Smiley faces on new evals: Kids will mark them but will teachers have them?

newsurveysampleI just met with a team from the Georgia Department of Education about its work on using its Race to the Top monies to develop a teacher and leader evaluation tool that incorporates many moving parts, including two 30-minute principal observations, student performance as measured by standardized test scores where there are such scores,  other measures in courses without tests, such as middle school chorus and first grade reading, documentation of strong teaching practices, including student work, planning materials and data analysis, and student surveys.

I am going to write about this at length shortly, but wanted to share one slide from the DOE presentation as I think it is a novel idea — asking  students even in kindergarten to review their teachers. Students from kindergarten through 12th grade would be surveyed once a year electronically under the pilot.

While the youngest students would circle one of three faces — the best rating being the smiling face — older students would rate teachers on a 1 to 5 agree/disagree scale. A sample statement that older students would be given:  “My teacher has deep knowledge about the subject.” (The slide here shows both survey question types.)

Teresa MacCartney, DOE Race to the Top Director Deputy, said, “I want to stress with the kindergarten to 2nd grade survey that we are pushing the bar, but given that we are piloting this, we thought we could see what we could learn from it.”

“It may or may not fly depending on what we learn,” said Martha Ann Todd of DOE’s Teacher and Leader Effectiveness Division.

I want to emphasize that DOE team said the surveys would be a very small part of the teacher evaluation process, which will begin as a pilot in January in the 26 Race to the Top districts.

In a major change, the new evaluations will only be piloted among 10 percent of the teachers in those districts or 4,700 teachers, chosen at random. The task of piloting the new tool for all 47,000 teachers in those districts was too daunting.

Also, some districts will pilot the teacher/leader evaluation system in a single school that represents 10 percent of its work  force, while others will pilot it in all their schools but only for a handful of teachers who collectively add up to 10 percent.

I was impressed with the efforts of DOE to create a fair tool, and the team includes former Marietta Middle School language arts teacher Kathie Wood, who is a strong voice for the teacher perspective. (When I asked her what she thought about releasing the teacher evaluation “grades” to parents, she said, “I think it would be horrible.” Her DOE colleagues agreed and that is not in the game plan, but I would not rule out the Legislature getting into that issue someday.)

The DOE team is attempting to be respectful of teachers and the profession, and is focused on creating ways to improve teachers rather than run them off. (Although some will be run off.)

If I were a teacher, I would have more confidence that the state’s intentions are good, but I would also have some concerns about the RTTT timetable and whether these evaluation tools will have enough time to evolve before they are unleashed on the state as a whole. (That would take legislation, but I have no doubt that legislation will be forthcoming mandating statewide evaluations that consider student performance.)

Check back later as I am about to interview the new Milken teacher from Georgia. I spent a half day in Shekema Silveri’s class at Mount Zion High School, but now we are going to talk about her approach.

–from Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

133 comments Add your comment


November 9th, 2011
3:37 pm

Will the student evaluation results be cross-checked with the administrator evaluations?


November 9th, 2011
3:39 pm

Can’t wait ?


November 9th, 2011
3:52 pm

You have got to be kidding! That’sd just what we need to do – give the students more power over the teachers. NOT!!!


November 9th, 2011
3:59 pm

How demeaning.


November 9th, 2011
4:25 pm

Wow, so now it’s demeaning to be evaluated by the people you’re charged with serving. SMH at adults being afraid of accountability from the children to whom they owe a duty.


November 9th, 2011
4:29 pm

Sad….and pathetic….nothing these people are doing is helping to make the kids any smarter.


November 9th, 2011
4:30 pm

“Some will be run off???” Really?? Wait till you see how many! “Only a small part of teacher evaluations”? Who are they kidding? Teacher evaluation are totally subjective now. You think this will be only a “small part” in this climate of appease the parents and kids, and run off the ones the administrators don’t like or don’t want to support?

All this does is give teachers even less authority over the classroom, and kids more power to get rid of teachers they don’t like. I will be gone for sure because I am a tough no nonsense teacher whom parents, teachers, and some administrators think is “too hard” and “too strict”.

Teachers MUST be militant in fighting this. I, for one, will NEVER, even if I go to jail, sign an evaluation on which student evaluation is configured in. If all teachers do this we would stop it. But some won’t, so teaching as we know it will be dead. The inmates will truly be running the asylum.


November 9th, 2011
4:31 pm

How about one of those smiley face evals for this blog?


November 9th, 2011
4:32 pm

It WILL indeed be demeaning when evals from kids include those who will think it’s fun to give a poor evaluation to “get the teacher in trouble,” or those who don’t like the teacher because he/she won’t allow the student to sit there and disrupt the class. It has nothing at all to do with teachers being afraid of accountability. It has everything to do with a lack of respect for the teaching profession from parents, students, legislators. That’s what I “smh” at.

HS Public Teacher

November 9th, 2011
4:33 pm

As a highly successful teacher by ANY measure, I am very insulted by Georgia, Race to the Top, and all of the very demeaning ways the public in Georgia perceive teachers.

As such, I have plans to leave this State. I must teach one more year after this year due to repayment of HOPE. After that, I am already making plans to get the heck out of this sad State.

I was born and raised here. But, the leadership in this State along with the warped views from the public has made my profession impossible.

What do I take with me when I leave? Well, I have taught:
1. Honors Biology – my students have scored in the top 95% in GA and have a 85% rating of “exceeds expectations.
2. Honors Chemistry
3. College Prep Phyiscs
4. AP Phyiscs B – my students have a 90% pass rate on the AP exam
5. AP Physics C – my students have a 95% pass rate on the AP exam

So, for those of you that will respond, “we don’t want you anyway,” that is fine with me. I am sure that another State will welcome my skills and appreciate me for the professional that I am!

Hey Teacher

November 9th, 2011
4:34 pm

I know several teachers who have been badly burned by rate-your-teacher dot com — I don’t see how this would be any different.

When I was in high school, my favorite teachers were not the ones who necessarily taught me anything — I’m afraid that some of our best instructors would get the worst evaluations.


November 9th, 2011
4:36 pm


An administrator with good judgment will be able to discern those student evaluations that are based on a poor motive. If your teaching is up to snuff, it will speak for itself.

Maureen Downey

November 9th, 2011
4:46 pm

@Hey, The state will statistically sift through student responses to deal with that, and they will reconcile the surveys with other info on the teacher. I don’t think the surveys will endanger teachers. The DOE folks are aware of all the pitfalls, and the fact that student responses are often influenced by the day, by what’s been happening in the class, by factors not even related to the teacher.

Good Mother

November 9th, 2011
4:54 pm

What type of evaluation do teachers think IS fair and accurate?

I often hear the criteria for this or that evaluation is unfair according to teachers but of course every worker must be evaluated.

We all have vivid memories of our own “good teacher” and our own “bad teacher.”

That can be measured.

In business we measure an employee from all criteria — the employees rate their employers and vice versa. Employees are also evaluated by their customers and peers. It’s called a 360 appraisal. It isn’t new.


November 9th, 2011
5:07 pm

Has anyone considered the possibility that students, particularly middle and high school students, will become more accountable for their own education if they are sent the message that they have a voice in their schools? Or, is it too difficult to weigh the student perspective because we’re busy trying to make adults feel comfortable and secure in their jobs?

HS Public Teacher

November 9th, 2011
5:10 pm

@Maureen – Might you be a tad naive? Hasn’t the DOE folks messed up enough in the past? Would YOU place your career and paycheck in THEIR hands?

Besides, even if they were “perfect”, you are ignoring the fact that DOING this (asking kids their opinion) is very demeaning to professional adult teachers.


November 9th, 2011
5:11 pm

Come on people. Everyone knows that a frown is just a smile turned upside down. I think someone is pulling on your foot!


I love teaching. I hate what it is becoming...

November 9th, 2011
5:11 pm

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. It seems obvious that the folks coming up with these ideas have never worked closely with children. There are so many ways in which these types rating could be misused – intentionally or not.

For example, I asked my students to rate a new flexible grouping math program we are running at my school. One of the questions was similar to “My teacher knows a lot about what she is teaching.” Several students chose “No” as a response. I was a bit surprised, as I had though the class was going very well. The students seemed happy, and I felt we were better meeting their individual needs. So I met with each child one on one, to see why they felt I did not know what I was doing. Each one had the exact same reason for their answer. ONE TIME I had made a mistake while doing a calculation on the board. It was a simple mistake, but I was tired and not concentrating and made an error. It was unusually for me to do so, and BECAUSE it was unusual, it stuck in the children’s minds. The hundreds of correct calculations were ignored in favor of the one that stood out because it was an unusual occurance. This is very typical of children. Now, in being able to talk to the children, it was easy to help them see that one mistake did not really mean I was incompetant, but what if this had been an “offical” evaluation? I would have been declared a “bad teacher” by several of my students, based upon the fact I made a single mistake one day. They would not really have understood the ramifications of their responses. Young children don’t think like adults.

I don’t even want to contemplate what older children could do with a system like this. Just reading RATE MY TEACHER makes it clear that such “reports” are highly subjective, and vary a great deal even when rating the same teacher.

HS Public Teacher

November 9th, 2011
5:12 pm

@Emily – Huh? How in the world would getting kids to take a survey regarding their opinion about their teachers make them in any way more responsible for their education?????? Do you think that by taking this survey, they will suddenly actually DO their homework? Or, maybe they will actually stupid for a test?

Give me a break!

Atlanta mom

November 9th, 2011
5:14 pm

“While the youngest students would circle one of three faces”
They will need to blacken the correct circle. Otherwise they will get confused on the CRCT.


November 9th, 2011
5:15 pm


Exactly, how would these administrators discern the poorly motivated evaluations? Will students be signing their names?

Does anyone else think that the customer service approach to grading-in which supposed effort is most important-will influence these evaluations?

Many students realize only when they get to college how instrumental those “hard” or “difficult” teachers were. However, when students are trying to manage rigorous courses, extra-curricular activities, and busy social lives, they may find it hard to provide a dispassionate evaluation.

Maureen Downey

November 9th, 2011
5:15 pm

@HS Public Teacher, I have concerns about this system, but they are not over the student survey. My concerns:
1. Principals will not have the time to do the required and pivotal observations and then score the teachers on the mandated areas. The observations will become a chore that everyone hates and fails to take seriously.
2. The criteria to judge non core teachers will be wobbly and inconsistent, and probably not really tell anybody much.
3. We don’t let this pilot go long enough to see if the teachers rated at either extreme shift dramatically over time, as they did in one study in Florida.


November 9th, 2011
5:18 pm

@ HS Public Teacher. Let me break down:

1. Isn’t it true that SOME students are unmotivated to do well in school?
2. Isn’t it true that SOME students feel that there are negative aspects of their educational experience that they are powerless to change?
3. Isn’t it true that giving SOME previously disaffected and disenfranchised students some authority over their negative school experiences MAY change their attitude towards schooling?

I’m not speaking in absolutes for a reason. The teacher survey may not help every student. Many will, undoubtedly, blow it off. But, if it makes SOME children more of a stakeholder in their education, then it’s worth the temporary discomfort to teachers (especially with the safeguards that will be put in place by the DOE).

After all, the schools are not about you, boo.

Lisa B.

November 9th, 2011
5:23 pm

Hmmm. My favorite teacher in high school was an amazing-looking coach. We spent time making signs, posters, goodie bags for athletes, etc. I can’t remember what subject he taught, but his eyes were AMAZING.

My most hated teacher was an extremely critical, all-business language arts teachers. She made us all redo everything millions of times, would never just let us read a book with analyzing every component, and she never, ever let us work on anything fun.

After I tested out of two college English classes, and aced three others, my feelings about that high school language arts teacher changed.

I can’t even remember the coach’s name. I am horrified at the thought that if I were a high school student today I could possibly be trusted to evaluate teachers.

Lisa B.

November 9th, 2011
5:24 pm

Oops- I meant “read a book WITHOUT analyzing….”


November 9th, 2011
5:31 pm

Okay, my students are going to rate whether I have knowledge of the content. I’m sure the poor ratings are on the way. One of my most effective teaching tools with my students (Kindergarteners) is to make a mistake or tell them I don’t remember how to do something. They immediately become engrossed in helping me correct the mistake or re-learn what I’ve forgotten. While my students are helping me, the one or two students who make that particular error again and again always seem to “get it”.

Anyone who thinks it’s a good idea to ask young children to rate their teachers hasn’t spent enough time around young children. They truly don’t have the meta-cognitive skills necessary to understand if a teacher is helping them learn or not. If they know something today, then in their mind they’ve always known it. One of my best moments each year is when I let my students see the portfolio I’ve kept with some of their work from the year. The students try to throw the early work away, insisting that it’s not theirs. They will argue endlessly that “I know how to write my name, this person didn’t even make the J right.”

If someone truly wants to evaluate my teaching, spend a couple of hours with me in the classroom, watch what I do for an extended period of time. THEN sit down with me and ask me why I taught the lessons the way I did and look over my students’ work with me. If you insist on including test scores, fine, I’ve got several available that demonstrate how much my students have learned since they’ve been with me this year. None of it is a standardized test or a fill in the bubble test, but if someone takes the time to review it all, it’s clear my students are learning.

Oops, that’s the problem. Good teacher evaluations take time, lots and lots of time. All these people screaming about accountability want a checklist that they can walk in and complete in 10 minutes,


November 9th, 2011
5:33 pm

What will DOE come up with next? Kids who don’t like school or the teacher, who are making bad grades or have bad behavior, will certainly give the teacher a bad rating! Ever heard of grudges? This is not a novel idea–this is disturbing! This asks way too much of teachers for accountability purposes. This whole discussion on teacher quality has reached a level of paranoia! Ms. Downey, please leave well enough alone and find something else to write about.


November 9th, 2011
5:37 pm

When will teachers be able to evaluate administrators (school level and district level)? There are so many support staff members charged with helping teachers to improve student achievement; however, teachers (at least in APS) are not allowed to give feedback on the effectiveness, or lack of, help. I left the corporate world to become a teacher. I had become accustomed to 360 evaluations. The feedback seems aimed at trying to play gotcha with teachers rather than helping teachers to improve. At the AJC panel discussion, the Georgia Teacher of the Year expressed this sentiment when he stated his first principal did not use his first observation as a reason to give him NIs (Needs Improvement) and run him out the profession but to develop him.

old teacher

November 9th, 2011
5:37 pm

I wonder how they will rate me if I give them detention?


November 9th, 2011
5:43 pm


You sound like a dedicated teacher whose students are lucky to have you. I appreciate you offering concrete examples of effective teacher evaluations. My frustration with so many of the posters here is that they are quick to point out why teacher evaluations don’t work.

I’m sure your students have plenty of smiley faces for you.

Inman Park Boy

November 9th, 2011
5:44 pm

If the surveys would not “endnger” teachers, what are they for in the first place? The whole idea is ludicrous.

Maureen Downey

November 9th, 2011
5:51 pm

@Inman, I think they are to provide some “customer” feedback, but I think the bulk of the evaluations will be student test data, observations and best practices documentation. Those will be the more decisive factors.

Kindergarten Teacher

November 9th, 2011
5:57 pm

I am laughing at this. Several of my students will circle all three faces. Sorry- they just do not circle one. Race to the TOP has put more strains on teachers and education in the state of GA. The money we are receiving has soooooooooooooooooo many strings attached.


November 9th, 2011
6:00 pm

Give all the students some candy or have a party the day of the survey. Problem solved. That’s literally how easily manipulated such surveys will be.

Maureen Downey

November 9th, 2011
6:01 pm

@Kindergarten teacher, I thought the same thing, but I assume that they will be carefully instructed — and the survey administration will be overseen by teachers from others classes. Not sure how much worth the state will get out kindergarten reviews.


November 9th, 2011
6:20 pm

When are we as teachers going to get the opportunity to evaluate these sorry behind parents, from whom all of these student problems in education stem?


November 9th, 2011
6:56 pm

It seems that all the so called professional teachers care about is getting a good evalutation and their raise. It sounds really pitiful.


November 9th, 2011
7:03 pm


Never, though I wish you could. You are charged with educating all the children, remember? Not just the ones from supportive ones.

Who is John Galt?

November 9th, 2011
7:07 pm

“The DOE folks are aware of all the pitfalls, and the fact that student responses are often influenced by the day, by what’s been happening in the class, by factors not even related to the teacher.” …BUT THEY ARE GOING TO DO IT ANYWAY. Student achievement would improve if the millions of dollars spent on the thousands of state and county bureaucrats were distributed as close to the student as possible….in other words, in the classroom. Smaller classrooms and more teachers are the best ways to improve learning.

Progressive Humanist

November 9th, 2011
7:11 pm

The data would be meaningless- just more wasted time and money. There is a very low correlation between how much a student learns in a class and their disposition towards how much they like the class or the teacher. A Harvard study from a couple years ago showed that students reported the most learning in the classes that they had to write the most in, and these were not the classes they liked the most or taught by the teachers they liked the most. Students often don’t like the courses they have to work the hardest in, and by extension the teacher, but they often learn the most in those classes.

The data may make for some interesting correlational research years from now (or become an EdD dissertation for a county office administrator who will make his staff write it all up). But it’s not going to yield any information of any use to current public education, and the money used for it could probably hire quite a few extra teachers for the year.

Concerned Parent

November 9th, 2011
7:15 pm

I can only imagine the frustration HS Teacher feels, and I tip my hat to professionals like her. But this issue is not a personal attack instituted by a non-supportive populace. Job evaluations are the norm in most jobs, and college courses have student evaluations. In some professional licensing courses for adults, instructor evaluations are mandatory by the licensing body.

If a teacher, such as HS Teacher, is doing exemplary work, then I don’t see an evaluation as demeaning. How else is this state going to identify teachers who are woefully substandard?

(I’m not just talking about teachers who can’t pass the basic skills test – that’s another issue – but the ones who are “phoning it in” or unprepared, and every organization has some workers like that.)


November 9th, 2011
7:18 pm

No, Sam. The problem is we are already held more accountable for outcomes than any of the other stakeholders involved. Adding a layer of student surveys will tell nothing of value. Kids don’t evaluate well who they learn the most from; they evaluate well those they like the best. Some of the coolest parents out there make the worst parents….. They might be loved by all the kids around, but that doesn’t mean they produce responsible, well adjusted, productive adults.


November 9th, 2011
7:26 pm

Since math and science are the hardest subjects for U.S. students (judging by our lack of science and math achievement and math and science majors in college), does anyone think the difficulties our students have inthese subjects might influence their viewpoints? Just what we need – more pressure on math and science teachers – the ones we have such a hard time getting as teachers and the very areas the U.S. is so behind in.


November 9th, 2011
7:27 pm

Another reason to make me glad I’m retired.


November 9th, 2011
7:41 pm

As a teacher, I guess I’ll need to keep some treats on my desk–just in case!!!! LOL!

Former Teacher

November 9th, 2011
7:41 pm

I don’t know if this particular evaluation tool is well crafted or not, but as a former teacher, I wouldn’t object to students evaluating teachers as one prong of a comprehensive evaluation. When I taught, everyone knew perfectly well who the lousy teachers and highly effective teachers were. In my experience, the overall student sentiment matched the overall teacher sentiment. Check out and similar sites. Kids are already doing this on an informal level.

Former Teacher

November 9th, 2011
7:46 pm

I forgot to point that that I’m a former high school teacher, and I’m speaking from that perspective and about that age group.


November 9th, 2011
7:48 pm

Someone, please…My students are now expert in a subject to tell whether or not *I* know content?? Really?

I am one of the 70% who do not have test scores tied to my classes. I am one of those who may have to have 40% of my annual eval based on my students’ and their parents’ opinions. OPINIONS.

When my first – fifth graders know more about the curriculum than I do, they will be qualified to answer whether or not I “know a lot about what I am teaching.”

Junk. And more junk. Rather than wait until the bugs were fixed, GA jumped in..and I am in one of the RTTT counties that has NO idea how to implement any of this!

My formerly happy school is one big, tension-filled brick building. NO ONE smiles anymore. Not even our administrator.


November 9th, 2011
7:53 pm

I have two masters degrees and am working on my Ph.D.

Even as late in education as a masters program, I can recall a professor I had for a class I thought I hated. I wrote a harsh evaluation of her, dissecting her methodology, her ideological stance, and her grading.

Five years later, I realize that her class is the one that prepared me for what I’m doing now. It was in her class that I was introduced to certain authors who are mainstays of my studies as well as pedagogical concepts that continue to help me in the collegiate classroom as an instructor.

Similarly, I was not fond of my high school AP History teacher. I hated the subject and found her boring. However, that was the first class where I learned the difference between primary and secondary sources, and I was taught to go to primary sources and study them carefully for clues about what was actually happening at pivotal moments in American history. It took at least a decade for me to realize what a treasure that class actually was.

Leaving aside the problematic reversal of most of educational history to make the student the “customer” (as opposed to someone who is privileged to be learning), asking students to evaluate instructors has this issue. Some classes and teachers cannot be fairly evaluated in the moment. The more difficult the course and teacher, the more true this is.

I tend to get very high course evals from students–and sometimes I worry that this is an indication that I’m teaching too much to what students want and not what they need.


November 9th, 2011
8:07 pm

Yup; I’m a HS teacher. Unlike most of my colleagues here, I don’t have an issue with my “customers” providing feedback on my performance, subject-matter knowledge etc.