December 20, 2018
Dear Mr. Bradshaw —
I am a junior in high school and want to participate in an extracurricular activity that will benefit students as well as help me develop my leadership skills. I came up with the idea of publishing a course evaluation guide created by students. I would like to see an evaluation at the end of each semester so that the information is available for students and teachers when it comes time to select classes. Many students have had bad experiences picking classes and I feel their voice needs to be heard. Any suggestions? --
— High School junior
Class evaluations can be a sticky Task
Dear Student —
While an evaluation guide developed by students might prove valuable in helping your fellow students select their classes, you would be inviting the evaluators to judge not only class content, but also the teachers who teach those classes. Teacher evaluations by students at the high school level and in higher education have been the subject of debates for years. I believe that you will face opposition for your suggestion from administrators and teachers as well.
I think that it would be difficult to gather the information necessary for such a guide, and with the legalities surrounding the evaluation process at all levels these days you could find yourself in the middle of a sticky situation
School Administrators believe that teacher evaluations are strictly in their purview and teachers believe that their contracts and tenure are sacrosanct. There is already a lot of controversy around this subject and even if you decided to take your project off-campus it would be controversial and you could face legal repercussions. Today there are any number of large companies involved in developing software for the evaluation process in business as well and in education. Evaluations are one of the most important communications tools any organization can use for the benefit of both the employee and the employer, but when it comes to a teacher’s work-product the process should not be undertaken without a full buy-in from all parties concerned. The problem would be in coming up with an instrument that is useful to the student, fair to the teachers and meets the guidelines of the administration.
In secondary education, teacher and course evaluations are often the responsibility of the principal and assistant principals who are already overburdened by the business of running their schools. They are aided in this task by voluminous policy manuals that are designed to keep the process fair, collegial and yes – legal.
While the evaluation process you are proposing would serve as a guide for students, their evaluations would tend to give high ratings to classes that are enjoyable and not particularity difficult. Classes that require a lot of homework and testing would get lower scores.
I do not think that you want to wade into the choppy waters of employment management to which much ink is devoted in educational publications.
I applaud your thinking about an extracurricular activity but I would advise you to avoid this project. You may want to talk with some of your school counselors to see what needs they see in a school or community related effort that would showcase your abilities.
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