Debating Student Evaluations of Teachers

Teacher assessments are a hot button issue. We recently wrote about the Chicago teacher strike where one of the main points of contention revolved around teacher evaluations. 

Recently on the New York Times’ Room for Debate, they wrote about student evaluations of their teachers, which often take place at the end of each quarter, semester, or school year. The article noted that, student evaluations are “a process that has been criticized for years” but that they show “a very common desire: to find an effective way to weed out the bad apples. High-stakes evaluations are in vogue not only in higher education but also in elementary and high school.”

One former professor, Stuart Rojstaczer, joined the debate, noting that college students reward professors who teach well, but they often misjudge what makes a good teacher. Unfortunately, he noted they “reward instructors who grade easily, require little work, are glib and chatty, wear nice clothes, and are physically attractive.” Jeff Sandefer, a teacher from Austin, argued that student evaluations work, but only if you provide clear guidance of what is involved and define learning goals. Jeff explained that successful businesses take feedback into account and schools should, too. He explained they also tie teacher bonuses to performance on student evaluations.

Where do you stand in the debate? Should student evaluations affect teacher pay?