South Carolina Considers Changes to Teacher Evaluation


An overhaul of the South Carolina’s teacher evaluation system has been proposed by State Superintendent Molly Spearman on the heels of Congress’ passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act signed this month.

Seanna Adcox reports for the Associated Press that the new approach to accountability will not link teacher evaluations to state testing results.

The superintendent wants to work with educators to create a new evaluation system that is tied to tests that are taken throughout the school year. Individual districts will be allowed to decide which tests are used.

Instead of having an evaluation system that is written by the federal government, the state wants to produce an assessment tool that is helpful to teachers, according to Kris Joannes, director of the agency’s office of educator effectiveness.

“The intent is to give ongoing feedback to teachers instead of a system that invokes fear in high-stakes tests,” she said Tuesday. “Looking at student growth is right, but we’re going to do it thoughtfully” and develop useful training.

Teacher advocates said the change will offer relief after years of anxiety over the emphasis on end-of-year standardized test results for establishing teacher evaluations. Kathy Maness, director of the Palmetto State Teachers Association, adds that students will be better off as well, since the new system allows for an improved view at the whole child rather than just a snapshot.

Because this year’s evaluation system is tied to the new education standards along with new statewide tests, there is additional angst over whether the ratings will be a fair measure. The state’s request to the federal government to delay the implementation of the new evaluations was denied.

However, the results do not count toward personnel decisions this year. The superintendent is going to ask the State Board of Education (SBE) to continue the reprieve until the state has replaced the existing system.

The passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act has allowed South Carolina to develop its ADEPT system for teachers and PADEPP for principals, reports the Moultrie News. Both are, at least in part, linked to student learning objectives (SLOs).

The onerous demands of No Child Left Behind have been replaced by the Every Student Succeeds Act in bipartisan agreement with support from President Barack Obama and educators across the country. But Spearman’s first move, according to the editors of The Post and Courier, may not be a sound just yet.

The editors say the superintendent needs to analyze and justify the request before the SBE approves it. The use of standardized tests to evaluate teachers was just one part of the previous measure, with another assessment tool being the progress students made. But educators said the evaluation was unfair because some students are more challenging to instruct, and as a result, earn lower scores on the tests.

In the opinion of the Post and Courier, however, it seems possible for even the least successful students to make some amount of progress. As for the testing throughout the year that has been suggested by Spearman, the editorial staff says the testing should be rigorous and accurately measure how well each student is performing.

They say that “high stakes” testing should not be entirely discarded, and if at the end of the year a student has not progressed, his or her teacher should be held accountable to some degree.

In the past, teachers have been assessed by their colleagues or principals. The newspaper adds that if the old way of evaluating teachers had worked, the state’s schools would not be ranked among the lowest in the US.