Should Students Have the Ability to Evaluate Their Teachers?

Olivia Belrose, Writer

Almost every high school student will admit that the school year is overwhelming one way or another. As teenagers, trying to balance seven classes worth of homework, extracurricular activities and the social/emotional challenges is both rewarding and overwhelming. All of the stress involved with high school makes you stop and think about your experience on the way. Was I supported in my endeavors, or did I struggle from going unnoticed in the classroom? 

According to RateMyProfessors, approximately 4 million college students in the U.S. rate their professors in multiple categories. With college being an expensive investment, choosing the right academic fit is essential in picking the right choice. Ultimately, the goal is for you to learn and succeed in the classes you take for your undergrad degree. Having professors who support your academic career beyond lecturing is pertinent to this success. With the support of those college professors comes many encouraging K-12 teachers who have prepared you to the best of their ability. Students remember and value the teachers who took the time to understand their needs and connect with them besides a weekly lecture and a graded exam. 

In 2009, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation conducted a study on the impact of student evaluations in measuring educational success and discovered that student feedback on teachers is extremely effective in improving classroom strengths and weaknesses for grades K-12. Using student feedback opens up opportunities for instructors to become “students of their own teaching.”  Giving students a chance to share their perspective on the classroom learning experience is one of the most effective strategies in making sure all students are successful and satisfied in their education. 

Robert Marzano, a researcher and trainer in education, is a strong advocate in giving students a chance to share feedback for teachers and believes it is a leading indicator in improving both student and teacher performance.  According to Marzano, a casual teacher evaluation model should ask questions on an agree/disagree basis with standards in maintaining effective relationships, student engagement, creating expectations and procedures, deepening knowledge and communicating learning goals. Marzano found that teachers who used this evaluation model to develop new strategies noticed increased proficiency in mathematics and language arts. On the flip side, teachers were able to use the information to make sure every student thrived in the classroom, whether it was by providing positive feedback, focusing on students individually and holistically, going back to re-teach certain concepts and breaking up units to teach smaller sections of content. After all, continuing to learn and improve is a lifelong practice in any career. Furthermore, according to Larry Ferlazo an opinion contributor for Education Week and award-winning English and social studies teacher, seeking feedback from students increases their motivation and engagement in knowing they have a voice in their learning. Kids are more likely to be set-up for success when teachers are willing to listen and believe in them. Stellar grades and high test scores will certainly get students admitted into college, but implementing student feedback will enhance the skills that students carry in their careers. In considering the academic future of each and every student, there should be an option for students to evaluate their teachers with their learning experience. 

Given the understanding that people get upset when they’re not pleased, there is certainly the potential for students to handle the process of giving feedback immaturely or as a way to confront the teacher for mistreatment or simply not giving the student an A, but there is an alternative to dealing with this. With a proper policy put in place, there is no reason for educational feedback to become an incompetent tool. A few yes or no questions geared towards the amount of assigned homework or classroom privileges will cause a swarm of complaints and instead put a strain on student/teacher relationships. With outlined goals and a collection process set in place, student feedback is convenient and effective in helping teachers to understand their strengths and weaknesses. 

 According to the School Superintendents Association, Pittsburgh Public schools created a rating system with different categories for teachers in 2012. Teacher evaluations include classroom observation and feedback, and student growth measures and feedback, which is handled through a survey system. The system is designed for teachers to measure more than academic progress. Pittsburgh teachers had grown concerned over the limited number of administrative evaluations and whether or not they were truly having an impact on teacher performance, but their new system of having both student and administrative evaluations has certainly “paid off.” According to, setting objectives and going over evaluation procedures is especially effective in receiving valuable feedback. Simply having students create learning goals, looking at the outcome and process of meeting those goals, along with social/emotional, academic support from the teacher is key for making and noticing positive changes in students and teachers. 

Adhering to an evaluation conducted by a principal is one way to improve as a teacher, but it’s only one perspective from someone who isn’t in the classroom every day. Taking feedback from an entire classroom of students not only gives teachers a wide variety of perspectives, but within that feedback, teachers learn critical information about students that can’t be identified from an assessment grade. In middle school, I remember watching my teacher go out of their way to connect with students who were outgoing and didn’t necessarily struggle in school. It seemed as if struggling students, or maybe those who were introverted, always went unnoticed until the teacher called them out. When I started high school, I noticed many teachers who took the time to take in student feedback and personal information, not only at the beginning of the year, but periodically after teaching a unit, too. If teachers recognize that students process at their own pace, and have different learning styles, the instructors can create alternative learning options and strive to support them, which will promote learning and engagement for every student.  I gained enough confidence to actively participate in class discussions, whereas in junior high, as a quiet student, I was intimidated to speak up, especially when I didn’t know the answer immediately. Sharing feedback with my educators allows me to communicate my personal and academic needs that otherwise would be oblivious to them. Therefore, student feedback is essential in determining adaptations for individual learning and social needs. 

Embedding student feedback is essential in boosting both student and teacher performance. If you are questioning the validity of student evaluations, recollect a time in school when you struggled academically or simply felt ignored. If you had the opportunity to reflect on the experience, what could you have wanted your teacher to recognize? What could they have done differently? How could their confidence in your success have impacted you in the long run?