States around the country are trying to better assess how teachers are performing in classrooms. They are primarily using standardized test scores and observations by administrators. But shouldn’t students be included in the conservation too? After all, aren’t they the ones who spend the most time with their teachers?
Should students be able to grade their teachers?
In the article “Grading Teachers, With Data From Class,” Farhad Manjoo writes about how a tech start-up called Panorama Education is using student questionnaires to evaluate how teachers are doing.
Halfway through the last school year, Leila Campbell, a young humanities teacher at a charter high school in Oakland, Calif., received the results from a recent survey of her students.
On most measures, Ms. Campbell and her fellow teachers at the Aspire Lionel Wilson Preparatory Academy were scoring at or above the average for Aspire, a charter system that runs more than a dozen schools in California and Tennessee.
But the survey, conducted by a tech start-up called Panorama Education, also indicated that her students did not believe she was connecting with them. Ninety-six percent of the students at Lionel Wilson are Hispanic, and 92 percent receive school lunch assistance.
“It’s a very different population from where I grew up,” Ms. Campbell, who is white, said in a recent interview in her classroom. “I wasn’t scoring where I wanted to with questions like ‘I feel comfortable asking my teacher for help’ or ‘My teacher really cares about me.’ I was below average, and I don’t want to be below average.”
Students: Read the entire article, then tell us …
— Should students be able to grade their teachers? Can students offer insights and observations about teachers that school administrators and teachers themselves might otherwise miss?
— Should student questionnaires, like the ones described in the article, be used by districts and administrators to help improve the quality of teaching at schools?
— Does your school ever ask students to give feedback on teaching or classes? Would you want your school to ask for your opinion? Why?
— Do you think most students would be fair and honest when grading their teachers?
Questions about issues in the news for students 13 and older.
Educators curious about what their students think of them can log on to RateMyTeachers.com where teachers are rated on a scale of 1 to 5 in the categories of Clarity, Helpfulness, Popularity, and (controversially) “Easiness.” They can also fill in a comments box, where remarks range from positive and constructive to downright nasty and mean.
Students can be fickle, and the comments reflect that – one day a teacher is loved, and on the next, reviled, maybe because of a pop quiz or a poor grade. That’s why educators are relieved that the site’s anonymous critiques aren’t considered in their official evaluations. But in some districts, student surveys, fickle or not, could become part of how teachers are assessed.
Starting this fall, Memphis school teachers will be evaluated not only by their principals, but also by their students – whose input, called “stakeholder perceptions” by the district — will count for five percent. Other measures include student growth data, classroom observations, and a teachers’ content knowledge.
Keith Williams, president of the Memphis Education Association, told the Memphis Commercial Appeal, that the union agrees that teachers need to be evaluated on multiple measures, but he raised concerns about the accuracy of student perceptions.
“How well can a first- or second-grader do on this? Will it be favoritism? Will it be based on popularity or will it be some objective data?” he asked.
In Palm Beach, Florida, the school board proposed a “Secret Student Survey.”
According to an editorial in the Palm Beach Post, the anonymous evaluation includes five questions that ask students to rate teachers on a scale of 0-5, with 0 being “NO” and 5 being “YES.” The five questions are:
1. Does your teacher treat you fairly?
2. Does your teacher treat you with respect?
3. Does your teacher answer your questions well?
4. Is your teacher consistent in how he/she teaches and relates to you with or without and administrator present?
5. Do you behave in class?
There also are three essay questions:
1. What difference in the teacher’s behavior do you notice when an administrator is present in the classroom?
2. How could you and/or the class have acted differently in order to help the teacher do his/her job more effectively?
3. Give your teacher a letter grade and explain how he/she earned it.
Educators from around the country have varying opinions about incorporating student feedback into official evaluations. Some think it’s a good idea, while others think it’s a dangerous model when educator jobs are on the line.
Karen Hoover, a teacher in Washington, D.C., believes student input should definitely count in evaluations. “As long as they are made aware of the meaning, value, and importance of honest opinions, and there is some sort of checks and balance system in place, I think it’s a really good idea,” she says.
Alan Sutliff, an educator from Kent, Washington, agrees that the feedback is useful and important, but only if it’s used for improving teaching and not for high-stakes decisions.
“Evaluations are high-stakes documents because they impact employment,” he says.
Nicole Germann agrees. She’s a teacher from Watseka, Illinois, who invites feedback from students and welcomes it, but would not welcome having them officially evaluate her performance.
“Many students would evaluate fairly, while many might not,” she says. “Would the kids evaluate their administrators as well? Would it count for five percent of their evaluation?”