Giving Students a Voice: Student Surveys at Berkeley High
Parents on the Academic Choice Advisory Council Student Voice Subcommittee have been advocating for a nationally validated student survey to be given in every Berkeley High classroom since 2014. Berkeley High is a vibrant, diverse community, but we also face serious challenges such as the achievement gap and a downward trend in math literacy. ACAC parents believe that these issues are best addressed by getting feedback from the true experts on the BHS educational experience: students.
Although many school districts regularly administer surveys to their students, Berkeley High does not. A very few teachers write their own surveys, and surveys have occasionally been given on special topics.
According to the Atlantic article “Why Kids Should Grade Teachers,” student surveys were shown to be “more reliable than any other known measure of teacher performance—including classroom observations and test-score growth.” Studies have also shown that the individual classroom environment is a better predictor of student achievement than class or race.
“Students were better than trained adult observers at evaluating teachers. This wasn’t because they were smarter but because they had months to form an opinion, as opposed to 30 minutes. And there were dozens of them, as opposed to a single principal. Even if one kid had a grudge against a teacher or just blew off the survey, his response alone couldn’t sway the average.”
It is important to note that the quality of the survey matters. Carefully field-tested surveys with professional analysis are far more beneficial than casual, independent questionnaires. A few years ago, BHS parents were invited to take a survey that asked what we think of the quality of teaching at Berkeley High. We were not able to distinguish among the six different classes our students took (some were fabulous, some less so) so that any conglomerate answer was meaningless.
After considerable research by parents experienced with surveys, the Student Voice Subcommittee has suggested that Berkeley High consider two nationally validated open-source school surveys: Panorama and Tripod. We also encourage the School District to focus on student responses to the new Common-Core-aligned Mathematics Vision Program curriculum, which represents a significant departure from traditional methods of teaching math. The ACAC has heard stories from many troubled parents whose students are struggling with the new math curriculum. Perhaps these families are few and the program is working beautifully for everyone else. A professionally designed survey will surely give a useful answer.
If you believe that our students would benefit from the opportunity to give honest feedback to each teacher, please contact the administration of Berkeley High and the Berkeley Unified School District and urge them to support the introduction of student surveys in each classroom. If we all speak up, we can help our students have a voice in their educational experience.
Where can you speak out to support student surveys?
Contact Principal Erin Schweng: Ask her to support nationally validated surveys in every BHS classroom to give all students a greater voice in their education.
Berkeley High School Principal Erin Schweng
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Phone: 644.4803; Fax: 510-548-4221; Snail mail: Principal Erin Schweng, Berkeley High School, 1980 Allston Way, Berkeley, CA 94704
Contact School Board Members: You can reach them by email, during their office hours, or by attending a BUSD School Board meeting. The terms of Ty Alper, Josh Daniels and Karen Hemphill end in 2018. Ask if they are running for re-election and if they pledge to work on bringing surveys to each classroom. Find emails, phone, office hours, and information about upcoming School Board meetings here: http://www.berkeleyschools.net/schoolboard/
Contact the Superintendent and Associate Superintendent: Ask them to support nationally validated surveys in every BHS classroom to give all students a greater voice in their education.
Superintendent Donald Evans
Email: email@example.com; Phone: (via Executive Asst. Jessica Lopez) 510- 510-644-6206; Snail Mail: Dr. Donald Evans, Office of the Superintendent, Berkeley Unified School District, 2020 Bonar Street, Suite 322, Berkeley, CA 94702
Associate Superintendent Pasquale Scuderi
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Phone: (via Executive Asst. Amber Spencer) 510-644-6257; Snail mail: Associate Superintendent Pasquale Scuderi, Office of the Superintendent, BUSD, 2020 Bonar Street, Suite 319, Berkeley, CA 94702