Teaching to the Core: Practitioner perspectives about the intersection of teacher evaluation using the Danielson framework for teaching and Common Core State Standards


Conducted by Caitlin K. Martin and Véronique Mertl.

Purpose of study

To highlight findings from a study that paired use of the Framework for Teaching (FfT) with Common Core-aligned Instructional Practice Guides (IPG) and inform decisions about modifications to the Framework for Teaching (FfT) to incorporate the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

Research questions

  • How are the goals of the two instruments (FfT and IPG) aligned with each other and how do these goals correspond to perspectives of what is important about CCSS to practitioners?
  • What are practitioners struggling with in terms of adoption of and alignment with CCSS teaching and understanding?
  • To what extents are the two instruments (FfT and IPG) capturing critical information around CCSS and what more is needed to capture all critical information?
  • What are the general patterns of use of the instruments and observation practices? To what extent can the process for conducting teacher observations using the FfT be streamlined to allow for a more focused effort at measuring the core elements of instruction related to the CCSS?
  • Are there differences in use, attitude, or suggestions by district, school level, or evaluation role (observer compared to teacher)?

Population/ sample

413 teachers, school administrators, and district administrators from four US districts in four states (Connecticut, Illinois, New York, and Nevada) participated in teaching observations, surveys, and focus groups to provide feedback on the observation processes and tools. Sixteen teacher and observer pairs (4 per district) participated in case studies that included shadowing and interviews.

Major results

The data showed that almost all participants (91%) believed that the FfT effectively evaluated teaching practice. A similar majority (87%), however, felt that the Framework should change to better reflect the CCSS by making explicit connections between the FfT elements and Common Core practices to support evaluation, coaching, and practice. Teachers and administrators found the IPG to be an “enhanced lens” to see Common Core practices in Domain 3 of the FfT.

Qualitatively, practitioners did not want multiple versions of the FfT but rather digital guides that could be customized. The most prevalently desired customization were examples: video examples, examples specific to subjects and grade levels, examples of annotated lesson plans, and examples of student moves at each level of proficiency. Incorporating language from the CCSS into the FfT and highlighting connections between them were also common suggestions from study participants. Teachers and administrators connected the CCSS with Domains 1 and 3 of the FfT and desired examples and “critical attributes” of CCSS-informed practice with student descriptors for these domains. Participants often incorporated the CCSS practices that they found most challenging into the FfT. These practices included:

  1. students develop a deep understanding
  2. students persist through cycles of work and revision
  3. teacher selection of complex texts and problems
  4. student and teacher questioning leads to deeper understanding
  5. students use evidence to construct arguments
  6. students develop academic language, and
  7. student independence and research.

While most teachers and administrators believed that the FfT captured effective teaching practice, only 60% believed that it was able to assess content knowledge. Despite this, only one fifth (21%) thought that the FfT should be enhanced by greater focus on subject-matter knowledge, preferring to assess this independent of observations by a general practitioner.

Finally, many schools and districts reduced the number of FtT components of focus for observations due to time constraints and other challenges, suggesting that changes to expand the FfT or make it more complex may be more challenging than supportive.

The authors did not make recommendations separate from the research highlights and participant suggestions noted throughout the report. The primary recommendation in regard to modifications to the FfT was to develop digital guides with customized examples by subject area and grade level to support teachers and administrators in specifying levels of proficiency in various teaching contexts.

FfT focus

The study collected detailed practice information and suggestions from practitioners in both teacher and observer roles about connections between the FfT and CCSS practices that can be further developed within the Framework to better support teachers in improving their instructional practice.