Improving teacher evaluations

MSA is pushing for necessary improvements to the University’s student evaluations of teachers.

The Minnesota Student Association is pushing to revise teacher evaluation forms at the University of Minnesota.

MSA passed a position statement last week proposing revisions to two questions on the evaluation form, the Minnesota Daily reported.

One of the two questions, “What could you have done to be a better learner?” received justifiable criticism from students and faculty.

It’s important that students take a critical look at their work and study habits throughout the semester. However, it’s debatable whether a question regarding students’ study habits has a place on what the University calls the Student Rating of Teaching. We agree with MSA that the question could use revision to appear less accusatory. Rather, SRT questions should focus on educators.

As in MSA’s position statement, current Minnesota law allows “for the release of information specific to the course” but not “the release of information specific to the professor without approval.”

 We would like to see lawmakers and University leadership change this law. Teacher evaluation information remains private under Minnesota law, and the public can only review it with approval. The state Legislature should revise the law so that willing parties could review a teacher’s entire library of evaluations from his or her time at the University with a request under the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act.

Doing so would allow for more transparency without making access to teacher evaluations easily available to those without a serious reason to look at them.

Teacher evaluations are vital to the University’s ability to remain a quality and competitive institution. We support MSA’s efforts to improve them and hope students and teachers do as well.