College education is different in many ways from K-12 education. Unlike high school or elementary teachers, for instance, professors actually know what they are talking about. Another difference: America’s colleges are the best in the world, while its high schools are quite mediocre.
There are many reasons why this is so. One reason is that the average college student pays several thousand dollars for his or her education, funding the average public high school can only dream of. Another one is that American society respects college professors, but not high school teachers so much.
Nevertheless, there is at least one thing colleges undeniably do better than high schools – and which high schools can readily adopt. This is the professor evaluation. At the end of every class, college professors hand out anonymous evaluations for students to fill out. College professors then get an unbiased view of what students think of them, and what their weaknesses are.
For some strange reason, high schools have never implemented this procedure. Most probably nobody has thought of it before.
They should. Nowadays education reformers are quite passionate about improving teacher performance. What better way to do so than by asking the students themselves?
For this reason, however, teacher unions may be resistant to the idea; they may argue that high school students are not mature enough to effectively evaluate a teacher. There is also a simple way to address this opposition: keep teacher evaluations for teacher’s eyes only. This does little to dilute the effectiveness of this reform, because teacher evaluations have their greatest effect on the teachers themselves. It also gets rid of the fear that bad evaluations may lead to teachers being fired.
Teachers truly do care about their job, and they often strive to improve themselves. Yet often they are groping in the dark. A teacher may hear rumors that he or she is boring or too political, but students are naturally reluctant to say this to his or her face. Anonymous student evaluations enable teachers to actually find out what they’re doing right and wrong. Indeed, they probably are the most effective way of doing this.
Teacher evaluations are simple, extremely effective, and cost practically no money. There’s no magic cure to the ailments that assail America’s high schools, but instituting teacher evaluations may come the closest that there is to one.