Colleen Rogers: Why I Resigned in Protest

Nov 14, 2016 by

An Interview with Colleen Rogers: Why I Resigned in Protest

Michael F. Shaughnessy –

  • First of all, can you tell us about yourself and your education and experience?

I retired in May, 2015 after a lifelong career as a High School Spanish teacher that began in 1980.  I was at my last school for 21 years, since the fall of 1994.  I am certified in both elementary and secondary education, with an emphasis on Foreign Language and ESL.  My choice to retire last year was difficult and, after about a month, I signed on to teach Spanish part-time in a Junior High STEM program.  I developed my own curriculum there, and was overjoyed with the opportunity to teach at the elementary level–let’s just say, at 61, it was on my Bucket List.

  • It seems that your main concern currently is with the Danielson evaluation system—can you clarify?

Being old guard at my other school, I was not evaluated extensively—primarily through peer coaching, a few drop-ins, and the like. I was observed and evaluated using a cooperative model developed by administrators, educators, and collective bargaining representatives. Evaluation only became a concern for me in my post-retirement job as a rookie Junior High teacher.  This required me to participate as a non-tenured instructor in the new realm of teacher review.  The operational evaluation format of choice in my new District was the Danielson Framework.  My concern with the Danielson Framework is that it is not validated by substantiated statistical analysis or sound educational research.  I have not been shown any corroborated evidence for the usage of this model for personnel assessment.

As a seasoned teacher, I have been the target of a long litany of educational “products” over the years (i.e., “inquiry based learning”, “backwards planning”, “no child left behind”, etc.).  I have weathered these “educational fads”, and have often been curious of late as to why half of our young, fiery teachers opt to leave this noble profession within five years.  I now know their reason.

The evaluation “cycles” with the Danielson Rubric that non-tenured teachers’ horror through is one of the most demoralizing experiences I have ever been subjected to as a professional educator.  The disconnect in any direct correlation between elevated academic performance by students and positive instruction by teachers is acutely undetermined through this rubric assessment format.

In my opinion, the “snippets” of observed teacher instructional time are impaired for genuine analysis due to a variety of factors:

  1. The impartiality of the observer—a reviewer will interpret each of the rubric’s points through their own eye. Although the rubric “appears’ to be a structured, formal checklist, the “air” of objectivity is barely breathable with human interpretation.  The rubric is a maze that enables the administration a way out of a cornfield of required staff cutbacks and RIF notices.
  1. The variations between observers—if the same teacher were to be reviewed by two different evaluators simultaneously, it is highly unlikely that the outcome would be the same numerically by both reviewers. This variant cripples the veracity of the review, which subsequently invalidates its outcome.
  1. The hidden agenda of the observer—most reviewers have already made pre-determinations about staff. Subtle downgrading of staff who may not “make the cut” in the opinion of the reviewer skews the veil of objectivity.
  1. The art of teaching—to subject each teacher to a “one size fits all” instructional assessment hampers the ability for students to find connections with a diversely gifted staff. Teachers feel compelled to “lock step” their instructional “mold” into what is considered a higher rating according to the rubric scale toward “Excellent”.  I view this as an example of robotic instruction at its finest.
  1. The “ambush” factor—some reviewers steer their observational focus toward areas that they perceive to be a teacher’s instructional Achilles’ heel. The process turns from collegial coaching to a form of professional pummeling, which does nothing to improve morale or encourage a teacher’s quest for improvement.
  1. The classroom experience of the reviewer—if the reviewer is not well-versed in the content area observed, they may not have a full grasp of content-specific instructional tools and techniques.
  1. The true adherence to the Danielson Framework—if the reviewer initiates assessment of instruction while still observing in the classroom, or the observer fails to recognize things that may have occurred prior to or after observation, teachers are negatively impacted on review.
  1. The tech factor–the inconsistency of the reviewers’ logged codes, the inability for teachers to incorporate all of the rubric dimensions into one lesson, and the unintended lowered ratings due to teachers’ consideration of student responses all impede fairness in the overall process.
  • You once likened the Danielson Evaluation system to buying a used car. Tell us your story.

A few years ago, I purchased a used car—while in the “negotiation phase”, the salesman played this game:

“What would you pay for this car?”

I responded with a number, which he made me write on a piece of paper and pass across the table.

“Lady, I can’t sell you this car for that amount”.

I wrote another number on the piece of paper and passed it across the table.

This went on and on.

Eventually, I left the showroom without a car, frustrated with the tediousness of the process.

I bought my vehicle elsewhere.

So it is with the new, the non-tenured, and those tired of the task of negotiating their rubric scores.  Over time, the “rating negotiation” process of this evaluation format, the unfairness of the rubric, and the pre-and post-conferencing experiences trigger talented teachers to showcase their abilities in other venues, leaving the profession for more respectful arenas.

  • How much time is spent in this endeavor?

There is a minimum of six or more hours required to continue the dog and pony show, and be brow beaten for faults (in the most supportive way, of course).  This time is followed by teachers’ attempts to analyze every nuance of their rubric rating, which is humiliating and truly professionally intolerable. I, like all teachers, deserve better than to have to engage in this nonsense—it takes away classroom prep time and, worse still, it reduces time to interact with students.

  • Many teachers do so many things OUTSIDE of the classroom that are not recognized. Can you comment on this?

I, like most teachers, have put in above and beyond the part-time hours for which I was hired. I have purchased classroom supplies and dealt with less than idyllic work conditions. I have attended Parent Teacher Conferences, Open Houses, Book Nights, dances, graduations, and PLC meetings on my own time, and have sponsored (without stipend) an after school activity. In addition to extra faculty duties, I have had parents come at me without support or defense. I have been compared with other teachers, even though I have strengths not acknowledged. I have had to deal with getting remanded for the actions of wayward prepubescent boys, which has now diminished my professional standing.  Many of these things are understood to be part of the daily grind of a teacher’s life.  But some of these things, when recorded on a rubric as items of professional stature, are not warranted. They also fail to serve as guideposts toward increased staff morale for the betterment of student performance.

  • What final comments would you like to make?

I am not an insubordinate employee.  I initially had been compliant with this process as it is a component of my job.  I kept the required binder that showcased the evidence I compiled to verify efforts to target each of the Danielson Domains. I did the first preconference, the observation, and the initial post conference. Eventually, though, I felt I had a right to lodge respectful protest of my treatment at work., and this employee review system in particular.  I made suggestions as to how instructional time could be more productively spent.  Ultimately, the distaste I had for a process that was imposed on the teaching staff was overwhelming for me.

I do not take issue with monitoring staff performance, and less anyone consider this a retaliatory exercise or “sour grapes” for a low review, be assured that this is not the case—I scored well in most areas for which I was evaluated, and, in other aspects of my job, I was sincerely satisfied.  I enjoyed working with my enthusiastic colleagues and energetic students.

As we do invaluable work in the instruction of young people, though, it is imperative that we are assessed to provide the best we know how to offer each student with whom we work.  We need to come to this task with a sense of collegial teaming and administrative support, brainstorming for solutions when concerns may be evident. Sometimes, issues are often better addressed with discussion and a trusting “gentleman’s handshake” as a model for improvement rather than personal demerits recorded on teachers’ “permanent records”.  Our profession, above all others, is not well-served by top down finger-pointing. Teachers do not need to come to their jobs with the isolating feeling of work generated non-value or non-appreciation.  These sentiments are subconscious snowballs that roll downhill and potentially ice teacher interactions with students.  That’s not something we want to measure on a rubric.

  • I understand that you have just resigned in protest. Would you share your letter of resignation with our readers?

I sent the following email to my superiors.  The email was followed by an official letter of resignation.  My administrators’ names and the school identifiers have been omitted herein, since this issue is not related specifically to my District, but to the evaluation format in general.

To: The Principal & Asst. Principal

Re: Danielson Evaluation Response–“Taking One for The Team”

From : Rogers, Colleen

7:38 PM

Gentlemen:

As I am in vehement disagreement with the Danielson Rubric Format and Process for Teacher Evaluation, I have decided not to continue participating in any additional pre- or post conferencing sessions with my Evaluator.

I have written my rationale, entitled the Danielson Effect, and have posted my concerns as an “artifact” on my Formal Evaluation.

As I understand that this is a state mandated requirement for my part-time teaching position, I do not wish the District to be held non-compliant in an audit. Therefore, I will be tendering my resignation.

My formal notice will be given to the District office by December 1, and I will not be returning to school in January, 2017.

Thank you

Colleen Rogers

I truly wish continued success for my colleagues, and I hope that they can ride out the tide of the Danielson initiative.  Right now, though, in the boldness that age affords, I need to stand firm on this principle and take leave.  It is easier for me to take the financial hit for quitting in protest than it would be for my young coworkers with children to support.  The main reaction I get from beleaguered teachers responding to my resignation notice has been: “Oh, I wish I could do that.”

Leaving my students behind has been an immeasurable sacrifice for me; the class I worked so hard to create, prepare activities for, and share is now a proposed study hall.  With this stance, there are multiple costs.  The price paid is the Danielson Effect.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.