Friday, February 10, 2012

I Believe That High School Student Opinions Should Be Part Of Any "Teacher Evaluation System". Why Doesn't the DOE, State, and UFT Advocate For It?

In the battle between the DOE and UFT over the "teacher evaluation system", neither side advocates one of the most important aspects of what makes a "quality teacher". That is what the students think of their teacher? While I understand that student input at the elementary and middle school level would be heavily influenced by the teacher and would not be an appropriate group to make a teacher evaluation. However, high school students usually have the maturity to make rational decisions and are not afraid to speak their mind. Therefore, any part of the "teacher evaluation process" should include input from high school students. Governor Andrew Cuomo claims he will be the "student lobbyist" but he also has ignored any student input into the "teacher evaluation process" he threatens to implement, some "student lobbyist" ! Further, the DOE claims it is "children first" but they too ignore student input about their teachers as well. Only those fifth columnists from E4E has included a student input into the "teacher evaluation process" and that would be a minuscule 5%. I believe that for the high schools, the minimum student input should be 25% since these students are with the teacher 45 minutes every day. Wouldn't these students have a better idea about how good their teacher is? Having Assistant Principals do six observations yearly using a framework that can be abused or perverted and a State test that is of questionable value as the basis of wherever a teacher is "effective or not" is subject to abuse of the process by the Administration. Even 1,330 Principals, 30% of all New York State principals, have signed a petition to delay the "teacher evaluation system". Unfortunately, very few New York City Principals have signed the petition, about 10%.

The question is why don't the various education entities want to include student input in the "teacher evaluation system" is very clear. The student input portion cannot be predicted by any of them and would reduce Administrative control of the "teacher evaluation process". For example let's say a teacher tends to run a relaxed classroom, so that occasionally a student is looking at her cellphone or another student is not writing down all his notes. However, the teacher gets higher passing grades on tests and the students respond well to her teaching style. An Assistant Principal, using the "Danielson Framework" could find numerous weaknesses of the teacher. However, the students really like and respect the teacher and it shows up on their grades. Without the student input the Assistant Principal could reasonably give the teacher an "ineffective or developing" grade, despite her students doing well on tests. With a student input component, the Assistant Principal would be required to give the teacher an "effective" rating. Of course the opposite may be true and that is a risk that every teacher should be aware of.

What questions should be asked in the student survey about their teachers and what percentage of student responses in a class would be considered significant would need to be worked out. However, without real student input, the "teacher evaluation system" will be based upon a few observations by Administrators who can abuse the "Danilson framework" to come up with any rating that want.


Anonymous said...

Interesting post, and this is something that I myself have thought a great deal about, but in my opinion, I would not want this -it carries RISK. Being a dualy licensed special education teacher, I have taught a range of classes from self contained, resource, CTT (ITT) and mainstream. I have taken part in countless Anual reviews and triennials as well as get a sense of what students really think about their core teachers as they feel comfortable with me as their resource teacher. Many students freely admit how they "hate" their teacher or how they "wished they had someone else." I know as a 15 year veteran that the teachers they speak of are wonderful and only seek to take these students to their highest potential, yet at times the teachers are unfairly characterized because the student is simply lazy or apathetic to learning.
Im reminded of a time I had to tell friend's soon to be girlfriend of the truth years ago. She was in her first year of subbing at a public high school in the city. She literally kept on bragging about how much the kids loved her and wanted her instead of thier absent teachers. I finally told her the truth: You may be great with the kids, but remember that most of them enjoy you now because you are not evaluating them, giving them homework or calling home when needed. You are not handing them back exams with failing marks on them. She didn't have much to say.
Chaz, again it could be a way to go, but it too can open up a can or worms. I once had a student who was a suspended a number of times in my class. He did nothing. I was finally able to connect to him after literally two plus months of trying. For some reason, our talks inspired him to begin reading(at least attempt reading) Dante's Inferno. Two weeks later her strolls into my classroom red eyed, stoned to the point he cannot stand up straight. He reeked of pot. My small class all knew what was happening. I informed a dean I am very close to so that perhaps we could handle the situation with less drama. He was caught with two "dime bags" and arrested. When he returned to school some time later, he never attended my class and when I did see him in the hallway, I always received a low but clear "DICK" my way. For as much as I helped the kid and missed lunches for him, he would have destroyed me if given the chance to evaluate me.
I realized situations like this do not always happen, but they still exist and would therefore not count as a true reflection even from the students perspective of TRULY seeing a great teacher.

Chaz said...

Anon 8:32

I agree there is risk and Special education students can either love or hate you and maybe that needs to be looked into if they should be evaluating teachers. However, I still think that having students evaluating their teachers has merit and can blount Administrative targeting of the teacher.

Anonymous said...

Agree Chaz. Perhaps It can be looked into. Like I said, it has been something I have thought about a lot. Be well and thanks for keeping many, many in the UNION informed. You do a wonderful and brave job.

Tom Forbes said...

I have also thought long and hard about this and I love to get feedback from the students. Because of rampant teacher isolation, it's the kids and us, pretty much. I have also have to deal with unreasonable students who refused to cooperate, participate and/or complete meaningful work. When I insist they get on board, it has caused more then a few problems when there is poor leadership and an in appropriate tone in the school.

I also like the idea of peer evaluations. I trust my fellow teachers more than anyone. I imagine we would also be the most critical of ourselves.

veteran teacher said...

guys, it's DOE world 2012, do not be naive. TRUST NO ONE! all it would take is one kid who does not like you to make something up about you and ruin your life in an evaluation. a thousand that a boys do not outweigh one 'uh oh'.

if you have ever been in a school with a negative tone, you know that I am right. for example, in one school I worked at for 3 years, I did not even feel comfortable letting people know I was getting married that year b/c I saw a colleague who didn't invite people in the school in the same situation get caught in a game of politics where he could not invite people to a wedding.

these evaluations are all bs. it's cuomo playing the PR game. watch. like anything in education, nothing will occur

Manhattan70 said...

"high school students usually have the maturity to make rational decisions". Sorry I must strongly disagree. Most high school students have little maturity and have difficulty making rational decisions.

As for the school survey, the students complete them in class and every year that we have been doing them almost every student has told me that they totally trashed the school in the survey, even in they like the school. When I asked why, I got nothing but a shrug, or "because I wanted to".

NYCDOEnuts said...

I think it's an awesome idea! Student survey questions wouldn't have to cover only issues of teacher popularity either. They can devise real substantive questions that can gauge whether or not students feel they actually learned -and a survey IS an objective measure (just like a test).

Chaz said...

Manhattan70: Sure some students will not be truthful or be immature but the vast majority of high school students, if given the chance, will be objective and give the appropriate evaluation. To ignore the student input is to rely simple on Administrative observations and test scores gives an incomplete picture of the teacher.

Tom: The trouble with peer review is that we are not in the classroom with the teacher. Therefore, we really don't know how the teacher teaches, except from hearsay statements from an occasional student.

Veteran Teacher:

I agree that these evaluations are BS. However, if we must endure such evaluations then we must ensure that all inputs are included, including the students.

Jeff Kaufman said...

I don't have a problem with student evaluations and encourage my students to give me feedback all of the time but when you use these evaluations in employment decisions you are entering an area that makes no sense. While there are some students at the high school level that have the maturity to fairly evaluate teacher performance I sincerely doubt that students can formulate evaluations that would be useful in employment decisions. My experience with student evaluations of schools I have worked in through the Learning Environment surveys the DOE administers has led me to the conclusion most of the findings have no basis in reality. I would not want my job or a colleague's job depend on any part on these evaluations.

Chaz said...


I certainly don't want an AP basing my employment on his 6-8 30 minute observations using the Danielson framework either.

Granted, the student input issue needs to be carefully thought out to ensure it is valid. However, I still say only you're students know best if they are being instructed by a "quality teacher".

bookworm said...

I teach middle school students with severe behavior problems who routinely curse me out, fail to do work, fight in my classroom, and then call me "snitch" when I call parents or safety agents in response. They make no connection between their behavior/lack of effort and what happens to them, nor to they realize that I wouldn't have to be such a hard-a$$ if they would sit down, pay attention, and follow instructions. I wouldn't want these kids evaluating me in ANY way that would relate to my performance review. I would get a lot of "She called me Mom yesterday and I got in trouble so now I'm gonna write some sh**" This could put teachers in the situation of having to suck up to students (don't call home too much, don't make such a big deal out of missing homework or projects, don't say "no" to a request to leave for water, and make sure you bring in homemade brownies the day before the survey is taken! Sorry, I have enough people I have to avoid pissing off, please don't add my 30 mercurial adolescents to that list.

In addition, how could very young children rate a teacher? Imagine the K student "Miss Daisy is a great teacher. She has pretty hair and nice nails" followed by "I don't like Mr. Brown. He's old and fat and coughs a lot". And would these little ones just be read a question and the circle :-), :-/, or :-(?

Sorry, Chaz, I have to disagree with you on this one.

Anonymous said...

As a 23 year veteran of middle schools I am secure in saying that this is a very naive viewpoint. ALL students in New York City have been been a product of the Bloomberg teacher bashing years. While a select few might have the maturity to express an honest and informed opinion, most will either express theirimmaturity or attempt to "see what will happen" if they negatively review a teacher.
There is a reason that bullying has become a problem in schools and it is a direct result of the values of our society. Whether because of the influence of reality altering video games or the media's negative influence, today's child has developed a sadistic streak that is extremely disturbing. Many students are out of touch with the realities around them and take pleasure in inflicting discomfort on others. I'm not saying they are truly morally bankrupt or ost, they just need better role models.
Putting an adult's job in jeapordy based on the opinion of a child is not a wise move. I don't even find most parents truly qualified to render an informed, objective opinion. Mind you, oddly, many of my students approve of my teaching methods, but I would never want their opinion to determine my job status.

Unknown said...

I routinely ask for student feedback in my middle school, but I don't feel that students are objective enough to warrant anything beyond that, (especially in this day and age). For a generation raised on the belief that you join little league to get a trophy, inflated grades and popularity will often trump what was learned and how. Help end some of the classroom corruption. Add your story

Anonymous said...

I have students give me feedback, at the end, when they are leaving. I would be very uncomfortable sharing their responses out. In particular, there is correlation between the overall tenor of the response and the grade in the class. (there's also some inflation, as the responses are not anonymous).

The feedback is useful for me, for my teaching, but I could not see it being used fairly to evaluate me.