The administration has come to understand that many teachers are feeling the need to address current events in their lessons these days.
It is understandable that children want to talk about some of the stories that are in the news, like the Michael Brown case in Ferguson, Missouri, or the Eric Garner case in New York City.
Please understand that no matter how much children need to talk about these stories, all lessons must be Common Core-aligned and fully compliant with the "effective" or "highly effective" lines on the Danielson rubric.
Current events lessons must be built around a piece of complex text that is the centerpiece of the lesson. While we want students to grapple with the complex events that are occurring around us in the world today, we must ensure that they are also grappling with complex words and language they don't understand - otherwise we are not doing our jobs as educators.
Current events lessons may not be open-ended discussions that go where the intellectual or emotional needs of the children lead - they must be fully-planned out ahead of time, with teachers having a rigorous set of close reading questions developed for the complex current events reading text and the responses students are expected to give to those close reading questions. As always, close reading questions should focus mostly on the language choices and tone of the author, be repetitive in nature, and allow for no thought about the actual event itself. When in doubt, always remember that in the Age of Common Core and EngageNY, we are teaching skills, not content.
In addition, current events lessons must end with an assessment so that teachers can see what students have learned and what they still need to learn - we cannot lose sight of the importance of endlessly assessing students no matter what is happening outside our school. Please ensure that your Common Core-aligned, Danielson-approved current events lesson contains formative and summative assessments along with the appropriate rubrics so students will know what the instructional expectations are and how they can best achieve them.
The complex current events text, the close reading questions, the expected student responses to those close reading questions, and the formative and summative assessments must be fully developed and documented in the (suggested) lesson plan format you received at the beginning of the Fall 2014 term and aligned to both a specific, measurable instructional objective and the Common Core English Language Arts standards.
Lesson plans should be available for the perusal of classroom observers.
These are interesting times we live in and, as was said before, we understand why children might want to break from their EngageNY lessons to talk about some of the things that have been happening in the world.
But as always, in order to be professional educators in the Age of EngageNY and the Danielson rubric, we must make sure that every lesson that is taught is Common Core-aligned, rigorous in language, complex in text, rife with assessment and 100% planned out beforehand as evident in the (suggested) lesson plan format.
Thank you and have a rigorous day.
NOTE: Informal, unannounced Danielson observations will be ongoing this week