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Teacher evaluation bill reinvigorated

By Noah Rivkin
Published: November 2010

Over the past few months, South Senate members have worked on a bill that would allow student evaluations of teachers. The bill, if put into action, would offer students a way to pass on constructive criticism to their teachers, and for teachers to improve their teaching.
“The plan was to create a student-teacher evaluation template for any teacher to use by choice at the end of the first semester and/or the year, senior Rachel Leshin said.
There have, however, been certain difficulties in passing this bill. The specific details of the evaluation system, such as what questions would be asked, have yet to be determined.
Also, getting the bill approved by the Faculty Council, a committee of teachers who review proposed Senate policies, is anticipated to be a hassle due to the lack of credibility in the project.
“The [faculty council] isn’t quite sure about how they feel about it, especially because some teachers feel like they already use some form of evaluation, Leshin said.
When Yale student Aaron Feuer contacted Leshin over the summer, however, the project gained credibility.Feuer presented Leshin with the concept of his teacher evaluation program, Classroom Compass. The program would serve as a massive database of teacher evaluations from across the country.
Classroom Compass would send South information and each teacher could go to its website and hand pick questions to put on their personalized evaluations.
Though Principal Joel Stembridge supports the idea, passing the bill has not been any easier.
“It’s been [tough]. We have to find a way to meet the needs of the students while also finding a way that teachers would feel comfortable receiving feedback, Stembridge said.
Stembridge believes that, beyond the complications, evaluations could be beneficial to teachers.
“I think [the evaluation] should ensure positive growth for the teachers. Not as a “gotcha, but as something helpful, he said.
Teachers have mixed feelings about the idea of evaluations, however.
“The evaluations should be something that are constructive, it shouldn’t be about getting the teacher fired, English teacher Joe Scozzarro said.
Chemistry teacher Alan Crosby agrees with Scozzaro.
“Constructive feedback is something that every teacher looks forward to, but if you give students a survey just asking them who is good and who is bad, it would be hugely inaccurate, Crosby said.
Crosby, having experienced evaluation at universities he taught at, seemed hesitant but open to the idea.
“When I taught at places like BU, there were constructive evaluations every term. Crosby said. “ However, [the evaluations] could easily make teachers afraid of annoying the students, and in turn make them teach just so they get the best scores on the survey, which in the end would result in the loss of the teachers creativity.
Even though opinions seem varied at the moment, Leshin is thinking ahead.
“I think the next step would be to actually poll the students just to see how many have filled out evaluations before, and if they have, how many have found it helpful, Leshin said.
Junior Grace Nathans supports the idea of the bill and hopes students can begin offering their teachers constructive criticism.“I think that [evaluations] would absolutely be helpful, she said. “I don’t think students have a say in anything about teachers as it is now, which doesn’t really make sense since we are the ones being benefited by them.
Students like Sophomore Lydia Basque, however, believe that this system may give students too much power. “It could be a good way for students to give feedback to teachers, [but] if it’s like ratemyteachers.com and you can say anything you want, it could be abused.

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