Turning the (Mini) Tables on Teacher

May 29th, 2012 by Andrea Bennett

Do you think your 5-year-old is qualified to issue teacher evaluations?

Brought to you by Liberty Mutual's
The Responsibility Project

Kindergarten teachers in Georgia, watch yourselves: a frownie-face issued by your new evaluator could be a job deal-breaker.

According to independent news site Hechinger Report, a new pilot program in Georgia has 5-year-olds playing an important role in deciding which teachers get raises – and which get fired. The kids will be guided through a survey that includes statements like “My teacher knows a lot about what he or she teaches” and “My teacher gives me help when I need it.” They’ll drive the message home by circling a smiley face, a neutral face or a frowning face. 

According to the report, the kindergartners could help put Georgia at the forefront of “a growing national movement to make student surveys part of how teachers are rated.” Students in every grade across the state will ultimately participate in the pilot program, and Georgia may incorporate the student feedback into teacher evaluations as early as next school year. 

So far, Georgia is the only state to consider using students to grade teachers, but individual school systems in Nevada and Pennsylvania are launching similar pilot projects. Memphis already counts student survey results as 5 percent of a teacher’s overall evaluation. In Chicago public schools that figure will rise to 10 percent by the fall of 2013.

While educators like Tim Daly, president of TNTP, a New York-based organization formerly known as The New Teacher Project, told the Huchinger Report that student feedback gives educators exceptionally meaningful information in evaluating teachers, some say that giving power to children who can’t even read yet is irresponsible. “Critics of the use of student surveys worry that teacher evaluation will be based on a popularity contest—or that students who have been disciplined by a teacher for talking out of turn or being late to class will use them to get revenge,” notes Good’s education editor Liz Dwyer. “How a 5-year-old is supposed to definitively know whether a teacher knows a lot about what she teaches is anybody's guess.”

What do you think could be learned from letting kids evaluate their teachers? And should it affect teachers’ pay?

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