A key component of Governor Daugaard's education reform plan is the Charlotte Danielson Framework for Teaching. Governor Daugaard plans to spend millions to train educators in the Danielson framework, then require school districts statewide to use that framework in evaluating teachers. That framework will also serve as a major basis for deciding which one out of five teachers in each district merit the Governor's $5,000 bonuses.
So how does Danielson feel about the use of her framework to make teacher pay decisions? She doesn't say "No way!" but she's not exactly sanguine about the prospect:
RH:Â In places like DC and Florida, policymakers have required the use of observational evaluations to help make decisions about job security and compensation. What's your take on such efforts? Do you have suggestions or cautions that apply?
CD:Â My experience with those issues is mixed. School districts have an absolute obligation to ensure quality teaching. The question is what counts as evidence, and how do you attribute evidence to the teacher. That's why the assessment of teacher practices, we'll always have to have that. Partly because it gives you diagnostic information--if things aren't going well, if kids aren't learning, then why not? But the net result is you have to have student learning.
On the question of observation and if it's productive, how high are the stakes if a rating is given? A lot of the policy types, they want a number. And this stuff doesn't lend itself to numbers. But the minute a teacher's performance rating is a high-stakes matter, people are going to do whatever they have to do to be rated highly. And the things you have to do to be rated highly are exactly the opposite of things you'd do if you wanted to learn--you wouldn't try anything new, you would be protective, you would be legalistic about the ratings, and you'd argue. None of that makes you open to improving your teaching. So my advice is to only make it high-stakes where you have to. If someone is on the edge of needing remediation, then that is high-stakes and you should use it. But if your main purpose is to say these 80 percent of our teachers are performing pretty well, so let's use this process to get better, that's a very different way of thinking [emphasis mine; Rick Hess, interview with Charlotte Danielson, Education Week: Straight Up,Â 2011.06.23].
If I am reading Danielson correctly, she thinks high-stakes evaluations turn her framework into a counter-productive game. She would rather see her framework used to make all teachers even better. And that's what we all want, right?
Update 2012.01.29 20:45 MST:Â Danielson also offers this caution about merit pay in her notes to a 2008 presentation:
This is the fundamental question: is it worth it? I donâ€™t mean to suggest, by asking this question, that educators should not try to implement performance-based compensation systems. But my reading of the literature suggests that the jury is still out. Therefore, if you are contemplating a move to a performance-based pay system, with individual awards, I would urge you to enter into it with your eyes wide open, with attention to the assessment as well as the political issues involved.
I donâ€™t want to leave the wrong impression; I am not opposed to the concept of performance-based pay; it has considerable common-sense appeal. However, I have not yet seen a well-designed system, one which avoids the pitfalls and dangers. And since many places considering a move in this direction think they might use the framework for teaching, I have found myself pulled into these discussions [Charlotte Danielson, notes, "Designing a System of Performance-Based Pay," presentation via Morning Bell, updated 2008, posted 2009.03.05].