In evaluating teacher effectiveness, students should give the grade

Everyone is afraid the students are not making the grade, but how about a role reversal? Students should be able to evaluate their teachers. Why? Simply because students spend over 30 minutes with each of their teachers per day, all semester long. Other teachers come in and watch teachers teach for a few minutes each class period multiple times a school year, but if one were to be considered an expert on a teacher, which would it be? The student or the snapshots from other teachers?

“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,” said Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation’s official study of the survey.

An argument against evaluating teachers is that students will take advantage of the situation and attack teachers due to grudges and the like. However, even if a few students respond negatively due to personal vendettas, it does not truly put a dent in a teacher’s evaluation unless the rest of the class responds negatively as well.

Some people say that students are not qualified to do evaluations. Of course they do not have the degree a teacher has in teaching, but who spends more time with the teacher, and who understands his or her own growth better?

Other critics of student evaluations are concerned the information would be used to get rid of or reprimand teachers. The answer to that is: perhaps. Should a teacher be allowed to teach if he or she does something worthy of firing or reprimanding?

It is a fear that the evaluations would become a popularity contest. My question is this: would you rather adults try to be the best teacher rather than have incompetent teachers stay in class?

Another argument I have heard is that teachers do not want to be evaluated. They already are, though. Is it so different? And do they have something to hide?

The teachers who teach courses with a link to Hawkeye Community College are required to provide student evaluations at the end of each class. Two who teach these courses are English teacher Diane Flaherty and social studies teacher Chad VanCleve.

“Some [evaluations] are too vague to make coherent responses,” like when a student responds with “good class,” VanCleve said. “Students that make in-depth responses help.”

“I look at patterns and trends,” Flaherty said, and if there’s a dip in the data, she said, “I look to make sure it’s an isolated incident. They confirm what I know.” In the end, though, it should hardly put a dent in the teacher’s evaluation.

“The advent of student feedback in teacher evaluations is among the most significant developments for education reform in the last decade,” said Timothy Daly, president of The New Teacher Project, that uses the survey to recruit and teach new teachers.

Teaching quality would improve; test scores only reveal so much about a student or class and a “right” answer is not always what it appears to be.

But, most of all, I think students like the right to have a voice. And they should.

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