Rebuttals to Adverse* Lesson Observation Reports
Writing a Rebuttal to Respond to an Adverse* Lesson Observation Report in Your Official School File and Entered into Advance
(* adverse = containing ratings of “Ineffective,” “Developing,” or “Unsatisfactory”)
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ALL lesson observation reports are nothing more than compilations of advice, criticisms, evaluations, and recommendations — in other words, opinions — and should be rebutted by all teachers who do not agree with any of the ratings contained within the observation report, or with any of the text comments within. That being said, you should write a formal rebuttal to any observation report, or any part of an observation report, whenever you feel the rating was made in error or bad faith. Then, email it to the appropriate supervisor and additional parties.
Observation reports are exempt from public access under the New York Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) because they contain neither “statistical or factual tabulations or data” nor any other categories of information which are subject to public production (for example, “instructions to staff that affect the public” or “final agency policy or determinations”) and are, therefore, categorized as “opinions.” If you do not believe this statement, please see the decision of the Second Appellate Division in Elentuck v. Green (202 A.D.2d 425) and the decision of the NYS Supreme Court, New York County, in Mulgrew v. Board of Education of the City School District of the City of New York (31 Misc 3d 296). Feel free to conduct your own research into the matter. In 1994, the DOE and the Corporation Counsel’s Office had let it be known to the world — in front of an appellate court — that observation reports are nothing more than the opinion of the supervisor who conducted the lesson observation and wrote the report. Therefore, it is imperative that you write a rebuttal to that opinion if you do not agree.
How to Write a Rebuttal:
The first thing you need to do is let the supervisor know that you do not agree with the observation report that has been returned to you. To do this, you will complete the Model Letter 1 template (Copy, paste, and fill out the missing info.) and email it to the person who conducted the lesson observation. (ONLY the supervisor who issued the observation report gets your Model Letter 1 response.) This will put the supervisor on notice that you do not agree with the contents of the observation report, either in whole or in part, and give the supervisor time to identify any “statistical data” (i.e., “statistics”), “factual data” (i.e., “facts”), and “instructions to staff that affect the public” in the observation report. (Do not worry as none of these categories are contained within observation reports, according to the DOE and the courts.)
Then, based on how the supervisor responds or does not respond, you will complete the appropriate Model Letter 2 template response. Model Letter 2A is to be used if you do not wish to challenge the validity of the Danielson Framework. Model Letter 2B is to be used if you do wish to challenge such. Your response (the completed Model Letter 2) to the supervisor is to be emailed to the supervisor and cc’d to all emails listed at the bottom of the template. (We have conveniently listed them below to make it easy for you to copy and paste them all at once.) Make sure to remove all unnecessary text in the template (such as the heading with instructions) and complete all information that will make it your personal response to the supervisor. When you compose your Model Letter 2 response, it’s recommended that you include in your email all prior communications between you and your supervisor relating to the observation report. You should attach to your email the completed Model Letter 1 that you sent to the supervisor, and the supervisor’s response to you (if they decided to respond) so that the cc’d parties can read to catch up on the conversation. It’s also recommended that you attach the observation report to the Model Letter 2 response, but remove student names (if any) along with material that would identify them. It is acceptable to replace student names with labels such as Student A, Student B, Student C, etc.
Feel free to add anything that you want to the Model Letter 1 and Model Letter 2 templates, but it is highly recommended that you do not remove anything from the templates. They were constructed with great care and detail to help assist teachers in responding to supervisors who may not be acting in the best interests of the teacher and students.
Where is the template for Model Letter 1?
Email Subject Headings for Rebuttal Letters:
- Subject Heading for Model Letter 1: Notification of Disagreement with Observation Report or Portion Issued on __________ (Fill in the date.)
- Subject Heading for Model Letter 2A or Model Letter 2B: Rebuttal Letter Regarding Observation Report or Portion Issued on __________ (Fill in the date.)
What happens after I send out Model Letter 1?
Upon receipt of Model Letter 1, the supervisor may contact the Senior Field Counsel to ask what should be done. And then, it’s possible that the Senior Field Counsel will contact Matthew Fleming, Esq., who’s the Director of the Senior Field Counsel Unit. His email is: MFleming4@schools.nyc.gov
His profile is here: www.linkedin.com/in/matthew-fleming-6a6aa252
Class Size Matters mentioned him in a post from six years ago:
Prepare to write a second letter to the supervisor who issued the observation report. You can review both Model Letters 2A and 2B. Depending on whether you do or don’t want to challenge the Danielson Framework, choose which one to send out:
Model Letter 2A is for the validity of the Danielson Framework not being challenged.
Model Letter 2B is for the validity of the Danielson Framework being challenged.
Email Addresses to Add to the “CC” Field of a Model Letter 2 Email Form:
Please be sure to add these email addresses as the “CC” recipients:
Copy and paste all eighteen email addresses (including the separating commas) exactly into the “CC” field of an email form when you’re preparing whichever version of Model Letter 2 you’ll be filling out:
BdeBlasio@cityhall.nyc.gov, NYCChancellor@schools.nyc.gov, MRoss@schools.nyc.gov, Panel@schools.nyc.gov, JNathan@schools.nyc.gov, HSmith24@schools.nyc.gov, CGuerra7@schools.nyc.gov, TGantz@schools.nyc.gov, SpeakerJohnson@council.nyc.gov, MTreyger@council.nyc.gov, Dromm@council.nyc.gov, VGibson@council.nyc.gov, Stringer@comptroller.nyc.gov, GetHelp@advocate.nyc.gov, MGarnett@doi.nyc.gov, GPestana@law.nyc.gov, RDearing@law.nyc.gov, EEichenh@law.nyc.gov