Students offer thoughts on accountability

BANGOR — Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen met with eight students at Bangor High School on Dec. 8 to ask their thoughts on what makes for an effective school, and what makes for an effective teacher.

Commissioner Bowen poses with Brewer High School students Erica Davis and Travis Langtin after discussing school accountability with them and other students on Dec. 8 in Bangor.
Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen poses with Brewer High School students Erica Davis and Travis Langtin on Dec. 8 in Bangor.

The group consisted of seven seniors and one junior with a variety of post-secondary plans. Six were Bangor High School students; two were Brewer High School students. Of the eight students, three take classes at United Technologies Center, the career and technical education center in Bangor. Below is a summary of their comments.

Student thoughts on measures of an effective school

  • Extracurricular involvement.
  • Attendance rates, though a school can’t be held entirely accountable for this.
  • Student survey data. Suggestions for questions: “Are you bored at school?” “Do staff members hold academics in high regard?”
  • Don’t use discipline/suspension data: Schools have only a limited impact on students’ behavior.
  • Don’t hold an individual school accountable for students who are highly transient; perhaps set a minimum length of enrollment before a student figures into accountability measures.
  • Dropout rates.
  • Percentage of kids who continue on to college, employment, other post-secondary training, military. Consider remediation rates – do many students need to take remedial classes in college?
  • Any way to measure the general “spirit” or the “feel” in a particular school?
  • Any way to measure general perception of student engagement? During observer walkthroughs, are kids sleeping in class? Do they seem engaged?

Student thoughts on measures of an effective teacher

  • Student achievement should be included as a measure of teacher effectiveness.
  • “Walkthroughs” are preferable to planned observations: Teachers and students act differently when principal is in the room, and even when an unknown guest (say, a trained evaluator) is in the room.
  • Is there some way to find a balance between student assessment results and student survey data?
  • Students say they think their classmates would take a student survey seriously if they knew the stakes (that teacher performance could be judged in part on the results).
  • Identify trends in survey data rather than individual comments by a student who’s not taking the survey seriously.
  • Students say they and their classmates can likely distinguish the “cool” teacher everybody likes from the teacher who’s really effective, from whom students learn a lot.
  • Student survey should be given securely online and not in the presence of teachers and administrators.

Have your say

  • Visit Maine DOE’s ESEA Flexibility Web Page. Stay on top of developments as Maine DOE crafts the state’s request to the federal government for ESEA flexibility. Learn about opportunities to offer your input.
  • Take the Survey. This 10-question survey asks for your thoughts on measuring school and teacher effectiveness, rewarding school success and helping schools improve. (Note, added Dec. 12: Survey closes Dec. 23 at 5 p.m.)
  • Join the Discussion. Visit the Maine DOE Newsroom to share your thoughts in an ongoing online discussion about a new accountability and recognition system for the state’s schools.
  • Stay Informed. Receive the weekly Commissioner’s Update from the Department of Education to stay on top of news on ESEA flexibility and other topics in Maine education.

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