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Why Not Teacher Evaluations by Students?

April 17, 2013 in Economics

By Nat Hentoff

Nat Hentoff

As clashes continue between teachers’ unions and local and state legislatures concerning evaluations of teachers to determine if they are to stay employed, I don’t hear either side reacting to what students feel about how they are being taught. This includes the students themselves.

Such evaluations could and should ask students what they think being in school is going to mean for their futures. Teachers have their missions. But what are these students’ missions beyond college degrees?

Accordingly, to get teacher evaluations, students ought to reveal more about their own real-life, real-time selves in a preparatory dialogue with the people recording their judgments. These people should ask the students such questions as:

  • What do you most want to learn about, and why?
  • Have any of your teachers gotten you interested, even excited about subjects or issues you hadn’t previously thought about? If any did, how did they do that?
  • How well do your teachers know each of you outside of class?
  • What do you care about and do outside of this school?
  • What was your life like before you ever came to school?

I would urge the people talking to the students to ask them to read the teacher-challenging advice Education Week Teacher’s teaching coach David Ginsburg offers (“Assess All Students Before Assisting Any Students,” Ginsburg, June 4, 2011).

He evaluates teachers at work by “when you can see sooner rather than later what students are struggling with and why they’re struggling with it. It’s only then that you can provide timely, differentiated feedback and remediation.”

What happens in many schools, Ginsburg points out, is that “teachers often miss the chance to do this because they’re assisting a few students at the expense of assessing all students. At the end of typical math lessons, for example, teachers assign practice problems for students to try on their own … They then promptly help the first student whose hand shoots up. After two, three and sometimes five or more minutes, they finally move on to another student.

“Many students, meanwhile, sit idly as they wait their turn for the teacher’s help. Some call out until the teacher signals or says, ‘One minute.’ Others raise their hands for several minutes, switching arms every so often to avoid fatigue. But eventually the bell rings or kids give up — and often act up.

“And because they never get the help they need with class work, they’re unable to successfully complete homework.”

I ask you, the readers, …read more
Source: OP-EDS

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