Dade County plan to have students assess teachers raises questions

Dade County plan to have students assess teachers raises questions

March 9th, 2012 in Opinion Free Press

It was eye-opening to read recently that public schools down in Dade County, Ga., are part of a pilot program that will have students filling out surveys about how effective their teachers are.

Pupils as young as kindergartners will be evaluating their teachers -- though the state might eventually restrict the surveys to older students if the information provided by younger pupils seems incomplete or inaccurate.

Among the things students will be asked to gauge is whether their teachers are adequately prepared for class.

Of course, most students naturally form opinions, good or bad, of their teachers. But it would seem to be a risky proposal to have the views of people who have not yet reached adulthood or perhaps even adolescence forming any significant part of how teachers in Georgia or anywhere else are evaluated.

Even at the college level, professor evaluations by students can easily turn into popularity contests. Professors who grade more easily or who are perceived as more "fun" in class can receive glowing student evaluations, while tougher -- but well-qualified -- professors can get unjustifiably low marks.

That could be an even greater danger if teacher evaluations were placed in the hands of children and teenagers, who are less mature and who may not be able to think through the implications of judging a good but tough teacher harshly or judging a "nice" but ineffective teacher gently.

Vigorous evaluations -- by adults -- to ensure that teachers are providing children the best possible education are reasonable and justified.

But great care should be exercised in assigning much weight to students' opinions on whether teachers are effective.