Leadership magazine Nov/Dec 2015 V45 No 2 - Page 27

ASKED Answered What role do you think students should play in educator evaluations? Three education stakeholders share their thoughts about student learning and feedback Each of our California students deserves Robert A. Martinez, Ed.D. Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources, Fairfield-Suisun USD and ACSA Board Director for Region 4 to be educated in an optimal learning environment. When posed with the question, “What role do you think students should play in educator evaluations?” I wonder if we have collectively considered the true impact that we, as educators, have on our children, and if we have thought about what is it that our students need from us as individuals, and as a collective group of educators. As I pause to consider, the following thought comes to my mind: “Engage me, connect with me, guide me, and help me to see and think of the questions that will allow me to grow my mind, my analytical skills, my creative problem-solving skills, and to develop as a whole person.” That being said, we would then need to consider how we could assist students with providing us authentic feedback that Imagine a small business built on customer service, devoted solely to meeting customers’ needs, that never takes time to ask the customers how they think the business is doing. Such a lack of attention to the needs and experience of the customers flies in the face of common sense. Public education is an enterprise devoted solely to meeting the needs of students. Does it make sense to ignore the needs and experience of those students when gauging the effectiveness of a district, school or teacher? Effective teaching includes clear, standards-based objectives, active student engagement and evidence of student success. One of the ways of measuring student success is by asking students whether they feel they have been successful, and that involves asking their opinions of their classes and teachers. Asking students’ opinions is nothing new; colleges have done it for years. And as any college professor will attest, student reviews are not always accurate or fair. But they can be enlightening if collected and reviewed within a controlled framework that protects both students and teachers. As professional educators, the idea of asking non-educators to judge our work is understandably intimidating. After all, what do students know about teaching? As it turns out, they know quite a lot, such as whether the teaching was effective, whether they learned anything, and how well-engaged they felt. Those are critically important observations from which we should be eager to learn. And as professional educators committed to student success, we have to summon the courage to ask students for them. n As the largest group of stakeholders in the edu- Shawn Ahdout Beverly Hills High School Class of 2016, and California Association of Student Councils state president would be useful to guide practical changes and improvements in our systems to meet their desires. Could this be accomplished through rating scales, scoring rubrics, qualitative narrative responses? Could it be determined through anonymous surveys, reviewing standardized testing data, or conversations? The beautiful question, as they say, leads to many new questions. Practically speaking, I believe that all of our students must be engaged in multiple opportunities to provide us authentic input and feedback regarding their educational experiences. By initiating system practices that create inclusive environments where students’ opinions matter, we demonstrate through a collaborative process that we truly want to become the types of institutions where community guides improvement. n cation system, students deserve to have their voices heard. This is especially true when it comes to educator evaluations. Students are the ones who work with and learn from teachers every day. They provide a unique perspective, often invisible to administrators, which can be incredibly valuable when it comes to evaluating educators. Our organization, the California Association of Student Councils, has worked diligently to increase the presence of student evaluations of teachers. In 2010, we sponsored SB 1422, which allowed high school student governments to conduct teacher evaluations. Our goal is to utilize these evaluations to improve teacher performance, not to punish poor performance. We strongly believe that everyone, including teachers, has room for improvement, and that is the foundation of our Dr. Judy D. White Superintendent of Moreno Valley Unified School District and president of the California Association of Y