A high five to Hawaii

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I've gone on the record criticizing Hawaii for not living up to its lofty promises in its Race to the Top application. But now I'd like to applaud the Aloha State* for its plan to use student surveys to more accurately measure teacher effectiveness.

As we learned from the Measures of Effective Teaching study, it is possible to structure a student survey so that it isn't a popularity contest -- an understandable concern of many of Hawaii's teachers. Rob Ramsdell, a director of the organization that devised the survey, points out that the questions are what teachers "would actually like to know the answers to, getting at teaching practices that they fully appreciate are important."

Some may wonder whether student feedback can really be fairer than that of principals or master educators. But who's more likely to make an accurate appraisal of a teacher: an outside adult coming into a classroom three or four times over the course of the year, or the 25 or so students (albeit children) observing the teacher 5 hours a day, 180 days a year? My bet is on the latter. After all, not many of us are smarter than a fifth grader.

-- Kate Walsh

*Georgia and Pittsburgh are also piloting the incorporation of student feedback in teacher evaluations.