Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Columns

April 15, 2014

Hayden: Want better teacher ratings? Ask the kids

Missing from most models are the opinions of students

The state may be back where it started, encumbered with a flawed teacher grading system, a year after implementing what were meant to be tough new standards.

That was the general consensus of the State Board of Education days after teacher evaluation data were released last week. Of 50,000 public school teachers graded by their principals, less than one-half of 1 percent were deemed “ineffective.”

Almost everyone else – 97 percent – was considered good or good enough.

“Clearly the system failed,” said board member Gordon Hendry, before calling for a new way to get more accurate results.

Much of the criticism focused on the law that mandated a new evaluation system. It was meant to tie teacher pay to performance rather than tenure – a sweeping change for Indiana. But, as in the past, the law let local school districts pick their own rating models.

As a result, weight given to student test scores or the observations of principals ranged wildly. Some districts gave most teachers the highest mark of “highly effective.” Almost two-dozen districts couldn’t find a single teacher who fit into that category.

Joe Gramelspacher isn’t an education policy maker but a teacher who’s given evaluation systems a lot of thought. An Indianapolis native, he started his career in a Colorado district that helped pioneer the idea of performance pay.

Missing from Indiana’s metrics and most models, he argues, are the opinions of students.

“No one spends more time watching teachers at work than their students,” said Gramelspacher, who majored in economics at Indiana University and came to teaching through the Teach for America program. “Who’s in a better position to evaluate how we’re doing?”

Gramelspacher, who works at an inner-city Indianapolis school, is borrowing on work done by Harvard University economist Ronald Ferguson.

More than a decade ago, Ferguson started researching the use of classroom surveys to measure student engagement. He was looking for a way to narrow the race-based achievement gap. He ended up with a finely tuned survey of student perception that became a framework for incorporating student feedback into teacher evaluations.

Gramelspacher said he was surprised the first time he used a Ferguson-inspired survey of his teaching methods.

“They were brutally honest” he said of his students. “But it helped.”

The students were better observers of his teaching than his school principal, who’d visited his classroom an average of once a month, he found.

“They knew my strengths and weaknesses,” he said. “They pointed out weaknesses I didn’t know I had.”

He took their input to heart, changed some techniques, and now gives himself a higher grade.

A handful of school districts around the country are incorporating sophisticated student surveys into teacher evaluations, and they’re using the results to craft plans to help teachers improve. In doing so, they improve student results.

Gramelspacher is a true believer in student feedback. But he’s met plenty of skeptics, he said, especially among educators who think students are too immature, biased or just too mean to render a fair evaluation.

“Who do you serve as a teacher? You serve your students,” he said. “If you don’t value your students’ feedback, one, you’re not going to be a very good teacher, and two, maybe you’re in the wrong profession.

“If you don’t want to hear from your customers, then you’re in the wrong business.”

Maureen Hayden covers the Statehouse for the CNHI newspapers in Indiana. She can be reached at maureen.hayden@indianamediagroup.com. Follow her on Twitter at @MaureenHayden.

 

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Columns
  • MAUREEN HAYDEN: Expiring term heightens urgency of legislator's mission State Rep. Rebecca Kubacki had plans for her return to the General Assembly next January.The two-term Republican from Kosciusko County wanted to exert “full force” to roll back a law that prevents the children of undocumented immigrants from paying i

    July 22, 2014

  • TOM LoBIANCO: Indiana Democrats deal with divide on education On the face of it, the battles between Democratic Schools Superintendent Glenda Ritz and supporters and staff of Republican Gov. Mike Pence have been a unifying force for Indiana Democrats. But the scrapping has exposed a deep rift within the party o

    July 22, 2014

  • BRIAN HOWEY: Is Evan Bayh contemplating another gubernatorial run? This could be the saga of “LeBron Bayh.”Like a thunderhead brewing in the distance, you could see this one coming. This was the progression: former state Democratic Chairman Dan Parker announces he will not become a candidate for mayor of Indianapoli

    July 21, 2014

  • DICK WOLFSIE: Please go away already My wife is planning our summer vacation, which we will take in the fall. We took our spring vacation this summer. We got behind in 1984 and still haven't caught up. I don't have much input into the planning of these trips, but Mary Ellen did assign m

    July 21, 2014

  • ED VASICEK: Internet, and future of communication One morning, I was chatting with some retired folks and the subject of paying bills on the Internet came up. One woman said she disposed of her computer years ago and pays her bills by mail. I commented she could get by just fine doing that. The othe

    July 20, 2014

  • FAITH BRAUTIGAM: Learning from others' mistakes through literature If you’ve ever been locked out of somewhere — your home, your car, your workplace — I expect you could tell me all the details of the incident, even if it was years or decades ago. Why? Our brains remember major events, and it’s a big deal to be stra

    July 20, 2014

  • RAY DAY: We need to get tough Last year I said I was going to quit trying to do anything about the shooting off of fireworks in the neighborhoods. But as anyone who knows me can say, I don't give up on things that are of utmost danger. Here it was, a week before the Fourth of Jul

    July 19, 2014

  • LEE HAMILTON: Is this country doomed to ceaseless polarization? We Americans are trapped in a political dilemma. We all like representative democracy, but we don't much like the way it's performing. The reason for this dissatisfaction is clear. Polls in recent years detail a polarized nation, divided both ideolog

    July 18, 2014

  • DAN COATS: Solving border crisis is a moral obligation More than 60,000 unaccompanied alien children — mostly from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador — have been apprehended on America’s southern border during this fiscal year. Another 40,000 family members — one or both parents traveling with their chi

    July 18, 2014

  • MAUREEN HAYDEN: Road to funding Ind. highways is jammed If you’ve driven on either of Indiana’s two busiest interstates recently, you’ll understand why a blue-ribbon commission last week called for adding traffic lanes to those harrowing highways.The report, issued by the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Panel on T

    July 15, 2014

Latest news
Featured Ads
Only on our website
AP Video
Judge Ponders Overturning Colo. Gay Marriage Ban Airlines Halt Travel to Israel Amid Violence NYPD Chief Calls for 'use of Force' Retraining VA Nominee McDonald Goes Before Congress Bush: Don't Worry, Sugarland Isn't Breaking Up US Official: Most Migrant Children to Be Removed Police Probing Brooklyn Bridge Flag Switch CDC Head Concerned About a Post-antibiotic Era Raw: First Lady Says `Drink Up' More Water Courts Conflicted Over Healthcare Law Holder Urges Bipartisanship on Immigration Raw: Truck, Train Crash Leads to Fireball US Airlines Cancel Israel Flights Obama Signs Workforce Training Law Crash Victims' Remains Reach Ukraine-held City Diplomatic Push Intensifies to End War in Gaza Cat Fans Lap Up Feline Film Festival Michigan Plant's Goal: Flower and Die Veteran Creates Job During High Unemployment
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Obituaries
Poll
Kelly Lafferty's video on Tom Miller