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Dan Goldfarb's evaluation--D.C. schools and Goldfarb respond

Here are two lengthy responses to the Monday column on Dan Goldfarb's teacher evaluation, just above this blog post. First are the thoughts of Jason Kamras, the former national teacher of the year who oversees the IMPACT evaluation program for the D.C. Schools. Second is the response from Goldfarb, the subject of the column. I don't usually provide lengthy notes after every column, but in this case I thought they had many more important things to say. The Web gives journalists a chance to help readers go deeper, and I hope we continue to take advantage of it in this way.

From Jason Kamras:

We’d like to mention that the ME’s official comments from the observation included a number of specific, constructive “next steps” designed to provide suggestions about ways in which Mr. Goldfarb could improve his instructional practice and address some of the areas of weakness identified by the observation. Given our strong conviction that the one of the IMPACT system’s most important and fundamental purposes is to support teachers and help them to grow in their professional practice by providing them with detailed feedback on their performance as well as constructive suggestions for improvement – both in the official comments and during the conference following the observation – we would hate to see this aspect of the process escape mention in an article like this.

1. Remaining inaccuracies in Mr. Goldfarb’s account

Mr. Goldfarb expressed a concern that the ME had not taught AP US History. During his years as a teacher in Fairfax County Public Schools, the ME in question taught classes including AP US Government, AP Comparative Government, US/Virginia Government, Pre-IB Government, and World History, as well as 3 social studies electives. Clearly, he does not lack experience in social studies overall, and there is significant overlap between AP US Government and AP US History. Furthermore, the ME has direct experience with the US History curriculum through working on curriculum review committees in Fairfax County Public Schools and writing lessons for a textbook publisher. We hired 31 Master Educators, including three for secondary social studies. There has never been an externally communicated expectation that there will be an ME who has taught every class offered in DCPS. The pedagogy of social studies classes in general and AP social studies classes in particular is quite similar even when the content is not exactly the same.

2. Our responses to your concerns about the standards on which Mr. Goldfarb received low scores. The sections in quotes are lines from the email you sent us today a little before 2:00. We realize that these are thoughts you’re just considering adding to the column, but wanted to share our responses with you.

“a 1 on focusing students on the lesson objective. The ME said he didn’t define what they would be learning and did not have the objective in plain sight. Goldfarb said, "If I said this would be on the AP exam, would that be okay?" I myself think this is VERY trivial for an AP class. Those students know why they are there.”

Our response: Teach 1 contains many of what Jon Saphier refers to as “Framing the Learning” in his chapter on Clarity. Many of the components of TEACH 1 (what they are learning, why it is important, how it connects to prior knowledge, and referring back to it) are even more important in an AP class where the objective needs to sit inside a larger scope of the unit. Students need to see how the day’s lesson connects with prior knowledge and why it is important to their understanding of a larger concept, as the AP test often tests such connections. Saphier also devotes an entire chapter to “Objectives”. Saphier writes: “a clear objective articulated by the teacher in terms of student mastery is the indispensable anchor of good daily lesson planning” (Skillful Teacher, 371). “A clear objective serves as a control tower.”

Also, according to the rubric, the objective must be written somewhere in the room. Mr. Goldfarb received a level one rating for this part of the rubric because he did not have a measurable objective, it was not written in the room, he did not refer back to it, and he did not explain its importance with real world applications. This may seem trivial, but Master Educators are instructed not to make judgments about whether or not certain types of classes need this or not, but rather on whether or not the evidence seen during the observation justifies the rating according to the rubric.

“a 1 on multiple learning styles. I have a recent email from Bill Hawley of the University of Md calling the different learning style notion bunk. The ME takes off points for Goldfarb just talking to the kids and not having specific uses of a written text.”

Our response: What we really want to imply with Teach 4 is what Daniel Willingham actually alludes to in his posting ( when he writes, “Some lessons click with one child and not with another, but not because of an enduring bias or predisposition in the way the child learns. The lesson clicks or doesn’t because of the knowledge the child brought to the lesson, his interests, or other factors.” This is very close to what we wanted when we drafted Teach 4. It was more about varying instructional delivery to convey specific content than matching individual students learning styles to teacher action. We aren’t asking teachers to evaluate each student’s learning style and then target accordingly.

From Dan Goldfarb:

I have given the kids the objectives, I don't feel the need to post it everyday because it should be self evident. The ME told me of his own accord that he didn't teach AP History, and when I mentioned to him that I was still finding my way (I have never taught an AP class and it didn't exist in my high school. Furthermore, I was told not to take an AP training because AP Central was setting up an in school training program for us. Well, that didn't work out at all and I never saw them after the second Advisory) and there was a needed to be basic about the time line, his suggestion was to "let the kids do it." In other words, break up the time line and let the kids fill it in. I told him that I didn't see the point because there would be no context, and he really didn't give me a response that I could use. When I mentioned that I had a textbook that was over a thousand pages long, he really just nodded and agreed with me.

I don't feel that he really gave me anything to work on with the exception of teaching to the rubric and even then there was no concrete examples of what I could do. I have gained far more insight to the process of teaching AP by speaking to other AP US History teachers from DC, Virginia, and Maryland, as well as teachers in my department.

My students as of today, have a 100% completion for all work assigned to them. So I guess they understand that hard work is essential to success. However, the idea that hard work leads to success just isn't true. Working hard does not mean they will succeed. If they don't work hard it will guarantee failure. There is a difference. I am not sure how the ME could possibly know what my relationship in regards to my students is in 30 minutes without talking to me or them specifically about it.

I will include all that the IMPACT demands of me. I will mention what they want, I will put up what they want, and I will do so because my principal has asked me to do so. Do I think that this makes me a better teacher? Not in my mind, not for my AP class (I wonder how many college professors deal with the issue of diverse learning styles in their classrooms--and the only reason that is relevant is because I thought we were trying to prepare them for college as well). However, I do much of this stuff (actually, I have been doing nearly all of this stuff) for my 9th graders. There is a distinct difference between the two groups and one of the biggest problems with the IMPACT program is its one size fits all approach. We need a different rubric for High Schools, specialty schools, elementary schools, and even subject breakdowns. Furthermore, we need to have the feeling that the ME is there to help, not critique us, in a way that endangers our positions. Because of the way the program was put in place, that trust doesn't exist.

I want to make it clear that the ME who came to my class was friendly, 100% professional, and certainly qualified to do what he was sent to do. He did give me feedback in accordance to the rubric and I have no question that he is fully committed to the program and believes in its benefits. We simply are looking at it from very different perspectives.

I agreed with a lower score for the different learning styles, but that was not a planned event. I had a PowerPoint that would have included two other learning styles (visual and interpersonal-students were going to be shown three political cartoons and asked to work with another student in order to assess their various meanings) that I was unable to use because of a technical glitch. While I explained that to my ME, there really was nothing that he could do about it and I in no way am upset with his observation on that point. In the end, the only thing left was my voice to lecture and ask questions. I would point out that the students were quite active and we did connect points to what happened in the previous day's lesson.

For more on Education, please see

By Jay Mathews  | November 22, 2009; 9:59 PM ET
Categories:  Jay on the Web  | Tags:  D.C. schools, Dan Goldfarb, IMPACT program, Jason Kamras, Michelle A. Rhee, multiple learning styles, teacher evaluations  
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Next: D.C. expose--one teacher's evaluation


“However, the idea that hard work leads to success just isn't true.”

Goldfarb should know – apparently putting together an AP course with little assistance and having all students complete their assignments does not spell success to the Master Educator. The Rule seems to be – if the ME didn’t see it during the 30 minute evaluation, it didn’t happen.

The IMPACT system offers no other context for assessing teacher effectiveness or student learning. A teacher recognizing and adapting to the differences among particular students becomes meaningless.

Posted by: efavorite | November 23, 2009 10:38 AM | Report abuse

I notice that the ME did not respond on his own; instead, the "big boss" responded on his behalf. Why is that? The ME’s name isn't even mentioned. Why is that? Is he being protected in some way? Are ME's not allowed to respond directly in the press?

Kamras states inaccurately that, “Mr. Goldfarb expressed a concern that the ME had not taught AP US History.” In fact, your article clearly states that Goldfarb simply said, “The ME told me of his own accord that he didn't teach AP History…” which is not at all the same. It may be what Kamras thought Goldfarb was inferring, but it was certainly not what he expressed here in writing. To me, Kamras’ response infers that he wanted to create an opportunity, at the teacher’s expense, to tout the experience of the unnamed ME and to put in a plug for the ME program overall. To me, it seemed defensive and inappropriate.

I hope the ME is permitted to speak up on his own and I hope Kamras is more careful with his words, especially when speaking publicly about a DCPS teacher.

Posted by: efavorite | November 23, 2009 11:10 AM | Report abuse

I would be shocked if the ME was allowed to respond directly to the press. Is anyone remotely surprised about this?

Regarding the written objective. Following ISO 9000 the corporate and project objectives are posted publicly and referred to in all documents. This is a proven industry best-practice and if Goldfarb is behind the times, well that's ok, but he's still wrong on this issue.

Posted by: bbcrock | November 23, 2009 11:17 AM | Report abuse

For many years teachers have sought jobs in the suburbs where working conditions are often much better. With the kind of treatment going on in DC, who will want to work there after this recession is over?

Highly intelligent and well-educated people don't like being told to write their objectives on the chalkboard. Insisting on this type of inanity will just chase away the very type of teacher DC needs.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | November 23, 2009 11:27 AM | Report abuse

No one is arguing that objectives for the day are not important. What is silly is that objectives must be visable at all times! You can't just put it at the beginning of your notes, make the students write it down and refer back to it often. It must be constantly on the board. What benefit does this have? It's so the ME can check off "has objective on board" for his look fors then leave.

Imagine that your performance review at work was a 20 minute observation of one random day. How would this work at all?

Posted by: someguy100 | November 23, 2009 1:30 PM | Report abuse

Linda, again you're on the wrong side of history. What makes you think that the DCPS teachers, in general, are educated? What evidence do you have that they attended legitimate, accredited university programs?

Far from that, at my son's original school that we abandoned, I met a teacher who told me to my face that college was so long ago she "forgot" what one she attended.

Linda, explain that. Explain how you might call a teacher "educated" but this teacher is unable to recall what college they attended?

I think we both know that a large percentage of teachers hired under Barry were political crony hires with completely phony credentials.

Do you understand the DCPS teachers who parents generally deal with? When a teacher tells me they attended Morgan State or Coppin State or Southeastern at least I KNOW those schools. When they attended some long-closed Christian Teachers College in South Carolina and they don't own a computer and don't seem to be entirely literate, Linda I want you to tell me how I as a parent should react and how the central administration should proceed. What about those with Caribbean, Latin American or European degrees?

Because I guarantee you that if the average DCPS teacher I ran into was educated to the level of the average Montgomery County teacher, where their college was either Ivy League private or at least featured the name of a US State, then you know what? I wouldn't be posting complaints on the Washington Post board if what you posit was remotely part of reality.

Posted by: bbcrock | November 23, 2009 1:44 PM | Report abuse


If you read my post carefully, you will see that I did not say anything about the education of DC teachers, as I know nothing about it. However, I DO know that urban schools have traditionally had a very difficult time hiring highly qualified teachers. I know from experience that these districts often have to hire any applicant who comes along. The better the economy, the more difficult it is to attract well-educated teachers to a high-needs district. What I was trying to say is that disrespectful and demeaning treatment of teachers will only exacerbate the situation that you have in DC.

When I taught, I always had an objective for each lesson, which I shared with the students. However, when the principal asked me to write the objectives on the board, I felt demeaned.

I can tell that you want better teachers in DC and you have every right to feel that way. Demand that the district hire only experienced and qualified teachers (no waivers) and insist that those teachers are treated with respect and fairness.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | November 23, 2009 2:22 PM | Report abuse

If bogus degrees are rampant among DCPS teachers, I'm shocked Michelle Rhee hasn't uncovered this fraud, because I think many people would support removing them from the system as teachers. I know I would. I support firing anyone who misrepresents their credentials. I also think people expect to get fired if caught lying on their resumes.

It could have been an easy victory for Rhee and simple proof of how corrupt and in need of reform the system was.

Posted by: efavorite | November 23, 2009 2:25 PM | Report abuse

"Following ISO 9000 the corporate and project objectives are posted publicly and referred to in all documents. This is a proven industry best-practice"

LOL! All ISO 9000 does is document that you follow the same process every time. You could make dog sh** -- but as long as you make the same dog sh**, the same way, every time, you can be ISO 9000 certified.

Which, it seems to me, is the point: which do you value most, process or substance?

Posted by: laura33 | November 23, 2009 2:33 PM | Report abuse

oops! Seriously - I just thought of a reason Rhee wouldn't go after false credentials -- people would question her own credentials, specifically her claim of raising reading scores in her Baltimore classes from the 13th percentile up to the 90's, a claim she continues to make.

Posted by: efavorite | November 23, 2009 2:34 PM | Report abuse

I am not that familiar with IMPACT, but it sounds like what is pretty much accepted in other districts, from what has been described.
I agree with Mr. Goldfarb that the subject being taught should be taken into account. It seems to me that the objective of the day works very well with smaller, specific goals taught at the lower levels. They work well for grammar rules, but not so well in creative writing, for example.
It sounds like he planned well for his lesson. He planned to teach history to the kids, not to impress the evaluator on how well he knew IMPACT methodology.

I think a decision has to be made. Given the amount of planning time available to him, should he spend his time following IMPACT guidelines, or should he concentrate on teaching AP History to those kids? AP History is what I would consider a content-heavy course. He has to review and understand the material and probably create notes or materials for the students. It would be better if he added the IMPACT stuff , then the district would have uniformity, but shouldn't he be given some "extra" credit for being somewhat of an authority in his field (assuming that he is able to get his students to do well on the AP Test)?

I understand that studies have been done showing that the objectives help kids to learn, but I think that simply posting the objective is probably not the point. The point is to be actually teaching something (how to recognize propoganda, for example) and to stay focused and to provide kids with different types of activities to be able to master the objective. I don't think that the objective will be reached in one day in all cases.

I also think that this evaluation process would be ok if the objective were to teach the teachers to use IMPACT. Is that the goal? If the goal is to decide who is good and who isn't, then the district would have to provide ample time and training to the teachers who haven't had this training. I also don't think that the older teachers should be written off as ineffective because their style is different. They have a lot to offer the students and a lot of experience that shouldn't be discounted.

Posted by: celestun100 | November 23, 2009 3:29 PM | Report abuse

And where, pray tell, did you go to college, bbcrock?

I teach in DCPS and for the record, graduated cum laude from an excellent school (received a full scholarship there) with a double major (one a hard science), scored a 1490 on the GRE, and have a master's degree from one of the top 5 education schools in the country.

Maybe the way for you to improve the quality of teachers you interact with is to treat us like intelligent professionals. As Linda points out, who would want to go into teaching when it means being demeaned not only by administrators, but by parents like yourself?

Posted by: uva007 | November 23, 2009 6:53 PM | Report abuse

"If the goal is to decide who is good and who isn't, then the district would have to provide ample time and training to the teachers who haven't had this training."

That's exactly what is NOT happening. TFA‘s and DCTF’s learn this in their six-week summer crash course in how to teach. Vet teachers were introduced to it this fall in a one day training session. In other words – it’s all the newbies know and the vets don’t know it at all. Then the vets who have been and still are teaching successfully are told they are mediocre or bad teachers.

Posted by: efavorite | November 23, 2009 9:17 PM | Report abuse

Considering bbc rock's kids are no longer in DCPS, he/she should name the schools where he saw these problems.
I don't think the feelings of kids attending the schools would be hurt, maybe just the adults.

Posted by: edlharris | November 23, 2009 9:50 PM | Report abuse

bbcrock: I teach in Fairfax County and I have the privilege of working with some fabulous teachers who previously taught in DCPS. These are teachers who attended top tier colleges, have published well respected professional books, and are leaders in the field. They left DCPS because they wanted to work in a district that treated them with respect. Maybe DCPS would be able to retain these types of teachers if they felt a modicum of respect.

Posted by: Jenny04 | November 24, 2009 6:12 AM | Report abuse

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