Before union leaders blasted off an angry letter to the Department of Education to complain about teacher evaluation abuse last month, they had to confirm that their complaints were warranted. To do that, they went straight to the woman who designed the evaluation model the city favors: Charlotte Danielson.

Danielson’s “Framework for Teaching” has been adopted for evaluation purposes at 33 struggling schools. But the union was receiving reports from chapter leaders that principals in at least one other network of schools were using a checklist based on the model to evaluate teachers.

When the UFT obtained a copy of one of the checklists, it shared it with Danielson herself to get her thoughts.

Danielson was troubled by the checklists and disapproved of them, union officials said. With that endorsement, UFT Secretary Michael Mendel wrote a letter to the DOE and demanded an immediate end to the practice. He even threatened to cut off negotiations toward a larger evaluation deal that is required by the end of the school year.

In a follow-up phone interview last week, I asked Danielson about the checklists in question while she was out on the road pitching her framework to teachers and administrators in Oregon and Washington. (This week, Danielson is in Chile, where schools are using a model based on her framework.)

Danielson was hesitant to insert herself into an union-district battle, but did confirm that she disapproved of the checklist shown to her. The checklist she saw, Danielson said, was inappropriate because of the way it was filled out. It indicated that the observer had already begun evaluating a teacher while in the classroom observation. She said that’s a fundamental no-no.

“When we train principals to observe classrooms, we urge them to take notes about what they see,” Danielson said. “Only later, when they have time to look at their notes and the different components, could they decide which level of performance is represented for each of the components.”

So far the UFT has provided one example of the alleged abuses, but it has declined to share even a redacted version of document with the public. “We’ve decided it would be inappropriate to share particular instances,” said UFT’s Dick Riley. The DOE also declined to provide its version of the document.

As we documented on the day before school started, all principals, not just in the 33 schools, are being encouraged to use the Danielson Framework as a way to conduct more classroom observations, a DOE spokesman said. But they won’t be allowed to evaluate teachers according to the framework until a deal approving it is in place.

“It’s about informing discussions and creating a culture where there is ongoing feedback between teachers and principals,” DOE’s Matt Mittenthal said of the informal observations. “But it’s absolutely not being used for evaluations.”