A the tender age of 5 some kids are just learning how to spell "cat." In Georgia, though, 5-year-olds will soon be tasked with filling out surveys that could help determine which teachers get raises — or get fired. Under a pilot program, students from kindergarten and up will be asked whether their instructors know a lot about what they teach, and if they provide help when their pupils need it. The littlest ones will be guided through the process, circling smiley faces — or neutral or frowning ones — to indicate their opinions. Georgia is at the forefront of a movement to make student surveys part of teacher evaluations. But is the state going too far by making kindergartners part of such a high-stakes process?
It's ridiculous to give kindergartners such power: Letting students offer some input is one thing, says Liz Dwyer at GOOD, but these evaluations will determine whether teachers keep their jobs. Handing such "an adult responsibility to 5-year-olds isn't wise." Even with older kids, there's a danger that evaluations will be nothing more than a "popularity contest." Kindergartners have no idea which teachers are doing the best job; they just know which ones they like.
"Should 5-year-olds evaluate their teachers?"
Little tykes can offer valuable insights: It might be wrong to give kindergartners and first graders influence over raises and firings, says Julie Rasicot at Education Week, but "student input definitely has its place in helping schools run better." Without my first grader's reports, I might never have known that her long-term substitute teacher had cut back on daily math and reading lessons because she was "overwhelmed trying to manage a classroom."
"Should kindergartners be allowed to evaluate teachers?"
And the kids' input could actually help teachers: Student surveys can be useful at any age level, Rob Ramsdell, a director of the Tripod Project, which designs and administers student surveys, tells The Hechinger Report. Letting kids have a say provides "helpful feedback for teachers." Used carefully, as part of a formula that includes observations from administrators, students can help teachers figure out what's working, and what isn't.
"Student surveys to be used to rate teachers in pilot program — even in kindergarten classes"
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