The proposal to evaluate South Carolina public school teachers using letter grades on a scale of A to F is apparently dead in the water. The idea pushed by State Education Superintendent MIck Zais has proven to be controversial as a number education groups, including the Palmetto State Teachers’ Asssociation, have spoken out against its implementation. PSTA Executive Director Kathy Maness says an effective system, called the SAFE-T system, has been used for about 15 Years. “The way teachers are graded right now with the SAFE-T model is either they’ve met it or have not met it; we don’t have this A through F. So we do have an evaluation instrument in place that has worked for many, many years.”
SAFE-T is an acronym for Summative ADEPT Formal Evaluation of Classroom-Based Teachers. Last week members of the state education board assured teachers that they won’t implement the Education Department’s proposal to give teachers letter grades.
Maness says the present evaluation system has worked because it was developed with the input of several stakeholders in the education community. “A group of educators, principals, (school) personnel, and superintendents all came together to do a fair evaluation. We have that in South Carolina. It’s not like the teachers are not evaluated now.
Maness points out that the SAFE-T teacher evaluation program has several important components. There are four components. The evaluation is based on long-range planning, short-range planning, evaluation and professionalism.”
Maness says the proposed system of assigning letter grades to teachers would be based on a system that is weighed too heavily on the standardized test scores of children. “Over 50 percent of their grade would be based on student growth. That’s entirely too high. For teachers such as P.E., Music, Media specialists, Special Ed teachers, their grade would be based on how the whole school does. For even students, for example Special ed,, that they don’t have any contact with.”
The South Carolina Association of School Administrators has presented a proposal for evaluating teachers that was created after surveying over 8,000 teachers and over 800 principals. Maness says the proposed system that retains many of the components of the present system shows promise. “We think it’s fair and we think it would be a great way to evaluate teachers and principals in South Carolina because the bottom line is we have to have great educators in our schools to make a difference for our students.”
The U.S. Department of Education regulations require that South Carolina has in place a statewide system of teacher evaluation by 2014.