Amanda Ripley

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When Kids Grade Teachers

20th Sep 2012 posted in Education

My new Atlantic story is out today. This spring, I watched as a handful of DC Public Schools surveyed their own students about their teachers in a radical departure from normal procedures. It was a fascinating experiment, and one that reminded me of just how much kids know—if someone bothers to ask.

I hope this new push to use students’ opinions does not get mired in the same toxic muck we have been slinging between unions and reformers over test scores and other kinds of evaluations. Before judging this tool, it’s important to understand what it is—and what it is not. It is not a popularity contest; nor is it perfect. But I spent months studying it—in theory and in practice—and I am inspired. Please check out the story and let me know what you think.

Nubia Baptiste had spent some 665 days at her Washington, D.C., public school by the time she walked into second period on March 27, 2012. She was an authority on McKinley Technology High School. She knew which security guards to befriend and where to hide out to skip class (try the bleachers). She knew which teachers stayed late to write college recommendation letters for students; she knew which ones patrolled the halls like guards in a prison yard, barking at kids to disperse.

If someone had asked, she could have revealed things about her school that no adult could have known. Once Nubia got talking, she had plenty to say. But until that morning of her senior spring, no one had ever asked….