More Agreement Than Disagreement on How To Assess Teachers

NY Times: Charlotte Danielson, an economist, developed a method for evaluating teachers that has generated a great deal of consensus.

Petty Differences Mask Consensus on Teachers

By Ginia Bellafante

"...a great deal of consensus lies is around the ideas of a woman named Charlotte Danielson, who 16 years ago created a method for evaluating teachers that judges them according to four domains, each with numerous categories and subcategories: the quality of questions and discussion techniques; a knowledge of students’ special needs; the expectations set for learning and achievement; and the teacher’s involvement in professional development activities. The section for assessing the strength of the classroom-learning environment has 15 criteria — down to the placement of furniture.

Ms. Danielson’s program, which also trains principals in how to properly execute the evaluations, is already being used in several states and on a pilot basis in 140 New York City schools (though in the experimental phase the outcomes will have no consequence). In November, a study out of the University of Chicago that looked at Ms. Danielson’s method as it was practiced in Chicago schools determined that it was not only a considerable improvement over an old evaluation system but that, just as significant, it established a shared definition of what good teaching was.

Ms. Danielson, who runs her own educational consulting firm in Princeton, N.J., is perfectly suited to appeal to potentially opposing sides in the debates about education reform. As an Oxford-trained economist, she thinks both entrepreneurially and progressively. In the late 1960s she gave up research stints at the Council of Economic Advisers and the Brookings Institution to work as a teacher in Washington’s ailing public school system.

“If all you do is judge teachers by test results,” she told me when I visited her this week, “it doesn’t tell you what you should do differently.”

Michael Mulgrew, the president of the United Federation of Teachers, speaks about Ms. Danielson almost as though he were producing an infomercial for her. “I taught for 13 years, and I would have loved to have been trained in this method,” he said. “I have no doubt it would have made me a better teacher.”


"Danielson’s Framework for Teaching has been a revelation to me; the best analogy I can offer is that the Framework is like having voice-guided GPS to direct you to a destination, when before you might have only had a destination name and an outdated road map."

Pre-Service Teacher, May 2016

“[The consultant] gave the best PD I have seen in 15 years of teaching, and was the first to explain [the] Danielson [Framework] in a human way. Bravo.”

A teacher, June 2015

“I am so impressed with the Danielson Group consultants. They are all so real. Your trainers helped make [proficient] teaching stronger and steered [basic teaching] toward increasing effectiveness.” 

A principal, June 2015

"Due to your consultant's seamless and meaningful transitions, knowledge of content, and rapport with the audience, the room was alive with energy and it made us all feel ready to begin the year off with success."

"Never before have I seen a group of seasoned educators like your consultants master the art of communicating with an audience with varied levels of expertise and interests. The two days that I spent with your team, I walked away with a desire to use the rubric to truly enhance my own practice."

"I left with a renewed look at the rubric, thinking that the rubric is the Great Equalizer! We can ALL enhance our practice by using it as a tool and a roadmap to produce students who think and are ready for college and careers. THANK YOU!"

"Your consultants' presence and organization of the day will not only impact the new teachers that attended, but will make the year alive for a vast number of students this year."

"Our workshop focused on calibration and inter-rater agreement training, so it was directly aligned to our individual and collective work with teacher performance evaluation.  With new administrators on the team, this type of training is critical."

"We were highly impressed with our Danielson Group consultant and the workshop. We have nothing but positive things to share. Staff have been emailing us, thanking us. This is the most worthwhile presentation we've been to in a while."

"The workshop you provided was hands-on, interesting, practical, and respectful of time limits. I heard more positive feedback about this workshop from staff than I have about any other."

"We wanted to let you know how much we appreciated the flexibility and professionalism that your consultant provided in our unique context. It helped us to keep on track with our schedule at a critical time. For that we are truly grateful."

"Your consultant presented a perfectly differentiated learning experience for all our principals. They were highly engaged, as demonstrated by on-topic conversations using academic language, completion of tasks requiring evidence identification, and note taking and 'grading' during classroom videos of teaching."

"Our school principals said the Framework observation training was the best training they had ever had, including the training provided when earning their Master’s degrees."

"I have a principal who was so excited about the breakthrough work with her staff in special education. I am already getting my money back!"

"My concern about the extra time it would take to implement the Framework successfully was not accurate. It took about the same amount of time as our prior evaluation system, and the benefits in professional growth and increased student achievement were more than worth it."

"I want to truly thank you for the brilliant job that you did with our training. I got such positive feedback from the team. They feel re-energized and like they have a direction and new tools to do the job."