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Tables Turned: Students to Grade Teachers

Public schools in Memphis, Tenn., will enter unchartered territory this fall when they start to use student feedback as part of the district's teacher evaluation rubric. The Commercial Appeal reports that the new model "incorporates stakeholder perceptions and tests of how well teachers actually know their subject area." Deputy Superintendent Irving Hamer told the Memphis paper that "No other district in the country is doing it this way."

While student perception and teacher content knowledge will each count for 5 percent of a teacher's evaluation, the "remainder will be a mix of test scores (35 percent), principal observation (40 percent), and other measures of student achievement (15 percent)."

Keith Williams, the president of the Memphis Teachers Association, told the paper that while the union supports the idea of teachers being "evaluated on multiple measures," he still has some concerns about using student input. "How well can a first- or second-grader do on this? Will it be favoritism? Will it be based on popularity or will it be some objective data?" asked Williams.

Meanwhile, Palm Beach County Schools in Florida are discussing the idea of implementing an anonymous "secret student survey" in which students would provide feedback and input about their teachers, according to the Palm Beach Post's Extra Credit blog. School Board Vice Chair Debra Robinson, who had students come up with questions for the survey, told the Palm Beach Post she sees the survey as a "tool to help teachers."

"For me, the main thing is that we need to understand how students are perceiving what goes on in the classroom," said Robinson.

One of the questions on the sample survey asks students to assign their teacher a letter grade and to "explain how he/she earned it."

The Palm Beach Post's blog post received a flurry of responses, most of which are negative reactions to the student survey idea. "Put the kids in charge," one commenter posted. "Never mind that they are only children and can't even care for themselves. Everyone wonders why kids are so out of control these days."

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