Website enables anonymous students to rate teachers on scale

Jonathan McCollough | Staff Writer

Instead of movies or restaurants, students are now rating their teachers.

Rate My Teacher is a website that allows anyone to leave an anonymous review of teachers and professors at schools and colleges all across the country. MHS is on the site with an average of 3.98 stars out of 5 based on over 1,400 teacher ratings.

Just about every teacher at MHS is featured on the site and many have ratings left anonymously by students. AP Economics teacher Steve Prescott discovered the site after his daughter showed it to him. He said that because the population is so small and the comments are anonymous, he doesn’t consider the ratings to be very credible.

“It’s too small of a population for the statistic to have any credibility,” Prescott said. “I think the anonymity is kind of the problem similar to people who put out tweets or use any social media in that there’s no author to it. Without any knowledge of the authorship it also loses some credibility.”

Computer Programming teacher Greg Kummer has also visited the site after some of his students showed it to him. He said that there aren’t enough ratings for it to be a true indicator of his teaching quality, but that he does take into consideration what students are saying about him.

“(It showed me) that you can’t please everybody,” Kummer said. “Some people like the way I teach and some people don’t. It’s nice to feel valued so when you read the things that people said were good things they liked about it you tried to do that more often in your teaching style. With the negative ones you looked at that to see which ones you could actually redefine and do a bit of a better job.”

While there are a lot of genuine comments on Rate My Teacher, it is filled with some less serious stuff as well. Senior Andrew Diaz has left some serious reviews in the past, but is also featured on the site as an economics teacher despite the fact that he’s a student here.

“It started off more serious and it was also sometimes to vent frustration,” Diaz said. “If you had a teacher you didn’t like sometimes you’d leave a review to reflect that instead of actually saying something in person you may regret. What happened was I taught Mr. Prescott’s class for a day because I won a bet with him and someone made me a teacher and left a review so that kind of started the whole non-serious part of it.”

Diaz said that despite the jokes on the site, some of the ratings do have some legitimacy and teachers should take them into consideration.

“I think if teachers are continually getting poor reviews that could be a signifier that maybe something needs to change,” Diaz said. “But sometimes it’s also just people not really wanting to do the work and they’re just lazy and wanted to vent. Then the reviews might just be not true and they’re just saying they don’t like that teacher because they didn’t do well in the course. It’s a little of both and they just have to take it in stride.”

Prescott said that although he doesn’t take the ratings too seriously, some of the comments have caused him to reconsider aspects of his teaching style.

“Any compliments or complaints obviously go to heart,” Prescott said. “One comment did (change my teaching) which I’ve shared with my classes openly. It basically said ‘Mr. Prescott uses somebody else’s powerpoint and talks about the slides and I feel like he would’ve been a great history teacher but not so much with AP Micro.’ From there I decided I have to talk less on the slides so I’m trying to morph my way away from that as I get more and more familiar with it.”

Prescott said that while he has made some slight changes to the way he teaches, the ratings don’t really have much of a long term impact due to the anonymity of the comments.

“Might it pump the ego up for a short time? Yes,” Prescott said. “Does it have long term implications for teachers about how they might change their strategies? I think it can if there is a truism on it that the teacher recognizes it can make a difference. But not long term and deep seated changes from it. I certainly don’t think that evaluation of teachers should be based on anonymous posts by someone who could be vindictive or unnecessarily complimentary for some reason.”

While Kummer said he liked the idea of Rate My Teacher, he said that implementing something similar in his classes like a survey would be unnecessary.

“I can’t see myself ever giving out a survey to see what kids would like and dislike but I do like to to check out rate my teacher and see what people said,” Kummer said. “I think it’s a good idea but I’m the education professional so it’s nice to understand the opinion of my students but I should understand what I’m doing after 33 years of teaching.”

World History and AP Human Geography teacher Caryn Jenkins said that if students have a problem with a teacher, there are better ways to address it than leaving an anonymous comment on the  site.

“There are more productive ways to (critique a teacher),” Jenkins said. “If you have an issue with the way an assignment was graded or an issue was addressed, the best way to handle that is with the teacher directly. Or if you don’t feel comfortable talking to them then email them so that they can approach you. I don’t think Rate My Teacher is the right tool for the audience.”

There has not been any real impact from this site with regard to teachers being punished due to overwhelmingly low ratings. Kummer said that he could see the ratings having an impact eventually, but that popularity matters less than a teacher’s ability to teach.

“If it’s out there, people are going read it, if people are gonna read it there’s gonna be a perception, and usually perception becomes reality,” Kummer said. “I think it’s a nice tool to use because I think some teachers do need to be told what they’re doing right and what they’re doing wrong. At the end of the day it’s not a popularity contest. It’s about teaching the material the way it’s suppose to be taught.”

jmccollough.chronicle@gmail.com