One of the most contentious proposed education changes in the state could outline differences in philosophy between South Carolina’s State Superintendent of Education and a potential Republican challenger.
Superintendent Mick Zais proposed a statewide teacher evaluation but the program, known as ADEPT, was opposed by the state Board of Education in late 2012. It was revived this year when it was implemented as a pilot among schools that volunteered to use it.
On Tuesday, Hilton Head Republican and rumored 2014 superintendent candidate State Rep. Andy Patrick pre-filed legislation in the House that would codify a teacher evaluation system in the state. The bill will be on the agenda for the upcoming 2014 legislative session.
The proposed legislation would mandate that all teachers would face evaluation by the state if local school districts do not already have evaluations in place. But, Patrick said, the intent is “not to target or tarnish” teachers, but to find areas of needed improvement and get them the professional help they need.
“(It will) identify the weaknesses of those individual teachers and give them the targeted professional development that they so richly deserve because they entered into that profession expecting to be treated as professionals,” Patrick told South Carolina Radio Network. “We spend a lot of money on-boarding teachers into the system. The idea is that you not just dismiss a teacher because they are ineffective. You target some interventions, some professional development and bridge that gap on those weaknesses.”
Like others in the state and in the nation who have proposed teacher evaluations, Patrick said a student can only rise to the level set by the teacher.
“At the end of the day, if we can all agree that teacher effectiveness is an integral factor in student achievement, then we should be working toward making sure there’s an effective teacher in every classroom,” Patrick said.
Patrick said he doesn’t see a benefit to making the evaluations public, however.
An official with S.C. Education Association said the organization is looking over the entire bill. President Jackie Hicks said the board will make a determination on whether to support or fight the bill soon. The education association opposes the state Department of Education’s own teacher evaluation ADEPT.
ADEPT, which stands for Assisting, Developing, and Evaluating Professional Teaching, would base teacher evaluations partially on student performance. An official at the Department of Education’s ADEPT office was not available for comment on how the program compares with Patrick’s bill.
Patrick did not outline differences between his pre-filed bill and ADEPT. However, he did say that sometimes a statewide, legislative discussion followed by passing into state law can be more effective than a state department program on its own.
“The state department and the state school board have attempted to do something statewide … and (they) have been challenged by being able to come up with a plan. Just like with anything else in state government if state agencies are unable to get there without legislation then sometimes it is legislation that can help,” Patrick said. “We might have a better chance of putting something into place.”