Students Should Grade Teachers

Grant Webster, Staff Writer

On July 24, 2009, President Obama announced Race to the Top, a contest that would grant federal funding to schools based on their reforms and improvements to education. Some of the most common types of education reforms to garner money were reforms to the traditional teacher performance evaluation system.  California attempted to change its teacher evaluation through Assembly Bill 5. AB 5 would have legislated major changes to our state’s teacher evaluation methods, but it did not pass. Nevertheless, it has had its impact. Most education groups still believe the teacher evaluation system needs to be reformed. Many educators and parents would like to see teacher evaluation improved to better differentiate effective teachers from ineffective ones.

I believe the system is in need of change.

As it stands, the SJUSD does not rate teachers based on their students’ test scores. Most teachers argue that they could be graded unfairly simply because they happened to have inferior students if the evaluation system were based on student performance.

The system I favor, the Student Growth Model, aggregates students’ current test grades and compares them to their previous years’ grades, making the system more informative and equitable. A teacher who inspires a bump in his or her students’ grades will generally be evaluated more positively than one whose students’ test grades show a net loss. This will judge teachers based on hard evidence.  But of course, test grades alone do not determine a teacher’s worth, so there needs to be other criteria. Indeed, most of the new teacher evaluation models consider student performance for only a third of the teachers’ reports, with experience and other criteria making up the rest. Along with objective test scores, subjective feedback on teachers should be given. Currently, the principal is the only one who gives feedback on all the schools’ teachers. Since the principals hardly ever attend classes, they can hardly be expected to give the most accurate evaluation. That is why the fairest method is to allow students, who are in the classroom every day and are directly affected, to evaluate their own teachers. While some might object and say that students will rate nice teachers better, surveys sent out to students with specific questions about many aspects of the teachers’ capabilities have proven to be effective.  Several school districts have already successfully incorporated student surveys into part of their processes.  With about 150 students per teacher, the decision wouldn’t be up to just one person, but to those people who know their teachers best – the students.