Schoolchildren Rate Their Teachers

By Vorsino, Mary | Honolulu Star - Advertiser, June 4, 2012 | Go to article overview

Schoolchildren Rate Their Teachers


Vorsino, Mary, Honolulu Star - Advertiser


Public school students as young as 5 are being asked to consider their classroom experiences in surveys that will soon become one of the high-stakes measures used to evaluate teachers.

The surveys - part of a pilot program - were administered to students in kindergarten through 12th grade for the first time in March in 18 schools and will be given in 82 schools next school year, potentially multiple times.

The Department of Education declined to release results from the March surveys, saying the data are still being analyzed.

While some educators worry the surveys will reflect poorly on teachers who are strict or tough, the surveys' developers say the questionnaires are research-based and have been found to be highly linked to teacher effectiveness.

"We're asking students about what they're experiencing in the classroom. They're not popularity questions," said Rob Ramsdell, director of the Tripod Proj­ect, which creates the surveys for dozens of school districts.

"We have a lot of reason to believe that kids take it seriously and that the information we're getting is valuable," he said.

While a number of school districts use surveys to improve teaching, just one - Memphis, Tenn. - takes them into consideration when formally evaluating teachers. A handful of others are preparing to do so, including Georgia, which recently launched a pilot program similar to Hawaii's.

Yvonne Lau, administrator of the state Department of Education's performance management section, said the student surveys are aimed at "better identifying what is happening from the student perspective."

Administering the surveys in the school year that just ended cost about $100,000. That figure included technical support, rollout assistance and online access to results. The price tag for next school year has not been finalized.

Alex Harris, portfolio manager for the DOE's strategic reform office, said the surveys allow teachers and schools to hear the "student voice" at a time when there is a considerable push to turn the classroom into a learning community and a place for "two-directional engagement."

"These particular student questions are very predictive of teacher and student performance," he said, adding that it would be difficult for students to manipulate the survey. The questions, he said, are not about whether students like or dislike a teacher, but about the environment in a particular classroom.

Students in kindergarten through second grade get a proctored, simplified survey, and are asked to weigh in with a "yes," "no," or "maybe" on such statements as, "My teacher is very good at explaining things."

Older students are asked to indicate on a five-point scale (totally untrue to totally true) whether they agree with statements like, "My teacher doesn't let people give up when the work gets hard. …

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