Are Student Surveys the Right Tools for Evaluating Teacher Performance?

Are Student Surveys the Right Tools for Evaluating Teacher Performance?

Vladimir Kogan's article in *Education Next* delves into the nuanced debate surrounding the use of student surveys for evaluating teacher performance. Kogan traces the trajectory of standardized tests in the U.S. educational system, noting the growing disillusionment with these tests' ability to accurately reflect teacher effectiveness and the unintended consequences they have engendered. As an alternative, there's a shifting consensus towards student surveys as tools for assessing teacher and school quality. This approach garners support across the ideological spectrum, with proponents viewing it as a potential remedy for the shortcomings of high-stakes testing.

Kogan underscores the critical role of teachers in influencing student achievement, highlighting the significant variance in teacher effectiveness. Efforts in the 2010s to overhaul teacher-evaluation systems, incentivized by the Obama administration's Race to the Top initiative, largely failed to yield the anticipated outcomes. With "value-added" measures of teacher quality proving impractical for a broad swath of educators, attention has turned to student surveys as a more universally applicable tool.

The Dallas Independent School District's use of student surveys in its evaluation system is cited as a successful application, contributing to notable improvements in the city's lowest-performing schools. These surveys encompass a range of quality and effectiveness metrics, from teachers' expectations to classroom "energy." However, Kogan warns against prematurely embracing student surveys without thorough validation and consideration of potential pitfalls, such as the creation of perverse incentives.

Despite the promising aspects of student surveys highlighted by researchers like Kirabo Jackson, who demonstrated their ability to capture important dimensions of school quality affecting long-term student outcomes, Kogan advises caution. He points to the Gates Foundation-funded Measures of Effective Teaching project, which found no relationship between student survey scores and academic achievement improvements in a rigorous study setup.

Kogan also raises concerns about "teaching to the survey," a phenomenon akin to "teaching to the test," where the aim of maximizing survey scores could diverge from the goal of improving instructional quality. He draws parallels with other fields like higher education and medicine, where evaluative surveys have led to unintended consequences such as grade inflation and potentially contributed to the opioid crisis due to the overprescription of pain medication influenced by patient satisfaction surveys.

In conclusion, while student surveys offer a promising avenue for evaluating teacher performance and school quality, Kogan emphasizes the need for careful implementation, thorough validation, and an awareness of potential unintended consequences. This approach requires a balanced consideration of the benefits and drawbacks to ensure that the introduction of student surveys into educational accountability systems and policy-making processes is both effective and equitable.


Kogan, V. (2024). *Are Student Surveys the Right Tools for Evaluating Teacher Performance?* Education Next, 24(2), 32-37.


Prepared with the assistance of AI software

OpenAI. (2024). ChatGPT (4) [Large language model].

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