Joanne Yatvin: The Best Way to Evaluate Teachers

Joanne Yatvin has been a teacher, principal, superintendent, and literacy expert. In this post, she gives her views on teacher evaluation.

She writes:

“New York Times columnist Joe Nocera recently wrote about a new teacher evaluation system proposed by the Michigan Council for Educator Effectiveness. The system had two central pieces: trained classroom observers who would visit often and give helpful feedback to teachers and student achievement measured by a student’s yearly growth rather than grade level expectations. Unfortunately, the Michigan legislature rejected the proposal, but Nocera hopes that something like it may be picked up by other states or school districts.

“I agree that the proposed system would be an improvement over the systems now used in most states. But it also looks complicated, time consuming and expensive. I believe there is a simpler, more meaningful way to determine teacher effectiveness that could be used everywhere: Ask the students. After all they’ve been with their teachers every day for a whole year and directly felt the effects of their teaching.

“Here’s how this system would work. At the end of the school year, outside their classrooms, students would be given a printed form for rating their teachers. Young children would have questions with three or four answers to choose from. Older students would be expected to write in their own answers. The completed forms would go to principal, who would supplement them with her own classroom observations in order to produce a teacher rating. Later, teachers could read what their students said about them, but with no names attached.

“Below I suggest some questions that I think should be asked, though with different wording for different age levels.

What were the best things you learned at school this year?

How easy was it to understand your teacher’s explanations and questions?

How often did your teacher give you personal attention?

How often did you feel bored or frustrated in class?

Was the amount and type of homework reasonable?

Was the discipline reasonable?

Do you feel prepared for the next grade?

“I think there should probably be a few more questions for older students, but not so many that they stop caring about their responses.”

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