Students Rating Teachers Online: Today's Students Can Share Their Evaluations Worldwide
Dyrli, Odvard Egil, District Administration
A federal judge recently ordered New Jersey's Oceanport School District to pay $117,500 to a student who was punished two years ago for creating a Web site criticizing his middle school teachers. Even though it was created on personal time using a home computer, school officials were angered by comments posted in the site guest book. The student was suspended for a week, benched from playing on the baseball team for a month and barred from a class trip. "The district never explained to us what rule or policy our son violated," says the boy's father, and the court ruled that Oceanport administrators violated the student's right to free speech.
Grayson Barber, who handled the case on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union, says the district presented no evidence that the comments "threatened or disrupted school activities'--a crucial test in judging legality. Related cases in other states have had similar outcomes, and the Supreme Court ruled that public school students "do not shed their constitutional right to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate."
The explosive development of online communications technologies--including e-mall, instant messages, bulletin boards, forums, wiki sites and blogs--puts enormous grassroots power into the hands of users that reaches around the world. Students will naturally use these vehicles to share opinions on topics that affect their lives, including teachers and schools, and comments will be negative as well as positive. While school quality is commonly defined by various factors, including per-pupil expenditures and class size, students almost never get to evaluate their educational experiences. Thanks to the Internet, those voices are now being heard.
Rating Teachers Online
College students have long had opportunities to evaluate the quality of their instructors through Web sites such as Rate My Professors, Professor Performance--regrettably also known as MyProfessorSucks.com--and specialized sites such as Rate VT Teachers for Virginia Tech. But now the concept is exploding in K-12 education. …