Should parents have a say in the evaluation of their child’s teacher?

My first inclination, and of most teachers I’ve discussed this with, is “no.” We’ve focused so much on the need to have effective evaluations by better-trained evaluators that trusting part of our evaluation to people that only see a portion of what we do seems like a step in the wrong direction.

But the Washington State Legislature believes there is some role for parents in the teacher evaluation system. Senate Bill 6696, which mandates a revised principal and teacher evaluation system by 2013-14, states that:

“The superintendent of public instruction, in collaboration with state associations representing teachers, principals, administrators, and parents, shall create models for implementing the evaluation system criteria…”

The state superintendent’s July report to the legislature goes further by declaring that:

“School districts must be able to demonstrate that teachers, principals, parents, and others were involved in the decision-making process for the new evaluation system within the school district.”

My thinking on this issue changed somewhat as Washington New Millennium Initiative wrote our recent report “How Better Teacher & Student Assessment Can Power Up Learning.”  Ultimately, we decided that in order to truly evaluate all the facets of what goes into being a good teacher an evaluation system must include more than just a couple of observations by a principal. We lay out several options in the report (see pages 14 to 16) and include ‘parent evaluation’ as one possibility.

But what we didn’t do in the report was define just how that parent evaluation might work. Nor did we believe that parent evaluation would be a good fit in every school or district (thus the term ‘options’).

So what should that parent involvement look like? How direct or indirect can or should it be? What experiences do people have in other states? What do parents think?

I intend to explore these questions this year as part of my involvement in Washington NMI, and I look forward to finding out what teachers and parents in my region have to say. But I suspect that others have trod this path before and I’d like to learn from what others have to offer. Let me know, and I’ll let you know how the conversation develops here in Washington State.

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