Saturday, April 24, 2010

Should teachers be judged based on student evaluations?

The case certainly can be made for including student surveys as one part of a teacher's overall evaluation. I understand and respect student opinion, as an important component for designing a continuous improvement strategy. Nevertheless, I have a problem, when they are used as the primary source of a teacher's evaluation.

One of my colleagues emailed me this story.
Dominique G. Homberger won't apologize for setting high expectations for her students. The biology professor at Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge gives brief quizzes at the beginning of every class, to assure attendance and to make sure students are doing the reading. On her tests, she doesn't use a curve, as she believes that students must achieve mastery of the subject matter, not just achieve more mastery than the worst students in the course. For multiple choice questions, she gives 10 possible answers, not the expected 4, as she doesn't want students to get very far with guessing.
Students in introductory biology don't need to worry about meeting her standards anymore. LSU removed her from teaching, mid-semester, and raised the grades of students in the class. In so doing, the university's administration has set off a debate about grade inflation, due process and a professor's right to set standards in her own course.

My state of Florida even tried to take the idea too far: directly connect teachers pay increases to students performance. Thankfully, the governor vetoed it.

As I read somewhere, how would law-makers like it if their pay increases were connected to the performance of the laws they passed (how many laws were successfully obeyed, or any such metric)?

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