More Students Grading Their Teachers Online
> 8/23/2006 9:57:06 AM

Students at elite universities have, for several years, been visiting websites that provide anonymous reviews of various professors. On sites like Columbia University's CULPA, established in 1997, students can browse through candid, informal appraisals of nearly every class and teacher associated with the school. In recent years, the phenomenon has begun to spread across the American education system, finding its way into public and private schools nationwide. The most popular of such sites,, includes nearly ten million rankings by both kids and parents, covering more than fifty thousand American schools from kindergarten to twelfth grade. Related site focuses on colleges and graduate programs.

While such forums certainly offer many students the opportunity to learn more about upcoming classes or compare opinions on current teachers, critics argue that they are often overstuffed, devisive and irrelevant. Reviews can be inflammatory or insulting to their subjects, and students sometimes rate professors based on differences in personality or perceived levels of "hotness." A recent article in the Houston Chronicle focuses on some of the shortcomings of this system, with more than one teacher arguing that it undermines the job performed by the educators and administrators in question. Teachers may find themselves reading their own profiles, and some students argue that these criticisms may lead them to revise their failing methods. It's a good idea, but many of these sites are too disorganized and open-ended to work effectively. Like most online phenomena, this movement has undeniable potential but often devolves into literal adolescent name calling. Still, one can find small pleasure in reading a glowing review of his or her aging seventh-grade gym teacher.

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