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Publisher’s Position: Students evaluating teachers a bad idea

By Steve Hunley
In his recent report to the Knox County Board of Education, Superintendent James McIntyre has raised the issue of having students evaluate teachers.  Evidently the state has some new idea about allowing students to evaluate teachers and is dangling some $700,000 if Knox County will adopt the proposal.

McIntyre’s report cites a myriad of supposed reasons why this would work well and told the Board members, as it would only comprise 5% of a teacher’s total evaluation, intimating it shouldn’t be a big deal.

The State of Tennessee in its wisdom is already evaluating some teachers outside of their own fields.  It’s rather like evaluating a brain surgeon as a hairdresser.  It is blatantly unfair and so far as anyone can tell, McIntyre has never uttered a single peep of protest.  The Knox County legislative delegation, if it had any gumption, would move to correct this serious flaw in the law and it is worth noting that the Chairman of the House Education Committee, Harry Brooks, is from Knox County.

Board member Mike McMillan has stated he intends to offer an amendment to the proposal; McMillan says he will move to allow teachers to evaluate the superintendent on the very same basis and it will account for 5% of McIntyre’s evaluation.

Keep in mind, the rubber-stamp Board of Education (except for McMillan) has graciously allowed McIntyre to basically set the terms on how he is evaluated, when he is evaluated and under what conditions.  The superintendent’s evaluation is set on the narrowest terms possible, although McMillan had the guts to simply ignore the instructions set for him and wrote an evaluation detailing what he believed McIntyre did well and what he did not do well.

There really is something disgusting about the highest paid official in Knox County setting all the terms of the evaluations of hard working teachers, while also determining the conditions of his own evaluation, a luxury not extended to classroom teachers.  Is someone whose entire classroom teaching experience was less than a year really qualified to make those decisions?  By contrast, McMillan spent his entire adult life as a classroom teacher.

Why shouldn’t the teachers give their own evaluation of McIntyre?  If McIntyre believes there’s nothing wrong with the students evaluating teachers to determine the quality of the education they are receiving, how could he possibly object to being evaluating by classroom teachers?

But my guess is he will object and McMillan’s proposed amendment will be received by the other Board members like the plagues on Egypt.  There will a symphony of honks, growls, squeals and gasps while they circle the wagons to protect McIntyre.  Of course should the Board approve student evaluations of classroom teachers and reject the idea of allowing the same teachers to evaluate the superintendent, it will show them to be pure hypocrites of the worst sort, undeserving of a shred of credibility.

McIntyre will probably duck his head and allow the Board members to do his dirty work for them, just as they did with the security scandal.  If McIntyre has any sense of fairness and honor, he will volunteer to have the classroom teachers evaluate his performance.

The Board can squall about their prerogatives and the like, but that is a mere diversion.  Consider we are spending more than half a billion dollars a year on schools in Knox County – - – and they want more and more money.  You will probably hear some comparison between Knox County schools and universities where student evaluations are a common practice.  Does anybody really believe there is any comparison between kindergartners and college students?  Are teachers going to have to compromise discipline and order to ensure a good evaluation from their own students?  One huge difference between college students and local school students is the parents or the student are actually invested in that student’s education financially.  We all pay to support the Knox County school system, irrespective of whether someone has children or not.  Single people who have no children pay the same taxes as a couple or individual with several children and don’t get the same break on their income taxes.

McIntyre should have less to fear from being evaluated by the very people he’s supposed to be working with on a daily basis.

It’s time to level the playing field and some of these same rules applied to hard working classroom teachers ought to be applied to the supremely well-paid McIntyre.  Do you imagine for a single moment McIntyre would meekly and silently abide by being evaluated outside of his own field?  There’s a better chance that Haley’s Comet will fall in my backyard tomorrow night with a herd of drunk Martians riding in a sleigh on top of it.

The amount of money we expend on every other aspect of our government is infinitesimal compared to what we spend on schools.  It’s high time we started paying attention to just what we’re getting for our money.  We can talk about graduation rates until the cows come home and can work the remote control.  It is a meaningless statistic compared to preparation rates; meaning how many of our students are prepared to go on and get a job or further their educations and those statistics are absolutely abysmal.

If these regulations and innovations are so good for education and our system, let McIntyre lead the way by example.

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