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Teacher finds value in student feedback

    Turkeesa Helton, an 8th grade Language Arts teacher, is working during her planning period at Bellevue Middle School dressed in a plaid shirt, necktie and argyle socks as part of Tacky Day for Homecoming Week.

    Her willingness to participate in the school's activities isn't the only reason students may think she's pretty cool.

    Her Tripod scores say so.

    The Tripod is a survey in which students evaluate their teachers by providing feedback on their classroom experiences according to the 7C's: caring, controlling, clarifying, challenging, captivating, conferring and consolidating. Students evaluate teachers by rating statements, such as "My teacher knows when the class understands and when we do not."

    The scores account for five percent of the new evaluation model, the Teacher Effectiveness Measure (TEM), to rate teachers. Memphis City Schools (MCS) is the only school district in the nation to use student perception as an evaluation component.

    Helton, who's been teaching for 12 years, was one of 120 MCS teachers randomly selected last fall to participate in the Tripod 7C's Professional Development Research Project, which included Tripod training and professional development consultancy.

    "I think students should have a voice in the way they're educated," Helton said. "It could be very beneficial to know the students' perspective and perception of you because it can help you realize what you need to do to possibly improve your class to make it better for them."

    Students district-wide were administered the survey. Teachers were to receive a detailed report on their Tripod scores last week.

    "After getting some scores (from the pilot), I'm comfortable with where I am," said Helton. "I'm tough, but my rapport with the kids is good. They know I respect them, and they respect me."

    Monica Jordan, coordinator of Reflective Practice and Teacher Support, said the Tripod and observation components work together to help enhance teachers' classroom experience.

    "The (Tripod) results enable teachers to focus on his or her craftsmanship. Both sources of data offer an ongoing and fluid dialogue about which to best support teachers' goals and continuous growth towards accelerating student achievement."

    After scores are released, teachers can take advantage of professional development consultancy and opportunities to improve where scores may indicate. Helton attended a differentiated learning conference last summer in Chicago. She said the survey, along with the professional development can help all teachers.

    "That's beneficial, especially to a new teacher," she said, adding, "Not just for new teachers, but for veteran teachers, too.... to know, 'You're doing a good job, but this is an area you can focus on more and try to improve upon.'"

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