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Should Students Grade their Teachers?

Some educators suggest student surveys should be part of teacher-effectiveness evaluations.

With all the debate in New Jersey and elsewhere about evaluating teachers on how well their students perform, another idea is starting to surface that could prove equally provocative: judging teachers by what their students think of them.

One of the options available to New Jersey school districts as they build teacher evaluation systems is including student surveys among the “multiple measures” of student achievement. The idea is gaining popularity, at least among policy-makers.

Several districts that have been part of the pilot program testing evaluation models have included or plan to include student surveys, although not necessarily as part of a teacher's grade.

In Alexandria, for instance, teachers survey their students and are required to employ the results in developing self-evaluations and professional goals.

Still, those surveys are not part of the evaluations themselves, and one principal said that’s where it could get problematic.

“I’m not sure that children have enough knowledge about pedagogy to evaluate teachers,” said David Pawlowski, principal of the Alexandria Middle School. “That gets into a tricky area.”

The idea is gaining traction nationally, however, with the release this week of the final report of the massive Measures for Effective Teaching (MET) research project conducted by the Bill & Belinda Gates Foundation, which looked at a variety of ways of evaluating teachers.

In preliminary findings released over the past few years, the MET study suggested both student achievement and classroom observation be given strong weight in judging the effectiveness of teachers. It’s a common refrain in school reform circles and a centerpiece of teacher evaluation systems in dozens of states, including New Jersey.

But the study also included student surveys as a central component, saying that their judgments provide valuable insight as to how well a teacher is supporting and communicating with his or her charges.

“Only recently have many policymakers and practitioners come to recognize that --when asked the right questions, in the right ways -- students can be an important source of information on the quality of teaching and the learning environment in individual classrooms,” reads the introduction to the MET brief on student surveys.

How that is done is where it can get complicated, however, and New Jersey is only starting to grapple with that issue as it demands every district have an evaluation system in place by next fall.

The guidelines and regulations for those systems are yet to be distributed, and state officials said they are continuing to develop and discuss what will be in them, including the possibility of student surveys.

State Education Commissioner Chris Cerf yesterday said that student input is an intriguing option among many for judging teacher effectiveness, but said it is too early to tell how important it might be.

“I am intrigued by recent research indicating that they may be valid as one element of an approach that incorporates multiple indicators,” he wrote in an email. “At the same time, I share the concerns of some educators about student surveys, so would not want to take any steps in that direction without soliciting their views and perspective.”

Continue reading on NJSpotlight.com.

NJ Spotlight is an issue-driven news website that provides critical insight to New Jersey’s communities and businesses. It is non-partisan, independent, policy-centered and community-minded.

madre January 11, 2013 at 12:30 PM
“At the same time, I share the concerns of some educators about student surveys, so would not want to take any steps in that direction without soliciting their views and perspective.” Cerf Every good teacher knows that learning can happen at any time, in any place, from anywhere. Even the strongest among us (especially the strongest among us) evaluate input from all sources. Teachers allow students to grade each other's work, to inherit a group composite grade which reflects the sum effort of all group members. Therefore basically teachers have already endorsed by practice the ability of students to effectively evaluate, yes? Because they wouldn't utilize this methodology for grading students of they didn't believe it effective. As proponents of change and of effective communication, how can teachers back-pedal on this? Definitely put the work in to doing this right and embrace it as a step toward taking us to the next level.
Joe R January 11, 2013 at 02:32 PM
"Teachers allow students to grade each other's work, to inherit a group composite grade which reflects the sum effort of all group members." How widespread is its use, did you do a survey of several school districts or is this just anecdotal? I seriously doubt that this is a widespread practice and maybe by just a few teachers once in a while for a change of pace. I don't think it would be a good idea for the shyer more sensitive kids and could possibly lead to teasing for the underperformers. Teachers spend massive amounts of hours after school and over the weekends grading piles of papers, this is how teachers get grades.
catherine January 17, 2013 at 02:55 AM
Absolutely! There are some good-for-nothing, useless, in it for themselves and not for their students or the love of teaching who should be graded on their performance and conduct. Thankfully, the majority of my teachers did not fall into this catagory. I ask you: If they have done everything right, and have nothing to fear, then they should not object to an evaluation!
catherine January 17, 2013 at 03:13 AM
The time of flying under-the-radar days are over for many of these so-called teachers...and I think that they know it too! Just shows how scared they are getting their panties in a bunch over an evaluation! We all get evaulations at work and they should too. What makes them so special?
Joe R January 17, 2013 at 05:32 AM
Teachers are getting evaluated, have been getting evaluated for generations. First the principals and administrators are the ones who hire the teachers, teachers don't hire themselves. Principals look over the teacher's records, how they did at student teaching and so forth. Then there is the 3 year trial period (I think it was just extended to 4 years?) for which the teacher can be fired for any reason. Teachers do not evaluate themselves. After that, teachers are evaluated every year for the rest of their careers. TEACHERS ARE BEING EVALUATED NOW by the principals and administrators, this is an actual fact that people do not seem to be aware of. Many principals do multiple evaluations throughout each year and many do surprise drop ins, unannounced. I don't know where this myth originated that teachers are not being evaluated, they are. Having kids evaluate the teachers will lead to a popularity contest and of course the kids who got poor grades will roast their teacher.
catherine January 17, 2013 at 08:21 AM
Of course bad teachers will be grilled, and they deserve to be. The teachers would not have a job without students, so as the consumers of the product, are really the bosses in a way too...and deserve to evaluate teachers on each and every level. In universities this is common practice and should be from kindergarden all the way up to high school.
catherine January 17, 2013 at 08:24 AM
By the way, any evaluation I have ever done in the Uni was BEFORE the grades were handed out, not after. And secondly, the popular professors were also the very best ones in teaching excellence, had nothing to do with what evaluations they got or what kind of grades they gave out.
catherine January 17, 2013 at 08:26 AM
Maybe if the "lower" grades were run like the universities, we wouldn't be in such a mess!?
Joe R January 17, 2013 at 12:06 PM
What mess? NJ schools are top rated in the country and are always in the top tier of schools nationally. Overall and on average, NJ schools are performing well by the NAEP scores. Having young adults evaluate their professors is one thing but having 6 year olds evaluating their teachers is another thing entirely. Teachers are always grading papers and projects on an almost daily basis, that's very different from a university. It's a bad idea that will lead to a popularity contest. Will the principals be evaluated by the kids? School nurses, school librarians? The gym and music teachers will be the most popular teachers in the whole school? Or is this just a vendetta against the regular classroom teacher? Anyhting to beat up on teachers, the skies the limit. How do we evaluate the teachers at Newtown or the teacher in CA who recently talked an armed student who had just wounded a classmate, to put his gun down. I am so damn sick and tired of the teacher bashing and sliming that goes on 24/7 in this country. Attack, attack, attack the teachers all the damn time.
Joe R January 17, 2013 at 12:43 PM
Will the teachers get to evaluate their principals, school administrators, curriculum people, superintendent and school board? Ha, not very likely, even if they did it anonymously, there would be retribution for bad evaluaitons of a principal, for example.
7 out March 15, 2013 at 03:38 PM
Students are not consumers or equals to teachers. The idea of a 14 year old having the power to control the fate of a teacher is the stupidest idea in education. "Wahh teacher didn't give me an extra day to do my homework, teacher didn't let me talk in class, so I will get them fired!"
Tugwalla March 15, 2013 at 04:45 PM
NJ schools have been dumbed down over the past 30 years coinciding with the massive power grab of the NJEA on elected officials. Ask any parent with a kid in high school - little homework and everybody makes the honor roll. Science and Math classes do not prepare or motivate kids to pursue careers in these fields...this is where the system has failed. We are loosing the global tech job battle to China and Asia. This is not bashing teachers...they were lucky to have chosen a career in a system that overpays them (full time pay and part time work), gives them a winning lottery ticket when the retire (60% pay and free health insurance) and doesn't hold them accountable for performance. We should all be so lucky to have a job like that! However in the real world they just don't exist outside of the public school system. Teachers are just the symptom the larger systemic failure that many either deny or or protect.
7 out March 15, 2013 at 08:37 PM
Teachers don't get free health care. We give up raises for not paying for it. Well we did until the state did an end run around collective bargaining. NJEA doesn't design curriculum or dictate educational policy. Kids in other countries don't get universal public education. Those kids in international competitions are the elite of the elite. In China, they are the children of the Red Princes. These are the families that took power after the cultural revolution. The typical Chinese teen is looking at a future working in a factory. The entry age for manufacturing in 16 yrs old. Japan has no such thing as special edu. Kids who are not native Japanese speakers don't have to go to school. India has massive poverty. You think the average working class Indian is sending their kids to schools as good as SB? Finland might be the closest to us. They have strong unions, great pay and no standardized tests.
Tugwalla March 15, 2013 at 09:13 PM
7 out ...you must be out of your mind!. A teacher paying a couple of hundred dollars a year for their healthcare is a joke when premiums are $15-20,000 or more a year. In the real world a poor schlub making under $30k is paying over $5k (their employer paying the rest) for a crumby high deductible HMO! I hope you do not teach history or geopolitics because you have no idea what you are talking about. If you are a teacher it proves that we are in deep trouble. It doesn't matter where the competition comes from, who cares if they are rich or poor, etc., what matters is we are not producing employable college graduates. Ask anyone who is responsible for hiring entry level college educated employees the current system is producing functional illiterates! Finland..really a country known for Vodka and deer meat? Finland also has one of the worlds highest rate of alcoholism and suicide...must be the strong unions, great pay and no standardized tests.
7 out March 15, 2013 at 10:00 PM
Don't ever speak to me again because you are an idiot. I have traveled to more than 50 countries in my life and studied in two. Yeah I know more about educational policy and structure than you do. You are delirious and have nothing to say worth reading
Tugwalla March 15, 2013 at 11:13 PM
7 out ...you proved my point.with teachers like you we are doomed!

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