WASHINGTON – Despite bans by some school districts, increasing numbers of middle and high school students are logging on to a Web site that lets them turn the tables and grade their teachers, its owners said.
The site that has the potential to boost the egos — or hurt the feelings — of educators has seen the number of Maryland teachers rated grow from 7,949 to 9,112 in the past two weeks, and the number of entries on those teachers go from 40,129 to 53,300.
The increase came after Harford County joined Montgomery and Baltimore counties and a number of individual schools around the state in banning access to www.ratemyteachers.com from school computers.
“We’ve seen our daytime, school-time traffic definitely go down, even though the site is becoming more and more popular,” said Michael Hussey, a former substitute teacher at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School who is a co-founder of the Web site.
Pupils are apparently logging on from home, leaving constructive criticism and nasty comments about their instructors.
“There are hundreds of teachers from Maryland being rated everyday,” Hussey said. “They (students) are logging on for a reason. They care about their education.”
Administrators say they blocked the site because students were wasting valuable instruction time perusing thousands of ratings, and violating computer-use agreements that say pupils can use school computers for educational purposes only.
Students who visit the site can assign teachers a score from 1 through 5 for clarity, helpfulness and easiness. They can also leave comments, some more constructive than others: “Bring two pillows,” one student wrote about a social studies teacher. “One for you, and one for your pillow.”
That sort of critique is troubling to teachers like Robert Fitzpatrick, a technology education teacher at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt.
Although Fitzpatrick has stellar ratings on the site, he said the critiques are worthless because they are anonymous. A student who has a problem with a teacher, for example, could post as many negative evaluations as she wanted.
“They say there’s no way of knowing which student (rated), so it’s going to be an honest evaluation,” Fitzpatrick said. “But it really isn’t. This is as worthless of a poll as when they say so-and-so is going to be president.”
To illustrate his point, Fitzpatrick added a fictional evaluation of a nonexistent teacher to the site.
“Anybody can type anything into it. I think it’s a waste of time and effort. It probably has the potential to be very damaging to people,” he said.
Hussey said that despite an occasional “rotten apple or a disgruntled student who is going to use it as a site to vent,” the majority of the ratings are positive. The site is valuable, he said, because it lets students “speak the truth without any fear.”
Hussey said students should not log on if they should be doing school work, but that singling out his site is unfair because students will find alternative and possibly worse disruptions elsewhere on the Internet.
“It’s a real shame,” he said about Maryland systems that have blocked access. “It’s not a good lesson in the First Amendment.”
He takes pride in the fact that the site’s administrators and 1,600 student volunteers — 40 from Maryland — work to keep the site as accurate as possible.
Jennifer Mangus, a junior at Howard High School in Ellicott City, volunteers to screen posts on the site. She said she logs on daily and deletes fake teachers, curses and outlandish comments, leaving what she hopes is valuable information.
“I plan to get more students and teachers to go to this site by the end of this year, because I really do feel that this helps us students more than people think,” said Mangus, who plans to be a teacher. “I’ve had most of my friends check the site out, and they all love it.”