Teacher evaluation should include student input

Photo courtesy of Glenn Carsten Peters, via Unsplash

By Nancy Azzam

Recently, Granada Hills Charter High School implemented a new teacher evaluation system that has improved upon the previous one. However, this new system lacks input from students which could be valuable to both teachers and students.

In the past, teacher evaluations were based on a checklist of standards called the California Standards for the Teaching Profession (CSTP). Many teachers worried about when their administrators would come in to observe their classrooms, often warning students to be on their best behavior. This type of evaluation can be demeaning and discouraging. Administration changed the system in order to strengthen the relationship between administration and teachers as well as to help administration better support teachers. The new system takes into consideration the experience level of the teacher, recognizing that even experienced teachers need to be able to make mistakes in order to grow and learn. The system also recognizes that experienced teachers need less guidance than newer teachers.

However, neither the old nor new system includes input from students, who have a full view of how their teachers educate and motivate students.

It is the students who are actually experiencing the day-to-day experiences of their teachers in the classroom. Walking into a classroom for an occasional observation, administrators have less knowledge of teachers’ actual practices than the students. Colleges and universities have taken this into consideration and have included student feedback in their evaluations.

“Students have a comprehensive view of how their teachers educate and motivate,” Leah Shafer said in an article for the Harvard Graduate School of Education. “Student evaluations can be collected cheaply, quickly, and regularly, giving teachers the opportunities to make real-time adjustments to their teaching. Teachers may actually learn about their students from feedback questionnaires, too, how they learn, whom they know well in the class, and with whom they work best.”

Everyone involved benefits from these types of evaluations. When schools create a culture of feedback, they “send a strong signal to students that they care about their point of view, while also creating opportunities to model how to productively receive and respond to feedback,” according to educational researcher Carly Robinson.

Just as our new evaluation system encourages and supports teachers and improves their environment, student input can also make students feel more acknowledged in their educational environment.

“Students offer unique perspectives that administrators cannot attain which would potentially offer better teacher evaluations, but my concern regarding student input is the potential for unreasonable bias against teachers spawning from fair, yet difficult workloads,” sophomore Luke Barmaksezian said.

However, there are potential implications to including student opinions in teacher evaluations.

Personal issues that many students may have with their teacher or their teaching style can influence their statements when evaluating their teachers. Grades, interactions, and specific incidents may impact the accuracy of student input.

Additionally, many students may have issues with teachers who are liked by other students. Their opinions may drown out those who have no issue with the teaching that they receive.
Personal biases based on students’ personal lives may also impact their views of a teacher.

Despite these potential drawbacks, the inclusion of accurate information from students who are in their classrooms every day can improve school environments for both students and teachers.
Therefore, it is important for schools to find a way to include student opinions in their teacher evaluations.