In an effort to improve a struggling education system, South Carolina officials are looking at those who lead the state’s schools.
Regulation 4364, currently in both House and Senate committees, would grade the state’s 1,150 school principals more often. South Carolina’s deputy superintendent for educator quality Mark Bounds says state officials want to make sure principals are well-suited in their jobs.
The most important person to a student’s education and student learning is the teacher. But, right behind that is the principal. The principal establishes the culture for learning and… really the standards that every child can learn inside that school.
Right now, principals are evaluated every three years under nine different benchmarks (vision, instructional leadership, effective management, school climate, school/community relations, ethical behavior, interpersonal skills, staff development, and personal development). Under the new proposal, those evaluations would instead occur every two years.
The results would now be turned over to the state Education Department, as well. Bounds said districts would still have the power to hire and fire principals, but state officials want to see the scores to determine if any patterns develop in terms of strengths and weaknesses.
Another section of the proposal would allow someone without an education degree to become a principal, as long as they work in a school for three years and pass an exam. Bounds said it is intended as a way to attract more people into poorer, struggling districts.
We’ve had superintendents say… they would like to be able to tap these kinds of individuals, particularly in our rural districts where they struggle to get people to move to those districts. But, they might have a very talented, very committed person in their community who would like to use their talents to improve the school. This gives superintendents that menu to be able to choose from.
Bounds, a former Army officer himself, says he sees ex-military officers being attracted to the job, since they bring in the logistical and leadership experience. He said those officers are also used to working with youth. There would one problem, however– teaching experience.
Bounds said the proposal tries to address that by requiring candidates to hold a masters degree– although it could be in any field– and to serve as an assistant principal for at least three years before taking an exam.