Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Thursday, April 10, 2014

What's The UFT Doing About The DOE's Fetishization Of Lesson Plans?

From James Eterno's round-up of yesterday's UFT Delegate's Assembly:

Question: Principals asking for lesson plans and doctor's notes unlike in the past.  What can we do?

Mulgrew Answer: The administration could always ask to see a lesson plan but they cannot dictate format or collect them ritualistically. We are not publicizing what we are doing behind the scenes but we are working on reigning in onerous administration.  We are also waiting for a decision on the lesson plan arbitration.

Many teachers are still being told that lesson plans, while only "suggested," must contain specific criteria as "suggested" by administration (including AIM, learning objectives, standards met, timed activities, and assessments), must have all activities with exact times, must have assessments for all activities and all activity assessments must have expected outcomes/student responses in detail.

Some administrators are taking lesson plans on mini-Danielson drive-by's and handing out "ineffectives" and "developings" if the lesson plans do not meet the administration's "suggested" format.

Now I'm no lawyer, but it seems to me what I have just described in the two paragraphs above is dictating lesson plan format, collecting them ritualistically and using them in an onerous way against teachers.

I hope the UFT leadership works this problem out, either in negotiations with the de Blasio administration (which is the most preferable) or through the arbitration process.

One of the new delights brought to us by Sheriff Andy Cuomo's APPR teacher evaluation system as imposed upon us by NYSED Commissioner King per Cuomo's dictum has been the absolute fetishization of the lesson plan to the point of absurdity.

Teachers are being told lesson plans are as important as the lessons themselves and even if an observed lesson is declared excellent during a Danielson drive-by, teachers can still be dinged "ineffective" or "developing" on the lesson plan component if the administrator decides the teacher's lesson plan does not live up to the "suggested" format.

Now I have always written lesson plans throughout my entire career but I do not get bogged down in the minutiae that some of the "suggested" formats I have seen handed around get bogged down in - in particular including every expected student response for every question asked and exact times for every activity.

In short, I use lesson plans for big picture stuff - AIM, objectives, standards, activities - but not absolute scripts to be obsessively written and followed throughout lessons.

The EngageNY lesson plans promoted by NYSED are exactly that - obsessive scripts devised to be followed to the letter - and what I hear from teachers and students unfortunate enough to be using those scripts is that the lessons are stilted and boring and students feel disengaged from the material.

Part of the problem there is not just the planning format but the lessons themselves - the material there is close reading of the same text day after day after day with nothing but text-based questions for students to respond to with text-based evidence.

But the obsessive detail in those lesson plans (a one-day lesson plan can be 10 pages long) is a problem as well and points to a bigger problem overall with Danielson, APPR and the teacher evaluations.

This is all about compliance, plain and simple, and using these mechanisms to keep teachers in constant fear for their jobs.

A ten page lesson plan does not make for better teachers nor for better lessons.

It does ensure compliance in every classroom with exactly what John King wants taught, however, if every teacher is afraid to deviate from the lesson plan format in case of a Danielson drive-by.

I am happy to hear the UFT knows the lesson plan fetishization issue is a problem, but I am not so sure they understand just how big a problem it is.


  1. Compliance, a euphemism for what is more accurately described as unquestioning obedience, is one of the destinations of this forced march, and it follows from the obsession with power, control and domination - along with capital accumulation - that is at the root of so-called education reform.

  2. Despite the fact that the UFT claims that the DOE cannot dictate lesson format, I believe that this clause in the contract was rendered meaningless when they agreed to APPR and PUSHED for all Danielson competencies to count towards a teacher's evaluation. If we are being evaluated on a score of Ineffective to High Effective based on our lesson plan, administration can certainly ding you on not having exactly what they want (sure they might have to put words like "suggested format" in their memos to cover their own asses, but we all know what "suggested" really means). The UFT agreed to contract changes that require far more time and work + poorer working conditions over the past few years when they signed off on RTTT, CCSS, and APPR. The sad part is, we basically gave up any bargaining chips we have with absolutely nothing to show for it (including any raise in 4 years). As you and Michael have pointed out before, if we do get a good contract it will be purely based on de Blasio being a decent human being who understands that we need a middle class to keep this city going, and not at all based on anything the UFT says or does at the bargaining table.

  3. I just spent an hour today with my principal talking about my lesson plans. I have three preps and each week I and all the teachers have to submit a week's worth of lessons for every class we teach. Each day's lesson plan includes objective, swbat, aim, do now, minilesson, and assessments in a rigid format. A 27 year veteran at my school who was u rated for the first time in all his years filed a grievance about these lesson plans we're forced to submit and lost. So what is the uft doing?

    1. Which level of grievance was it? Isn’t the first level the Principal? Being asked to hand in lesson plans like that is illegal. Call your district UFT person. Call them now. Then go higher up if they are not helpful.

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