The Backstory On Those “Student Perception Surveys” – #NCed

Earlier this month, I wrote about another one of NC DPI’s bad ideas — the “student perception survey”.

These are surveys that have already been rolled out to schools to give to students to ‘rate’ their teachers. These surveys start as early as 3rd grade and are as long as many tests given to kids at that age like the MClass or CASE21.

There has been no parental notification of said surveys in my district of Wake County, which apparently have been rolled out using Powerschool. Many elementary parents, myself included, still do not have access to Powerschool.

I emailed Thomas R. Tomberlin who is the Director, Educator Human Capital Policy and Research and involved with these surveys about the funding and the parental notifications.
Here is the reply:

Hello Ms. Dillon,

Thank you for your email regarding student perception surveys. Districts have local policies on how parents opt their children out of participation in non-mandatory activities sponsored by their schools. If your school district elects to participate in the student perception surveys, they would already have a process for parents to opt out of participation on behalf of their children. You can check with your local school district on how to ensure your child does not participate in the process. No student would be required to provide feedback on this anonymous survey.

I hope this helps. Please let me know if you have any other questions.

Thomas R. Tomberlin
Director, Educator Human Capital Policy and Research
Office of the Deputy State Superintendent

Note that he did not answer my question on the funding, so I replied back but as of the publishing of this article I have not received an answer.

Blame Game Begins

Having said all of that, I’ve been told that Dr. Atkinson has blamed the NC State Board of Education for these surveys. She’s apparently claimed they were the board’s idea, not hers and she’s just following orders. This line of defense has become Atkinson’s standard response whenever anything she does is questioned.

I took it upon myself to trace where these surveys came from and they did NOT come from the State Board of Education. Instead, these surveys have been known under a different name in previous discussions and were called  the ‘Panorama Student Survey’.

Please take a moment to read the “Student Survey Instrument” memo from Dr. Atkinson, dated October 15th, 2015.

In fact, in December 2015, the NC Teacher School Newsletter from NC DPI announced the roll out of these surveys (with credit to Dr. Henry) on page four:

NCDPI is excited to announce the implementation of Student Perception Surveys during the 2015-16 school year. In his research, Dr. Gary Henry of Vanderbilt University found that “both teachers and principals want more information on how teachers can improve their practices.” Student Perception Surveys offer teachers unique feedback from students with hours of direct classroom observation.

Information about Student Perception Surveys has already been shared with superintendents and administrators attending fall 2015 Principal READY sessions across the state.

Following is the proposed January survey administration timeline and survey for Semester 1 classes:

– Northeast, North Central and Southeast Regions: Assign Survey Coordinators. Start Jan. 4 and finish Jan. 15

– Northeast, North Central and Southeast Regions: Administer Surveys. Start Jan. 11 and finish Jan. 2

– Piedmont-Triad, Sandhills and Southwest Regions: Assign Survey Coordinators. Start Jan. 18 and finish Jan. 29

– Piedmont-Triad, Sandhills and Southwest Regions: Administer Surveys. Start Jan. 25 and finish Feb. 12

– Northwest and Western Regions: Assign Survey Coordinators. Start Jan. 4 and finish Jan. 15 – Northwest and Western Regions: Administer Surveys. Start Jan. 11 and finish Feb. 12 –

All Regions: Results Reporting. Start Feb. 15 and finish Feb. 26 If you have questions regarding the North Carolina Student Perception Surveys, please send an email to

Follow The Money

These surveys appear to have originated with the Race To The Top Grant and a partnership between DPI, Dr. Gary Henry of Vanderbilt in conjunction with UNC Chapel Hill.  One can view Dr. Henry’s September 2015 presentation to the State Board of Education regarding such survey tools here.

It would appear these surveys might be less about teacher effectiveness and more about collecting more data on students.

About A.P. Dillon

A.P. Dillon is a freelance journalist and is currently writing at The North State Journal. She resides in the Triangle area of North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_
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1 Response to The Backstory On Those “Student Perception Surveys” – #NCed

  1. Elliot Lunsford says:

    Very glad to read that you think these student surveys are a bad idea too. While the surveys are being touted as a way for teachers to receive possibly valuable feedback, I see the surveys as another way to evaluate teachers in an unfair manner. While principals supposedly won’t see the specific results from individual teachers, they will have some kind of ranking of teachers. So then it becomes a popularity contest rather than a meaningful feedback tool.

    Also, I’ve looked at Panaroma’s questions, and I find it interesting which questions the state is not choosing. For instance, students could be asked about their internal motivation for a particular class/subject, but that one isn’t being asked. As a math teacher, some of my students may not rate my classes high simply because they don’t prefer math or school itself, regardless of how good a teacher I am. Additionally, not all students will take this survey. From what I’ve heard, only randomly selected students from my class will evaluate me. What happens then if somehow all the students who are failing and/or have been disciplined by me take the survey for me?

    Aside from that, the troubling thing about student surveys is that students at all levels don’t really know exactly what all teachers do to prepare and teach. They don’t see all the magic or great effort behind the scenes. Oh, and that reminds me, there are very few differences in a survey given to a 3rd grader vs. a 12th grader, in questions and reading ability.

    Given that both you and I as well as many other teachers and administrators think this is a bad idea, the question is who does support this? Hope Street Group has found, in our fall data report, that many teachers are skeptical of student surveys for a variety of valid reasons, but the state seems intent on pushing this through anyway.


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