Hey, kids: How good is your teacher?
This spring, students in the Charlotte region will test-drive a survey that could eventually give them a voice in their teachers' job evaluations.
"We think it will be good feedback from someone other than their principal," said N.C. Department of Public Instruction Chief Academic Officer Rebecca Garland.
Of course, they won't face vague questions about whether the teachers are good or nice - the kind of "popularity contest" questions that give teachers and taxpayers the shudders.
The state is spending almost $600,000 in federal Race to the Top money to craft a test that asks meaningful questions about what teachers do, rather than how kids feel.
Cambridge Education, an international consulting company, is preparing surveys based on ones used in Harvard University research on effective teaching. That research, which included Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools teachers who volunteered to participate, found students did a pretty good job at identifying teacher behaviors that are linked to academic gains.
The N.C. pilot will go to a scientific sampling of 150,000 students, from kindergarten through 12th grade, in 29 districts. Those include CMS and schools in Cabarrus, Kannapolis, Iredell-Statesville, Caldwell, Anson and Rutherford, as well as most of the state's large school districts.
There will be 30-question and 90-question surveys, paper and online versions. The youngest students will be asked to circle pictures or yes/no answers, while older ones will use agree/disagree scales.
Once results are in, state officials will consider whether and how to incorporate a student survey into teacher and principal evaluations. The Race to the Top grant requires North Carolina to craft a new standard based on student performance data. That will certainly involve test results, but could also include student views.
Teachers and principals who participate in the pilot will see their results, Garland said. If there are enough results, preferably spread over more than one year, they can provide strong guidance on where teachers and schools could improve.
CMS has long surveyed students on their schools, with questions about topics from fights and behavior to whether adults care about students. But the district hasn't asked about individual teachers.
CMS teachers have been discussing student surveys as part of the district's talent-effectiveness project. Trina Potter, a teacher at Ashley Park Pre-K-8 School, told the school board her study group thinks the surveys could provide good guidance. But she said they're waiting to see results of the state pilot.