Switching roles: students grade teachers

By Denebola
Published: March 2008

By Erika Rabb

On the popular website Rate My Teachers, students are able to evaluate teachers by rating them on a scale and submitting comments. Students log on to this website, find their school, and click on the teacher they choose to “grade. They choose a smiley face that they think best suits the teacher along with a short description and number that rate the teacher on scales of easiness, helpfulness, and clarity. Students also give other students their advice and opinions about the teachers.
Students, however, tend to be critical of more than just teaching styles. “I found the students to comment more about my clothes then my teaching abilities, English teacher David Weintraub said.
Many students and teachers think that the website provides helpful information for students. “The website is for students, among students, English teacher Jeanne O’Riley said. She doesn’t, however, think that it provides much constructive feedback for teachers.
Biology teacher Jordan Krauss agrees, saying that she doesn’t use the website preferring to get feedback from students in other ways, including forms with anonymous advice and criticism.
The comments made on the website do not necessarily include a completely accurate or diverse spectrum of student opinions.
“Students have the right to use the website; it doesn’t bother me. But as far as the accuracy of the evaluations goes, it isn’t exactly on point, Weintraub said. Students who have a strong interest in voicing their opinions are the ones most likely to contribute. Cruel comments may just be a student’s way of taking out his or her aggression or frustration after receiving a detention or a bad grade.
Kraus, who last visited the website over five years ago, makes the point that it can be used “just to bash, and the students who use this website most frequently are the ones who have had bad experiences with teachers. She says that it is rare for a student to go out of his or her way to praise a teacher.
Weintraub says the website is an acceptable place for students to give and receive advice on teachers. It would become unfair, however, if the administration were to use the criticism on the website to evaluate him as a teacher.
Teachers say the website does not have a significant impact on them because of the inaccuracy. They emphasize, however, that if teachers do read the comments, they need to take them with a grain of salt.
“The only thing that does bother me is when students don’t take the time to be grammatically correct, Weintraub said. How can students successfully put down an English teacher without correct spelling?

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