Pupil feedback being used in US to decide teacher pay

‘Good morning, class. Can we talk about a pay rise?’

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For many teachers, the prospect of being scrutinised and rated by their students is the stuff of nightmares.

But in cities across the US, pupils are not only being given the power to rate their teachers’ performance: they are being given a say in how much teachers are paid.

In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 15 per cent of teachers’ pay is determined by what students think of their lessons.

According to a report by academics from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, more than a million primary and secondary pupils across the US are being asked by their schools to take surveys that allow them to rate their teachers’ classroom skills.

Pupils are asked the degree to which they agree with statements such as: “What I am learning now connects to what I learned before”; “My teacher explains difficult things clearly”; and “My teacher seems to know if something is bothering me.”

Increasingly, the answers are being used as part of the official teacher evaluation process. Because teachers’ pay is based on their evaluation scores, the upshot is that pupils are able to determine a sizeable proportion of their teachers’ pay.

“Students watch us deliver lessons every day and can make observations that help to expose blind spots in our practice,” Greg Myers, a Massachusetts superintendent of schools, told the academics.

But Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT headteachers’ union, warned: “The moment you attach [evaluation] to pay progression, it no longer becomes about learning and instead becomes a high-stakes activity. It may mean that teachers are very nervous about the feedback.”

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