Bringing student voice to your school
To support organizations and districts interested in implementing student voice policies such as constructive feedback or student involvement in teacher evaluation, we have generated a list of resources to share. Links to the referenced material are in bold font and an extended list of resources can be found in the Toolbox.
Research and Reports
There are a number of studies that confirm both the accuracy and the merit of student involvement in teacher feedback and evaluation. Much of the work in Boston was based on the Measures of Effective Teaching study conducted by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. You may want to start with the MET Asking Students Summary, which briefly and succinctly lays out why and how student survey data should be used in teacher evaluations. The full-length report is meant for practitioners and policymakers who want to understand student surveys as potential tools for teacher evaluation and feedback, as well as the challenges and considerations posed by their implementation.
Scholars across the country have taken an interest in the potential of student survey data, and their findings are overwhelmingly in favor of including students in the evaluation process. This study, printed in the Journal of Personnel Evaluation in Education, concludes that student survey responses are reliable and valid. Another set of researchers compared student, principal, and teacher ratings, and their findings were that student ratings of teachers were the best predictors of student achievement on district tests and showed the strongest positive relationship to student achievement when compared with those of principals and teachers. Advocates for Children of New York released a study summarizing the research demonstrating the validity and reliability of student feedback, models used in other states and districts to incorporate student and/or parent feedback into teacher evaluation systems, and policy recommendations for the Department of Education.
There are several survey tools available for collecting student feedback for use by teachers and evaluators. Youth in Boston developed surveys for school climate, student-to-teacher constructive feedback, and student-to-administrator feedback. You may want to consult these tools before creating your own.
A Youth-led Movement in Boston
In July 2011, Massachusetts became the second state in the country to mandate that student feedback be used in the evaluation of teachers. Student leaders from the Boston Student Advisory Council (BSAC), in collaboration with youth and adult allies including Youth on Board, spent years on this campaign. When BSAC first presented the idea of student involvement in teacher evaluations, both district and teacher union leadership pushed back. BSAC then proposed that students get the opportunity to communicate with their teachers through a constructive feedback policy that would have no bearing on performance evaluations. The Boston Teachers Union embraced the practice and eventually the Constructive Feedback Policy was presented to the school committee and passed by the district. Building on this momentum, BSAC and Youth on Board seized the opportunity to enter a state-level discussion around educator evaluations. After extensive lobbying efforts by BSAC and Youth on Board, the Massachusetts Board of Education voted in favor of mandatory student involvement in teacher evaluations for all public high schools across the state. Watch a video about developing and building support for Constructive Feedback and read our full story here.