Teacher-training group TNTP plans to incorporate a student-feedback measure into the system it's developing to evaluate its teachers, becoming one of the first organizations in the nation to use such measures formally.
Though the conversation about teacher evaluation has been dominated by talk of "value added" measures and systems for observing classroom practice, student surveys have also been identified as a promising measure. For instance, preliminary results from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's Measures of Effective Teaching project have found a positive relationship between teachers who are identified by students as being especially good at conveying and explaining content and teachers' value-added growth measures. (The Gates Foundation provides support to the Education Week; the newspaper maintains sole editorial control.)
Surveys don't appear to be widespread in teacher evaluation at the moment, though there is certainly some interest: Hawaii has promised to pilot them as part of its Race to the Top win. In Los Angeles, Superintendent John Deasy wrote in an op-ed that he envisions including them in a new evaluation system. (The district hasn't yet reached an agreement with its teachers' union about evaluations.)
TNTP, formerly the New Teacher Project—it recently announced it'll go by its initials, to the consternation of education reporters everywhere whose editors are going to ask them to spell it out anyway—is including the surveys as part of its winning bid in the federal i3 competition.
The project will assess teachers and require them to be effective before they're granted a certification. The surveys will be one of a variety of measures, including the completion of coursework, feedback from principals, and growth in student achievement.
To incorporate and administer the surveys, TNTP is working with YouthTruth, a project by the San Francisco-based Center for Effective Philanthropy. YouthTruth has been engaged in survey work since 2008, and by the end of the year will have surveyed some 100,000 students, its vice president, Valerie Threlfall, told me.
YouthTruth's work has been focused at the school-building level; the TNTP project will bring it a notch further down, to the individual teacher level.
As for the details of the survey questions, YouthTruth will use some of the items studied in the Gates MET research, which are themselves based on Harvard economist Ronald Ferguson's Tripod Project. The organization will also supplement these with some questions of its own on students' relationships with teachers and the rigor of classes and instruction.
Have you heard of any other districts or nonprofits looking at student surveys? Write a note in the comments section and let us all know.