Student surveys to shine light on teacher effectiveness

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As Teacher Excellence Initiative experts and principal focus groups continue to refine how the district will evaluate teacher effectiveness, another team – the students – are about to have their say. According to at least one study, students, perhaps the ultimate classroom observers, may be better suited to identify effective teaching than administrators who traditionally measure performance based on scheduled observations of teachers’ instruction and classroom management skills.

Plans call for students to complete surveys, to be made available in English and Spanish, on paper the week of April 6. In future, the district will administer the survey online. Teachers will receive the student feedback prior to the end of the school year, and the survey results will account for 15 percent of a teacher’s evaluation. TEI Director Lindsay Coshatt D’Agostino said student survey points will be combined with student achievement and performance points to calculate an evaluation rating for each teacher. It’s hoped the student feedback will help administrators identify which of teachers’ instructional practices are most effective.

At the request of the TEI Expert group, district teachers will have an opportunity to review the survey questions prior to its April administration, possibly as early as the end of January.

Regarding the impact of student surveys on teacher effectiveness, Dallas ISD’s TEI Teacher Guidebook references the study, Measures of Effective Teaching Project. The MET study found that student surveys of teacher performance more directly reflected a teacher’s success with students than classroom observations when questions are structured “to assess instructional practice and learning environment, not a teacher’s popularity.

The district has contracted with survey firm Panorama Education to facilitate the student surveys. Panorama’s website says the organization’s technology platforms support survey administration and create reports designed to help school districts improve instruction.

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