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Should Kindergartners be Allowed to Evaluate Teachers?

Every now and then, one of my adolescent daughters will come home and tell me that a teacher hates her.

"How do you know?" I'll ask.

The answers invariably have more to do with my child's mood on a given day than any specific action by the teacher in question.

Knowing that, I have to question the wisdom of asking students, especially those in the lower grades, to help evaluate teachers—an idea that's taking root across the country, according to a story in yesterday's Washington Post.

The story recounts a pilot program in Georgia in which students in kindergarten through grade 12 will be completing surveys as part of the teacher evaluation process. Depending on how it goes, the state may incorporate student feedback into the evaluation process as early as the next school year. A few school systems around the country also are piloting similar efforts.

Under the Georgia program, "5-year-olds will be guided through a survey that includes such statements as 'My teacher knows a lot about what he or she teaches' and 'My teacher gives me help when I need it,' " according to the story. The kids, who may not even be able to read, will respond by circling a smiley face, a neutral face or a frowning face.

Some educators are questioning the value of such input into teacher evaluations, and worry about students' bias and maturity when completing surveys. But proponents counter that the surveys focus more on what's happening in a classroom, such as whether a teacher completes lessons each day, than on collecting students' personal opinions of teachers.

Student input definitely has its place in helping schools run better. If it weren't for my then-1st-grader's daily reports, I probably wouldn't have known that her long-term substitute teacher had stopped holding daily reading and math groups because she was too overwhelmed trying to manage a classroom.

And a steady drum beat of concerns that older students express about a given teacher's classroom management could signal a problem that merits attention.

But does that mean that kids' opinions should actually influence whether teachers get raises or keep their jobs?

Let's see if these pilot programs provide the answer.

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