rate it “unsatisfactory?” Maybe when charged, Ms. Falzone can be convinced to turn state’s evidence and rat out the unsavory characters known as school reformers who are bribing states and school districts and demanding this sort of unethical conduct in their minions. I would be the first to recommend that Ms. Falzone be given immunity to prosecution for revealing what she knows.
Ms. Falzone, you could be a hero yet.
ETA: Check out Betsy Combier's excellent coverage of ATR / rubber room issues at NYC Rubber Room Reporter and ATR CONNECT