Should students be able to grade their teachers?

Teacher advocacy group produces first detailed guildelines for city’s new teacher evaluation system

A recently released report by the teacher advocacy group Educators 4 Excellence posits that teachers should be rated not just by principals and administrators but by their students and independent observers as well.  The document released by Educators 4 Excellence, which is meant to guide negotiations between the city and teachers union on the specifics of a new evaluation system, also says teacher ratings should for the first time suffer based on poor attendance or other failures of professionalism.

The New York Post is reporting that the evaluation system envisioned by Educators 4 Excellence was approved by the state Board of Regents last month but still needs to be hammered out locally.  The recommendations are scheduled to be implemented in September for thousands of math and reading teachers.

“The recommendations were the result of a group of teachers coming together and saying, based on our classroom experience, what would be fair to teachers and also help us produce better outcomes for kids?” said Sydney Morris, co-founder of E4E, an advocacy group of more than 2,000 current and former teachers.

As with the guidelines approved by the state last month, the report recommends initially allowing 40 percent of a teacher’s rating to be based on student performance on state tests or district assessments, and 60 percent to be determined by principal observations and other subjective measures.

When it comes to being able to subjectively measure a teacher’s performance, administrators would observe teachers three times a year with two of those times being unannounced visits.  This would account for 30 percent of an overall rating, while two observations from independent experts, one of those visits being unannounced as well, would account for 15 percent.  Additionally, student surveys of their teachers would for the first time account for 10 percent of a teacher’s rating, while a teacher’s contributions to the school community would round out the remaining 5 percent.

“Any evaluation should go hand-in-hand with helping teachers develop and improve their practice,” said a spokesman for the Department of Education, which for months has failed to negotiate a new evaluation system with the teachers union.


  1. Anne M Wake

    I believe it is an excellent idea that student evaluations should be considered in the overall evaluation of a teacher. What dismays me, in fact, is that so much weight is being given to State testing and to a Principal’s evaluation (70% combined).
    The standards for state tests vary immensely from state to state, and from subject to subject. Consequently, we would be dealing with inconsistent assessments of a teacher’s ability across states. Furthermore, many subjects are not assessed every year, and some subjects are never assessed by the state (arts, foreign languages, some grade levels in history and science). How, then, would those teachers be assessed in a way, which would be fair to the teachers who are always assessed (math and English)? Also to be considered, the state tests evaluate the performance of students on one day of the year, while student evaluations take into consideration the entire learning experience. Excellent teachers teach more valuable life skills than simply test-taking, but under such systems as that mentioned above, much more effort will be devoted to this skill than to meaningful learning. We will also see more of the unethical testing conditions and skewing of scores, which have already been documented all over the country.
    As for the principal’s evaluation, the above article mentions nothing of training principals in objective evaluations, nor does it address a principal’s ability to assess a teacher whose area of expertise is outside of the knowledge of the principal. For example, a principal who was formerly a mathematics teacher may have a hard time properly evaluating a Spanish teacher. To have that administrator’s personal opinion worth 30% seems unreasonable.
    Finally, I am dismayed to see that “other contributions to the school” will only account for 5%. It is often precisely what teachers contribute to the school community outside of class hours, which makes not only the teacher’s students successful, but adds to the success and encouragement of the entire community. Under the above-mentioned system, what incentive will teachers, who are already exhausted by extensive requirements for grading, planning and contacting parents, have for contributing more of their time and their energy to supporting their school in other useful ways?
    Yes, teachers should be evaluated by their students. And they should be evaluated by their colleagues, and they should be evaluated by their students’ parents. Only with such a range will the full picture be attained. However, all of these factors should be given equal weight.

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June 6th, 2011

Staff Reporter

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