Time to Start Grading Our Teachers--Fixing Education III

Teachers grade students. Students and parents should grade K-12 public school teachers. Every quarter, semester, at least at the end of every school year, parents, and students where applicable, are asked to fill out a report card on each of their teachers. Similar to the report card students received from teachers, parents (and students where applicable) will receive an online report card that can be filled in anonymously and e-mailed back directly to the school principal.

ScanTron type forms will automate the reporting process for larger schools. However, a 'Comments' box should be available on report cards for direct, targeted input. Teacher grading will be based on 1 through 4, or A through F, as applies to school standards. Grading will be based on meeting or exceeding criteria headings such as tests; homework; class discipline; effective communication; student/teacher, teacher/parent relationships; creative and original teaching techniques; to name just a few.

Teacher report cards will be evaluated by the school principal, and small nonpartisan group of parents whose kids are NOT students of the teacher they assess. Quarterly report cards are optimal, but even semester report cards give the principal, parents, even students the opportunity to solicit teacher improvement in areas of discovered weakness. At minimum, final teacher report cards are a must to help measure teacher effectiveness, direct development, and promote success by rewarding and modeling excellence.

The perspective of students and their parents on teacher effectiveness is invaluable. An enormous part of learning is how the material is presented and reviewed, which can only be assessed by the student, and those monitoring student progress. In a recent op-ed article to the New York Times, Bill Gates purported highly trained teachers and principals should evaluate teachers. Not a good idea. In my experience, educators protect each other. They are not required, and often don't listen to the students and parents they are paid to serve.

Teacher report cards can apply to all grade levels K-12, any school, any district, any socioeconomic level. Reminding parents with multiple e-mails, flyers and/or phone calls over time will increase response rate of completed and returned report cards. Requiring parents from kindergarten forward to fill out teacher report cards will increase return rates with each subsequent grade level.

Teacher report cards are kept confidential and are viewed only by the principal and the nonpartisan parent group. Their sole purpose is to aid in teacher effectiveness and development. Report card results will be reviewed with the teacher by the principal in a private meeting. Recommendations for improvements will be given to the teacher in writing at their report card review/s. Schools/districts should institute an incentive-based rewards program for improving teachers, as well as those consistently achieving superior grades. Teachers unable to achieve a C or better average after multiple opportunities for improvement will be subject to a review process and possible termination.

Teachers are required to frequently test students to assess their knowledge. Student grades are based on the information they retain and apply, as proven by their test and assignment scores. Parents cannot test teachers, and must rely on school principals to hire teachers with the knowledge base and skill set to do the job. Parents and students must assess teacher ability on their performance alone. Grading teachers with the same system they impose on their students will not only help the teacher recognized areas of deficiency but also areas of success that can be shared with and modeled by other teachers.

Parents (and students) have virtually no recourse if a teacher is ineffective, unresponsive and/or unwilling to improve. Working moms and dads have little time or energy left to fight the school system to discipline teachers, principals, or administrators to contribute effectively without any standards they must adhere to. Grading teachers, at the very least, gives parents/students a say – a forum to be heard, contribute ideas for improvement or praise successes. At best, grading teachers can be an effective learning aid for teachers, principals, students and parents alike to improve teaching, learning and communication.

Teachers, districts, and teacher's unions resist parents/students grading teachers. Parents unfairly blame teachers for failing classrooms and API scores beyond the teacher's control is the rhetoric used to thwart teacher report cards. But specific criteria can be implemented to ensure student/parent are assessing the teacher within the standards and boundaries imposed and/or required, just as students are graded within specific academic and social standards. Grading students or teachers should not be viewed as an indictment, but an opportunity for assessment and growth.

Talk to other parents, your school or district about implementing a grading system for their teachers. Principals, parents and students can partner with teachers to consistently achieve excellent scores and begin to restore the U.S. public school system from barely achieving average globally back to the best in the world.

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