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Letters                                                                 Page 4

 

Reader Reply

Custom Student Surveys
Re Scott LaFee's article, "Students Evaluating Teachers" (March 2014), which describes how school systems are using student surveys to both evaluate and provide feedback to teachers.

In the article, researcher Ron Ferguson contends “it takes years to develop a really effective survey" and that “it’s a lot more complicated than it looks." While it is easy to underestimate the steps required to develop and validate a high-quality survey, the process is not out of reach for school districts and states to complete within a realistic time frame. Ferguson characterizes the process as intimidating and overwhelming, yet this belief creates a dependence on using off-the-shelf products.

In contrast, our organization has guided numerous districts, states and teachers' unions over several years through the development of student surveys. This process yields a valid and reliable survey of teacher practice that aligns with local teaching standards and incorporates feedback from teachers and students. Because engaging teachers is a major challenge with student surveys, the importance of collaborating with stakeholders on the design cannot be underestimated. Further, the school district holds complete rights to a locally developed survey.

At a time of funding cuts and budget constraints, paying for an external product year after year is not sustainable in most communities. I would encourage school leaders to explore the manageable process of developing their own survey for incorporate student feedback.

RYAN BALCH
Founder,
My Student Survey,
Baltimore, Md.

 

Recognition Overlooked
I was pleased to see all the positive attention in your magazine’s March issue given to using student feedback in teacher evaluation.

However, I was rather disappointed that none of the articles mentioned Youth on Board’s work with the Boston Public Schools with the Boston Student Advisory Council. Members of the latter began this campaign in Boston, and more than seven years later, we are ensuring proper evaluation that includes student voices in the implementation. Our students have travelled the country to work with other young people to start their own campaigns.

Youth on Board is providing technical assistance today to New York City, Jackson Miss., and Providence, R.I., as these sites incorporate student input in their schools and districts. Our resources can be found at www.studentvoicematters.org.

RACHEL GUNTHER
Associate Director,
Youth on Board,
Boston, Mass.

 

Courageous Conversing
Steven Enoch delivered great advice in a nutshell in his Board-Savvy Superintendent column (“Conversing Courageously With Your Board”) in your December 2013 issue.

RICH MERLO
Superintendent,
Corcoran Joint Unified Schools,
Corcoran, Calif.

 

Story Telling’s Value
In his Executive Perspective column “Telling Our Stories Through Social Media” (February 2014), Daniel Domenech refers to social networking as a tool to fight back against the outside forces that are trying to make public education look bad. He hit the nail on the head. Fighting the battle for kids is worth it.

His column got me, a recently retired superintendent, all fired up again, and I am having a hard time sitting in my desk chair just thinking about how I can still impact decisions that make life better for students. It may be time for me to get back into the game! While I really like teaching graduate students, I miss the K-12 action.

As they say, “Once a superintendent, always a superintendent.”

JOSEPH J. GERTSEMA
Retired Superintendent,
Sioux Falls, S.D.

 

In his column on story telling through social media, AASA Executive Director Daniel Domenech mentions that students at Thomas Jefferson High School in Fairfax County, Va., built and launched a satellite into orbit, and he says the local news media did not see fit to cover the subject. I find that hard to believe, but these days much is hard to believe.

As the coordinator of school community relations (really a one-person PR office) in Fairfax County a generation ago, I had fine relations with the media, so that story would have been on the front page of one of the local newspapers and on the radio.

When I was a contributor to the Lansing State Journal in Michigan, I learned about a group of high school students in a nearby school district who were going to launch a rocket that would travel several thousand feet high -- this was way before our military was sending rockets into the stratosphere. I went to the launch site at daybreak and shot a roll of film that morning of the youngsters, whose efforts were successful. I drove to the office of the newspaper early that Saturday morning, and the editor put several photos and my account of the activity on the front page of that same day's newspaper.

ALBERT E. HOLLIDAY
Former publisher,
Journal of School Public Relations
Camp Hill, Pa.

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School Administrator
1615 Duke St.
Alexandria, VA 22314
Fax: 703-841-1543
E-mail: 
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