Rebecca Webster/Recorder staff Teachers at the Wilbur H. Lynch Literacy Academy in Amsterdam listen to presentation on the Danielson Framework of teaching Friday during their professional development day.
By REBECCA WEBSTER
Recorder News Staff
With the negotiated APPR rubric now sent to the State Department of Education, the Greater Amsterdam School District is now bringing its teachers up to speed on what to expect in the coming months.
Friday, the schools used the Superintendent's Conference day to educate teachers on the APPR process.
But they also used the day to teach them about the Charlotte Danielson Framework for teaching, the framework that GASD teachers will be using as they begin this new evaluation process.
Over at the Wilbur H. Lynch Literacy Academy Friday morning, teachers joined together in the cafeteria with notebooks and laptops to listen to and participate in a presentation on the framework.
"This is going to be a process that we're going to be working through over the next number of months," said Michele Downing, GASD Director of Data and Personnel. "Now what we have to do is get the training piece and have everyone understand what is happening."
"It's not easy," she added. "But you know we're going to get through it."
Downing turned the floor over to Capital Area School Development Association (CASDA) educational consultants, Nancy Andress and Susan Tangorre, who took the teachers step by step through the framework and its four domains of planning and preparation, the classroom environment, instruction, and professional responsibilities.
"This whole APPR movement is really about giving us a voice to say what is good teaching," Andress said. "We think that the Danielson model in particular affords you the chance to be empowered."
Later, Andress told the teachers that the evaluation system is different, but they "have to take a partnership role in" it.
Throughout the presentation, they showed videos of Danielson herself speaking on coming up with the framework.
"There was no system to find out what exactly was teaching," she said. "The question when an observer walks into a classroom, is not, 'Is this how I would do it,' it's, 'Is this working?'" she explained.
Her videos explained the importance of "strengthening the system."
In the afternoon, teachers throughout the Lynch building had the opportunity to put the morning session to work in establishing how they will implement this system and worked in groups among the classrooms to do some curriculum development.
One of those groups were the math teachers.
John Decker, who has been in the district for 22 years, said that the morning really gave the teachers an overview of the Danielson framework, going in to a little bit more of the specifics and logistics about what's to come, like announced and unannounced observations that will focus on one of the four Danielson domains.
Decker said that like anything new, there's some anxiety that goes along with it.
"Hopefully we can continue to work as a team, as a district, and people can see that it will be used mainly as a way to develop someone (rather) than to punish someone," he said. "That's the ultimate goal."
There are some things that teachers are concerned with, he said, like the way the grading is done for the state test scores, how a student who is absent often will affect their score, and whether the testing will take away from instruction time.
"There are a lot of things that need to be considered that aren't presently being considered and so that adds to the anxiety there," he said.
He added that some of the parents are nervous, too, about just how much testing the students will be opened up to.
Decker's colleague, Gary Fleury who has been teaching for 10 years but with the district for two-and-a-half years, said part of the anxiety for teachers is rolling out the plan.
"Our union and our representatives have worked so hard to make it a fair system with the district," he said. "As teachers, we were afraid of what's the accountability, what do we do if there is an issue, how can we change it effectively instead of demonstratively."
Fleury said he thinks that the morning overview gave the teachers a chance to know what to expect a little more.
"Now I have a guideline as a teacher to say OK what am I doing, what am I doing well, what do I need to work on so that when I do have my observations come up, I'm prepared," Fleury said. "There's a lot of anxiety whenever you have your boss come in and check your work. And that doesn't matter what job you're in."
But, he continued, that will help establish what the teachers are doing well and what needs work.
"It's more of a collaborative model versus administration separated from teachers," he explained. "We are all trying to kind of understand that this is a model that we all want to work on together. I think our district has worked really hard to do this together so its not just you're ineffective, you're ineffective, you're fired. I think its a good program personally if we can implement it correctly."