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Should 5-Year-Olds Evaluate Their Teachers?

A pilot in Georgia will require students K-12 to rate their teachers as part of their evaluation process.


Should input from kindergarteners play a role in teacher evaluations? According to the Hechinger Report, a K-12 pilot program in Georgia will ask students in every grade to fill out evaluations that will be used to decide whether a teacher keeps her job.

The best educators already give their students informal surveys several times a year. Teachers often ask if students feel they can ask for help in class or if they feel like they’re part of a classroom community, then use the results to adjust their teaching practice and classroom environment. But high-stakes student surveys are on the rise; in Memphis, surveys represent 5 percent of teacher evaluations, and in Chicago, they'll soon be 10 percent.

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This Standardized Testing Story Will Break Your Heart

This story of a student who sits till 6:30 p.m. trying to do her best on the state test is Exhibit A of what's wrong with high-stakes exams.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JyljNAqAZ40

Lately, much of the national education conversation has focused on the impact standardized tests have on adults—how the scores are used to determine school effectiveness, and whether they should be included in teacher evaluations. But, kids are the ones who actually have to take the tests, and no matter how much preparation they've had, they feel the stress of these high-stakes exams. Sometime kids do great on the tests anyway. But sometimes, they don't. Stories of students who don't—like this one told in the video above by Bob, a school employee from Texas—are pretty heartbreaking.

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How Value-added Teacher Data Is Like a Baseball Batting Average

Neither is consistent from year-to-year, but they're among the best measures we've got for evaluating talent.

In early-September—amidst the hubbub spurred by the Los Angeles Times' release of value-added teacher assessment dataa report from the Economics Policy Institute warned that it would be "unwise" to use data pertaining to students' performance on standardized tests in making personnel decisions at a school. A new report out of the Brookings Institute says it would be unwise not to use the data at all.

The researchers behind the Brookings paper make an interesting case, drawing parallels between selective colleges' use of SAT scores in admissions, despite the fact that they don't have a strong correlation with freshman-year GPAs (about 35 percent). In the medical space, the patient mortality rates for various surgeries are published annually for hospitals and their surgeons, yet the rates aren't consistent from year-to-year more than 50 percent of the time. And, in Major League Baseball, how well a hitter bats in one year is only roughly 36 percent predictive of what he'll hit the following year.

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Last month, when the Los Angeles Times began revealing its value-added teacher effectiveness data—which culminated in ratings of 6,000 third- to fifth-grade teachers—one's gut reaction was: good for parents, disastrous for teachers. And that's the way responses to the data dump have come in: with reformers and parents being ecstatic, while teachers union reps have rolled their eyes.

Today, Times investigative reporter Jason Felch and Beth Shuster, the paper's K-12 education editor, discussed on a conference call with the reporters some of the logistics, decisions, and reaction associated with the package of stories and the ratings, which were based on raw data supplied by the Los Angeles Unified School District. Both Felch and Shuster expressed pleasant surprise at responses from teachers, which demonstrated that many of them were actually clamoring for feedback on their performance.

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Amidst the imbroglio kicked up by The Los Angeles Times series of articles on teacher effectiveness data comes the findings of a research paper authored by several prominent education experts and published by the non-partisan Economics Policy Institute. Its finding: It would be "unwise" to consider student improvement (or slides) in standardized tests as up to 50 percent of a teacher's evaluation, as some states are proposing to do.

Louisiana, Tennessee, and Washington, D.C., are weighting value-added data up to 50 percent. Other states, however, are not looking to depend that heavily on the controversial assessment. In response to the Times article, Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Ramon Cortines is shooting to use value-added assessments for 30 percent of a teacher's grade. A pilot program galvanized by The Gates Foundation in Tampa weights value-added data at 40 percent.

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