THE MOST VIEWED ARTICLE OF ALL TIME ON THE District Administration Web site is "The New Literacies," which rocketed to the top spot in a matter of weeks. Published in October 2007, the cover story by Zach Miners and Angela Pascopella explores how young people are immersed in 21st century new literacy technologies of instant messages, blogs and wikis, and what school districts need to do to prepare them for the future. Students average 27 hours a week online at home but spend only 15 minutes per week online at school. This article received more than 40,000 hits.
Virtually every day I check the statistics on the DA Web site to see which features among thousands have interested readers the most. Our staff works hard each month to present the most valuable, up-to-date and usable information for managing K12 school districts, and tracking readership data confi rms those decisions. For example, we expect that features in this issue will also gain wide attention, including our seventh annual national salary survey, an article on the unique power of virtual art exhibits, and a discussion on how administrative unions can help and hurt school districts. We take each click as a vote of confidence.
We also invite you to frequent the rapidly expanding and searchable new products section of our Web site, for information on products in hardware, software, books and related materials, and the Internet, so you can make the best purchasing decisions. You can also share your expertise using our unique "five star rating system," and help us choose the Readers' Choice Top 100 Products in K12 Education. These will be announced in a special "thirteenth" products issue in mid-February, so this is your last call. www.DistrictAdministration.com/Products
Students Rating Teachers
I have always been interested in how individual schools rank according to any criterion, from academics and sports to salaries and student achievement. But while I have personally evaluated hundreds of teachers, students are seldom asked to comment on their educational experiences. I heard every objection over the years, including "We don't have the time" and "Students are not qualified to judge teachers!" Such untapped data could be a potent source of information for improving schools and identifying strong and weak teachers, but even when I shared sample evaluation forms-including at the primary level, where children could circle happy and frowning faces to rate class activities-nothing worked.
All that has now changed thanks to the growing grassroots power of Internet sites where students are invited to rate teachers for the world to see. These include RateMyTeachers.com at the K12 level and RateMyProfessors.com in higher education. This prompted me to write the column "Students Rating Teachers Online" for the Online Edge in the February 2006 issue of DA, which you can read on our Web site. I also posted a related item on the DA blog The Pulse, to see what the response might be. Predictably, many of the replies accused me of dragging the profession through the mud and causing irreparable damage to teachers. Some things never change.
But while ratings by students are commonly dismissed as popularity contests or ways to "get us back," and some districts ban access to rating sites (such as districts listed on the "Wall of Shame" at RateMyTeachers.com), I have found that profiles for teachers I know professionally are quite accurate. Students do indeed know who are their best and worst teachers, and why, and while we can't know whether ratings were done by students or even teachers themselves, they offer insights into classrooms. It is also encouraging to note that the sites are now highlighting the "best teachers and the best schools." How useful are online student evaluations for your school district?
Odvard Egil Dyrli Editor-in-Chief firstname.lastname@example.org