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Comments of the week: Students grading their teachers

Should students have a say in how their teachers are evaluated? The question surfaced this week after the teachers union came out in staunch opposition to the idea as an evaluation measure. Department of Education officials say that they would eventually like to see it happen.

In comments and on Twitter, teachers reacted with a range of emotions.

One teacher, Mook, said the surveys would be a welcome measure if it meant less of an emphasis on test scores:

I would like to have the option of using student surveys as part of my evaluation. Of course, I’d like to use it in place of whatever ridiculous measures of student progress we’ll eventually be forced to use. Not only am I confident I would do well on the surveys, but they wouldn’t take an extra minute of my planning time. No data collection, no seething about the lack of scientific rigor in the collection of the data.

But many teachers shared their union’s position on student feedback, which is that placing such a high-stakes decision into the hands of students was unreliable and could wrongly threaten their ratings.

“Seriously????” asked DisgustedNYCTeacher:

After 25 years of teaching, my professional future will d[e]pend on the evaluations of 13 year olds? The same ones who can’t remember to bring a pen to school every day and forget their books in class?

A.S.Neill said that student feedback held promise and could be accurate, but was just too risky to be used for evaluations:

My anecdotal observation of students’ candid comments about teachers indicates that they often are remarkably accurate about some things. Ineffective teachers frequently are hostile to kids, oblivious to their concerns, or really are just plain ineffective. Cliques of students and their friends could easily manipulate evaluations as a retaliation for some fantasized abuse or perhaps just because a teacher is pushing too much “rigor”.they don’t like, etc. Since a well established principle of justice calls for protecting the innocent sometimes at the expense of letting the guilty go free, student evaluations is a poor idea and should be firmly rejected.

Not all readers saw the surveys as a threat though. Tim looked at it the other way around:

Could you imagine if you were a really highly rated teacher and your student surveys were off the charts, confirming that you are doing a whole lot of things right? Could you imagine if you were a teacher anywhere on the spectrum and you used your student surveys simply to hone your craft? Could you even imagine if you were a borderline ineffective teacher and your surveys — gasp! — pulled you over to the effective side?

Jessica Saratovsky, a teacher at The New American Academy in Crown Heights, sounded optimistic about the idea, but wondered if younger students were capable of responsibly handling the surveys.

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