The South Carolina Board of Education gave its okay this week to a new teacher and principal evaluation system that will factor student performance into the process for the first time.
The 9-5 vote likely ended several years of debate on the idea, which has been pushed heavily by Education Superintendent Mick Zais. The new evaluation system will begin taking effect statewide next school year. Dozens of schools have participated in a similar pilot project the past two years. The new program will
Zais praised the vote, saying it would help improve the classroom learning atmosphere. “Where you have effective teachers and competent principals, poor kids can learn,” he told South Carolina Radio Network. “And where we don’t have effective principals and teachers, high-poverty schools will be failing.”
Under the new guidelines, 50 percent of an evaluation will be based on classroom observations, while 30 percent will be based on how much progress (growth) students make in their classroom. Principals will be evaluated with a grade based 50 percent on student growth. Zais said Friday that the new evaluations will average out student performance over a three-year period. As a result, teachers and principals will not be getting a full evaluation until the end of the 2016-17 school year.
The new evaluation guidelines replace the current ADEPT system that South Carolina school districts are currently using. ADEPT does not use student growth to evaluate educators. But such evaluations are required under South Carolina’s waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind law.
The evaluations had been very controversial among education groups, who said student test scores are not just influenced by a teacher’s work in the classroom. However, the South Carolina Education Association appeared to accept the new proposal on Thursday. The organization took credit on its website for a lower student performance ratio in the formula than Zais initially wanted. However, SCEA president Jackie Hicks did not return a call seeking comment.
But Zais believed educators would support the formula once they see it in practice. “Is it a perfect system? No,” he said. “Is it a lot better than the system we have now that doesn’t even look at student learning? Absolutely.”