Teachers mull over survey results

Teachers are assessing the results of course evaluation surveys administered at the end of last semester in December to all students in the Palo Alto Unified School District.

While some teachers have found the results helpful, others find that the results are not useful to improving their classes.

Mimi Park, a Palo Alto High School humanities teacher and a teacher union representative, says that the biggest concern among teachers was how to deal with the more offensive remarks that students gave.

“Speaking as a teacher and a union rep, it would be great if all the students were constructive,” Park said. “We should foster an environment where constructive feedback is appreciated.”

According to Park, the next step for the district is coming soon.

“A new committee will be made that will discuss how the first implementation of the survey went and how to improve for another administration of the survey at the end of the school year.” Park said.

Candace Wang, a Paly junior who is the student representative for the Challenge Success Committee, which administered a separate survey in November that aimed to gather data on reducing school stress, said that the December surveys have had a significant impact for both teachers and the administration.

“They [the survey results] are mostly used for teacher feedback, but administrators use them to look for trends,” Wang said.

According to Wang, if administrators encounter a consistent comment that a teacher grades unfairly or gives feedback too slowly, then they will talk to the teacher individually.

Wang says even a recurring positive comment can be effective.

“Administration might use the positive feedback to collaborate with other departments,” Wang said.

Intro to Analysis and Calculus teacher Sharla May found the student comments especially helpful. However, she did not find the data in which students answered questions based on a scale from one to six.

“The numerical scale data was not helpful,” May said. “All I can use are the student comments.”

She plans to use the student comments to implement small changes.
“I’m adding more resources for each lesson and adjusting how I go over homework problems in class,” May said.

Advanced Placement Psychology teacher Melinda Mattes says she did not find the survey as helpful. She says that administering one survey does not seem as effective as soliciting student feedback continually throughout the year.

“For me, making it a one-size-fits-all set of questions, given just at the end of a semester, doesn’t help me improve my course,” Mattes said. “An end-of-semester question where I ask about just general feelings is not as helpful because it’s not actionable,” Mattes said.