Update: I neglected to say - if my children were still in SPS, I would tell them to say no to any kind of survey about their teachers. It is not required and frankly, there is too much leeway for kids to not understand the questions being asked and/or decide to muck about with phony or false answers. If someone's job is on the line because of this, how much input should students impressions be given? How would you feel if this were your job?
End of update.
Several weeks back I became aware that some Seattle PTAs were working with the district, students on the Seattle Youth Commission, SPS Research, Evaluation & Assessment and "teachers associated with Teachers United" on a student survey. To whit via McClure PTA:
--The work is to conceive, define and implement a structured survey of students' perceptions of their teachers.
- The objective of the surveys is to provide all teachers insight that can use to better inform their teaching practice for each of their classes. As you may know, student surveys are the best overall indicator of long term teacher effectiveness. The concept is to conduct initial pilot surveys under the auspices of and administered by SPS sometime before the end of this school year. At present the work group is forming to define the survey and related deployment logistics.
But I have a question about "student surveys are the 'best' overall indicator of long term teacher effectiveness." Really? I'll have to see data on that one. I did a quick check and I didn't see this anywhere including in Gates Foundation reports.
I did consult with the SCPTA and was told it is not being sponsored by SCPTA but by individual PTAs. (Those PTAs did let SCPTSA know about this but it got into the SCPTSA newsletter late.) I frankly, find it odd that the district would not have SCPTA be a sponsor and only various PTAs (and, at this point, I don't know how they got involved).
I wrote to the district and asked these questions.
- who initiated this survey?
- is it an official SPS survey?
- if SPS initiated it, did they ask the SEA first? Did SEA turn it down?
- does SPS Research, Evaluation and Assessment concur with the statement that "student surveys are the best overall indicator of long-term teacher effectiveness." I ask because I have never seen this statement before. Also, I was not aware that most districts/states used and tracked student surveys.
- is the SCPTA involved with soliciting parents?
- who is writing the survey?
- are only teachers in TU part of this effort?
I did forget to ask if this is voluntary or do students have to take the survey?
Now usually, I get back fairly solid answers and usually, direct answers to questions. Not this time. This time I got a fairly scripted answer.
SPS is in the process of establishing metrics for its new 2013-2018 strategic plan. One of the metrics newly established is: “Increase % of students who perceive that their teachers demonstrate effective research-based instructional and classroom practices.” To help measure this SPS plans to implement new student perception surveys of teaching and classroom instruction. The student surveys that were recently administered district-wide (in January) focused on school climate and student motivation/engagement, and did not include questions about teaching and learning.
SPS plans to pilot a student perception survey in the spring of 2014, and potentially scale the survey district-wide in 2015. A working group will be convened to evaluate student perception surveys in use around the country and select an instrument to be piloted this spring. SPS plans for the working group to include teachers, administrators, and students. The Seattle Education Association has been invited to nominate representatives to participate in this working group.
SPS will only aggregate and report data from any new student perception surveys at the district and school level. SPS hopes that teachers will be able to confidentially access their own data for valuable feedback and insight into their own practice, but teacher-specific results would not be accessible to administrators or other teachers. SPS believes there is strong research that student perceptions are sufficiently reliable indicators to justify exploring their use as part of its overall measurement strategy for assessing teaching and learning practices.
I did find this statement hard to believe:
Increase % of students who perceive that their teachers demonstrate effective research-based instructional and classroom practices.”
So the district is going to ask students about "effective research-based instructional and classroom practices" by their teachers? Okay, when will the district be explaining what those are to students? Or else that would have to be a very carefully written survey in order to elicit a valid answer to that question.
Okay, so to the questions I submitted to SPS:
- who initiated this survey? No answer. I suspect TU (and possibly the Alliance or the Gates Foundation or both).
- is it an official SPS survey? Partially answered because you'll note that their answer does not include the same names as in the McClure announcement
- SEA? They can sent reps. (I'll have to contact them for their statement on these surveys.)
- effectiveness of student surveys? No answer.
- who is writing the survey? No answer except to say they will look at other states' student surveys.
I think that asking all students (well maybe from grade 3-12) a few basic questions would be a good idea along with comments.
But I cannot believe this is the most important thing our district has on its plate.