Student Voice in Teacher Evaluation

I am insanely passionate about teacher voice. In fact, I’ve dedicated a large percentage of my personal time to support and encourage teachers to share their stories of success, struggle, and everything in between. The conversation on education, whether it be high-stakes testing, student achievement, condition of schools, or teacher evaluation, seems, at times, to be dominated by those not experiencing the classroom firsthand. As paramount as teacher voice in all these avenues of communication, is the voices of those heard even less often than teachers. Those for whom we serve: our students.

My focus area this year in TPEP (our evaluation process)has been assessment. I’ve spent the year analyzing my assessment strategies; their validity, effectiveness, and necessity. I’ve put extra emphasis on student use of assessment data, as that was most definitely my weakest area, and am proud to say that I’ve made definite growth (perhaps sharing the strategies I learned will be my next post?) This year’s assessment experience, however, included something I never would have thought of doing, thanks to a suggestion by my evaluator. Why not ask students how they know I’m assessing them? We started by her interviewing one of my students one-on-one, but the responses were so interesting, that it was suggested that I survey the whole class (note: this is was anonymous survey. I wanted my students to feel absolutely comfortable giving me candid feedback). The information was incredibly valuable and the wheels in my head are already spinning as I consider how to implement their feedback:

How does Mrs. Perry find information about what you’re thinking:

“She talks with us and sees what we’re thinking.”
“We tell her.”
“Pretests, conferences, quizzes.”
“Mrs. Perry takes surveys to find out what we’re thinking and it’s just between us.”
“After a math test you show us an answer key and give us a check list to mark if we ‘got it,’ ‘simple mistake,’ or ‘I don’t get it.’”

How do parents find out how you’re doing in school:

“Our parents find out by report cards, phone calls, and Class Dojo.
“I tell my parents what we did that day at school, the good parts and the bad, and what we are learning and what I need help with and what I get.”
“They ask me and I tell them, but I think you email my mom too.”

How does Mrs. Perry figure out your final grades:

“Mrs. Perry finds our final grades by all our tests we do and kind of finds an average a little bit of this and some of that.”
“You check in with us to see if we agree with the score. If we don’t, then you usually give us a chance to retake it.”
“All our assignments.”

Do you feel like you can go to Mrs. Perry if you get a score you don’t agree with:

“I feel very comfortable going to Mrs. Perry because we go over and correct our tests and she even says ‘I may have made a mistake so if you think I did, please come to me so I can check.’”
“I think so because if I got a question wrong and it was actually right I could go up to you and ask.”

As you can see, not all answers were picture perfect (the rest of the responses mirror that as well), and that’s because I’m NOT a picture perfect teacher. I am incredibly comfortable with that fact, too, as it gives me motivation to continuously grow and improve my craft. The information from this survey will be submitted to my evaluator and I have no doubt that it will be the foundation of a rich discussion. Perhaps you’re not focusing on assessment, but where in your process can you build in more student voice? Even the youngest of students have a perspective on their experience; one that might help you make a positive change in your instruction… all you have to do is ask them.