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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.

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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