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.

Read more at NJSpotlight.com



Art Vatsky January 10, 2013 at 12:58 PM
Hello, this is not a new system. At CUNY, City University of New York, we instructors are evaluated by our students annually. Students respond on a standard form, and separately and anonymously, on a comment page. Instructor results are reported against the department averages. Questions are not about popularity but about the instructor being prepared, maintaining class discipline, holding to the syllabus, giving lessons that are appropriate and understandable. I support this system for high school students initially and then into upper then lower grades in the middle schools. As for pedogogy, we can measure that with a pedometer.
Alex Thurber January 10, 2013 at 01:55 PM
Why not? We did so in College. One caveat would be personality bias. Not all effective teachers are popular, and not all popular teachers are effective. The survey questions and the impact of survey results would need to account for that. I would think a good teacher would embrace feedback such as this to assist them in their professional growth.
zizi January 10, 2013 at 02:03 PM
The only way to grade a teacher is by testing the students to see how much they have learned. If they fail to learn than the teacher has failed... it is very simple...... A teacher is supposed to teach and a student is supposed to learn..... the end result should be a knowledgeable student.........
Louann January 10, 2013 at 02:28 PM
I'm not a teacher but I AM a very informed parent in Teaneck and grading a teacher INCLUDES test scores but the main problem is that most teachers have to use a state CURRICULIUM to teach by!!! Before pointing fingers do your homework!
Louann January 10, 2013 at 02:28 PM
Of course students should have a say! It's their education!
Dee Are January 10, 2013 at 02:32 PM
While I find the idea of college students reflecting on the teacher's ability to stick with the printed syllabus laudable, so much of effective teaching can't be assessed by a student even on the college level, and especially not by younger students. Even with a set curriculum/syllabus, a classroom veers off and touches on unexpected topics based on the dynamics of the class (I'm talking liberal arts here, not STEM stuff; I don't understand those areas). And material is sometimes covered in ways that students don't appreciate or see, or it is skipped because of other needs or developments. Using testing to judge the teacher introduces other variables into the equation (a student's interest in success or skill at test taking, or a student's desire to hurt or harm a teacher among many others). One of the big problems, especially in Liberal Arts classes is trying to define the reason for the class. Do I want students to have recall of a book? Or memorize the amendments? Do I want them to be able to think critically (a much harder skill to assess). Without knowing the exact purpose of a class, how can we tell if the students are successes in reaching goals? The only payoff is the student's own sense, 20 years later, that he gained something from the experience. Some will retain data, others, general concepts or skills and some will have made it through without learning to hate the educational system. Maybe that's all we can hope for.
zizi January 10, 2013 at 04:01 PM
@Louann: You assumed I was not aware of that issue. There is a reason why state has enforced a curriculum and there is a reason why students are tested. This is not magic..... this is education..... I really don't understand what you are trying to say.... should a teacher be allowed to teach whatever they want? that would be terrible.... given the nuts out there..... someone has to set standards and standards can only be achieved and confirmed through curriculum and testing.....
John Santaella January 10, 2013 at 05:55 PM
There is a difference between a university and a high school or elementary school
John Santaella January 10, 2013 at 05:57 PM
And children should eat anything they want when they want. After all it's their body.
zizi January 10, 2013 at 07:10 PM
@John: Well said....
shimon baum January 10, 2013 at 08:02 PM
Do the students want to pay the taxes that the rest of us have to pay for their education too? That would really help a lot of us out. After all it is their education.
John Santaella January 10, 2013 at 08:43 PM
zizi January 11, 2013 at 02:13 PM
@Shimon: ;)


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