Teachers have always been judged by very simple metrics, like how many of their students pass their classes. This obviously doesn’t give a full picture of what is going on in classrooms, so increasingly “multiple measures” are being examined. One of the most controversial of these measures is student evaluation of their teachers. So should students be able to grade their teachers?
Student surveys are used not only to judge how well the students believe that they are being treated compared to their peers. How well they believe they are progressing in their education. But also on more esoteric measurements, like how well teachers are “connecting” with them.
As part of the “multiple measures” approach it is hard to deny that student opinion is rarely heard. Most of the people in a classroom are the students. They are going to be a valuable source of information about what is, and isn’t, working.
The students have been massively in favor of these measures. The teachers have been less impressed.
In New Jersey these student evaluations are being given more and more weight. They were first provided only to the teacher. So that they could set themselves goals for personal improvement. Now there is talk of them being considered as one of the metrics official teacher assessment.
For the students it means that they can call out any behaviour from their teachers that they believe is unfair. It makes them feel more in control of their lives. There has been a noted correlation between student’s happiness in class and their success in academic pursuits. Happy students go on to College. Kids that hate school don’t pursue higher education.
The downside for students is that they are stuck with their teacher even after assessing them. If there really is discrimination or unfair treatment going on it is likely to provoke even worse behaviour from the teacher.
For the teachers it means that discipline becomes impossible to enforce. Their job security becomes tied to how well the students like them. It provides disruptive students an opportunity for revenge. All in schools where controlling problem students is already nearly impossible.
Some teachers have responded well to the surveys. By identifying which students feel like they want to do better in class they are able to focus where help is needed. If they are unintentionally favouring one student over the others, these surveys can be a wake-up call.
There is also a question of whether children understand enough about teaching to give a fair judgement. A bad evaluation may be based more on a personality clash than a lack of skill.
Even if you believe that student assessments of their teachers are necessary. Do you believe that making them an integral part of judging teachers’ performance is a good idea?