Monday, October 1, 2012

students grading teachers (man bites dog)

This morning I found this article in my reader:

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/10/why-kids-should-grade-teachers/309088/3/?single_page=true

I agree with the article.  I have publicly espoused this view for many years.  I said as much more than 20 years ago, almost 25 now, when I interviewed for the NC Teaching Fellows Scholarship as a young and naive high school senior.  If you want to know what's happening in a classroom, ask the students.  They know.
Students are captive audiences day in and day out.  They know the inner workings of a school or a classroom intimately.  We should ask for, and value, their feedback.
We haven't quite hit on a good way to evaluate teachers.  States want to use test scores to say how effective teachers are.  This is a cheap way to evaluate teachers which is why state legislatures often like this method.  However, a test score will never show how a teacher changes a student's life.  A test score will never show that a teacher takes a kid home on some days, stays after school to talk to a student about their life, or cares about the student as a human being.  Tests only show a tiny amount about teachers and should only compare student growth across time using data from the same students.
Accountability should be measured in many ways.  All stake-holders should have a say.  I have never believed that standardized tests tell the whole story with regard to teaching.  I do believe that they can be part of the picture.  Peer, parent, student, and supervisory observations and reviews should all be part of an accountability model for educators.  Teachers that perform poorly in this accountability model would receive additional help tailored to improve their performance in areas of concern.  Some would say that this would become merely a popularity contest.  I would counter that the “popularity” effect could be minimized.  At any rate, a certain amount of public perception and satisfaction should be part of our jobs as teachers.  
   Peers should also be used in an accountability model.  Teachers know what is going on in their schools.  Peer reviews and observations should be part of any accountability model with regard to the teaching profession.  Doctors do this when they have rounds.  Doctors observe other doctors and comment on what they observe.  The reasoning behind this is that both parties will become better professionals because of the experience.
    I have always argued that students know better than anyone what is going on in the classroom.  Student reviews should be part of a teacher accountability model.  We do this at a university level but don’t often do this at elementary, middle, and secondary levels.  We should.  Again, statistical corrections could be made so that the effect of outlying data could be minimized.  If we don’t trust the students, how can we expect them to trust us?