school rating

The web site allows Australian students to rate their teachers. Ratings are anonymous and give teachers a score out of 5 as well as allowing students to comment on teachers.

The Sydney Morning Herald has an article about the site that describes the actions that the NSW Department of Education and the NSW Teachers Federation are taking to block the site.

The solution to this however is really quite simple. There needs to be a formal method for students to rate their teachers which will be used when it comes time to give pay rises to good teachers and dismiss or transfer to non-teaching duties the teachers who can’t do their job.

I encourage students to submit essays and debate topics about the anonymous news-papers published in the Soviet Union and other repressive states, why they were necessary (because criticism of the government was prohibited) and why they were morally right (a system with no method of correction will inevitably do bad things). Then teachers will have a choice of supporting the actions of the Soviet Union or the use of, it will be interesting to see which option they choose. I think that it’s most likely that they will take the hypocritical path and support anonymous newspapers in the Soviet Union while attacking such free speech in supposedly free countries.

It’s interesting that an article on the failures of Mentone Grammar has just been published. Maybe if Mentone had been listed on the site the Taylor’s would not have made the mistake of sending their son there. Or maybe if the Mentone senior staff had been reading that site they would have been able to correct the problems before they became cause for a legal dispute.

7 comments to school rating

  • Joseph

    We have such a formal system in the US (college system at least). At least at the institutions I’ve visited (Kansas State University and the University of Iowa). I would wager that they’re pretty widespread.

    At the end of the semester, the professor and teaching assistants hand out a questionnaire to all of the students (multiple-choice ranking plus an area for freeform commenting). The scores are tallied and used to rate how the professor or TA is performing. This may be used for performance evaluations or tied to pay (I’m not a professor and have only been a TA who actually had a lab class two semesters separated by several years, so I’m not sure how they divvy up assignments (a TA might be assigned to teach a lab, answer student questions in the tutorial room, grade homework and exams for classes, or teach a class QA session). They certainly play a role, but I’m not certain how exactly. The results are not public, however.

    Despite the private feedback system, we still have things like ratemyprof and all that. I’m not certain if this is a counterpoint to your assertion or aligned with it, as the system *exists*, but is not shown to students and hence a more systemized word-of-mouth system has evolved (ratemyprof) so that students know what to expect if Prof. Smith is teaching. But it is certainly a data point.

  • Joseph

    oh, I should mention that the professor/TA does not get to see the results until after the semester is long over and grades are finalized, to encourage honest feedback and prevent any retaliatory abuse of grades.

  • etbe

    Joseph: That sounds great. I recall something similar when I was at university but it wasn’t taken so seriously. But at university level there are generally fewer problems so it’s not a big deal.

    The site is about high-schools, and there is more need for feedback in that area. University students know their rights and are able to persue civil or criminal cases against professors who treat them badly. High-school students have little ability to defend themselves and now at the first time that they get an opportunity to air their grievances the teachers want to tromp on their rights.

    I take your comments as support for my points.

  • Adrian Bunk

    “The solution to this however is really quite simple. There needs to be a formal method for students to rate their teachers which will be used when it comes time to give pay rises to good teachers and dismiss or transfer to non-teaching duties the teachers who can’t do their job.”

    At first glance, this sounds great.

    But there’s one problem with this suggestion:

    In real life, a metric is almost never able to cover everything, and people tend to work on improving the metric, no matter whether it makes sense within the greater picture.

    So if the wages or even the job of a teacher depend on the metric “rated good by students” what will be the effects?

    There are problems like students rating teachers giving good marks better that might result in all teachers giving all students relatively good marks and leeting no student ever fall any exam.

    That in turn might result in students doing less work because they anyway get good marks and never fall at any exam, resulting in a lower overall education level.

    I’m not saying rating of teachers generally was a bad thing, but as soon as there are formal or informal consequences of bad ratings, you must consider both the possible positive and the possible negative effects of these ratings.

  • Raymond

    We do have quality of teaching at universities but not in schools. University students are at a better level to take them seriously.

    I think it’s a good idea to have student feedback because people learn better from teachers they like, at least I know I did. However this should be taken with a grain of salt because an *anonymous* student could put in several postings about how much they hate a teacher. Doing that over a period of time it can easily look like several classes.

    Should a single student make a whole school look bad because they don’t want to be educated? I think students’ opinions are good but need to be weighted accordingly.

    Also, that article from Mentone doesn’t tell you whether it’s more to do with the teachers, the student or the parents. If this student didn’t want to learn and was hiding it from the father it could come out this way very easily.

  • Unfortunately, student rating of teaching suffers from fundamental problems both on the administrative side (e.g. ratings change wildly before and after examinations and results, and designing the survey is REALLY hard for most administrators, despite what they think) and the conceptual side. It assumes that students are mature, intelligent, fair and insightful. This is almost never the case.

    Here is a humorous look at the problem:

    Finally, with regard to high school students, it’s worth pointing out that there are teachers leaving the WA private and public education systems because of incidents with student discipline where student rights are placed above all else. There is very little advocacy for teachers in the system these days, and a reliance on student ratings pushes dangerously further in that direction.

  • etbe

    Adrian, I think that a reasonable assessment of student attitudes could weed out the teachers that allow everyone to pass. There are few things that make a hard working student more angry than seeing students who don’t work pass!

    Raymond, I agree that the current system of anonymous feedback is not ideal. But it’s the best that is available. If they create something better then I’m sure that the interest in anonymous feedback will dramatically decrease.

    David, the fact that some students will give unfair assessment of teachers is no reason to deny all students a voice. An analogy is the fact that criminals will often falsely complain about treatment by police. Should we consider that everyone who complains about police action is a criminal and disregard their complaints?