Students at Glendale and Burbank high schools said they support a state bill that would allow them to rate their teachers on how well they do their jobs.
The bill is waiting for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s signature, and would be the first opportunity high school students have to identify a teacher’s strengths, weaknesses, or ways to enhance assignments, lectures and other coursework.
[UPDATE: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the bill into law on Thursday.]
But unlike controversial public rating systems, the data would be for the teacher only. The bill’s advocates say it would foster better communication between students and teachers and improve high school instruction.
“I think it would help students take school more seriously,” said Alana Bradley, an upcoming senior at Glendale High School. “Yes we are minors, yes we might not know what we’re doing because we’re young and growing, but we do need a say in what we’re being taught, or at least a small one.”
At many colleges and universities across the U.S., students complete an optional survey of the professor’s course, weighing in on the relevancy of projects, the reading material or how lectures might be improved.
“If we had that in high school, it’d be a better place, it’d be a different place,” Alana said. “We have so many amazing teachers, but there’s a few who would benefit with student input.”
The California Teachers Assn., the umbrella group for the Glendale and Burbank teachers unions, opposed the bill for being what it characterized as a redundant measure. School districts have multiple systems for evaluating teachers, said Sandra Jackson, a union spokeswoman.
“Basically, it’s unnecessary,” she said. “Students already have an opportunity through their local student councils to be involved, and those [districts] with active student councils are involved.”
But many students said that teacher evaluations would be beneficial for students and enrich the curriculum through trial, error and more direct and independent feedback.
Gabriel Diaz, a junior at Burbank High School, said some teachers have asked him for year-end suggestions, but others have not.
“They’re probably sick of some of the kids and don’t want the negativity,” he said.
But he added that thoughtful evaluations would pay a dividend, especially for newer teachers in a high school setting.
“It’d be helpful to teach new teachers what they’re doing right or wrong,” he said. “It’s pretty scary to be a new teacher up there in an over-packed class.”