Editor's note: This is the winning entry in the latest high school essay contest sponsored by the Ventura County Edition of The Times. Students were asked to address the following question: "Would a system of formal evaluations of teachers by students help improve the quality of a high school education, or would it be harmful?"
A system of teacher evaluations by students could be a constructive method of improving the educational process, but not if these surveys are mistreated or used to discredit a qualified teacher.
Over the past several years, acts of violence by students jeopardizing teacher safety have increased. If students are willing to express their anger by shooting a teacher, such students might be willing to vindictively damage a teacher's reputation through a written evaluation. However, if students could make objective, unbiased evaluations, then I believe this survey process could be quite useful.
First of all, I think that a system of teacher evaluations by students could be helpful because not all teachers are perfect, and this could be the only way to alert school administrators to any problems.
Sometimes a teacher can be unfair, have poor teaching skills or have some other problem that interferes with the learning process.
Unfortunately, students are often afraid to speak out against a teacher because either they feel that no one will listen since they may be considered troublemakers or they fear that their grade will be lowered. In these situations, something must be done to solve the problem so that those students are able to learn in a positive environment.
Students are generally in the best position to judge a teacher's skills, but if they are ignored, improvements cannot be made. After all, what is the point of school if learning is not taking place?
Unfortunately, this system of teacher evaluations may not be as useful as intended. Although some students may take the process seriously, others may not, which could alter the survey's results.
Some students might mark all teachers as "poor," just because they think it is funny. Others might randomly fill in answers without thoroughly understanding the questions.
Finally, some students would simply evaluate a teacher unfairly. Some students do not like the classes they are taking because of the amount of work that is assigned. If students feel that the work is excessive, they tend to blame the teacher, not the system.
What many students do not realize is that it is the teacher's job to prepare all pupils for the next grade level. As a result, students must learn a certain amount of material, which may require large amounts of work so that new concepts and ideas will be mastered.
In conclusion, teacher evaluations by students are a good idea because students are in the best position to assess a teacher's skills. However, because some students would be unfair when evaluating their teachers or may not take the survey process seriously, administrators should exercise caution when using these evaluations to determine any teacher's future in the classroom.