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 (http://voices.washingtonpost.com/answer-sheet/daniel-willingham/the-big-idea-behind-learning.html) 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 http://washingtonpost.com/education
| 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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