Educators continue to voice dismay with evaluation tool - - Columbia, South Carolina |

Educators continue to voice dismay with evaluation tool

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A handful of teachers and principals continued to voice their opinions Wednesday in opposition of the evaluation system that the State Board of Education is considering incorporating into school districts.

Last month, educators and superintendents from across South Carolina filled the Rutledge Conference Center to say the evaluations giving teachers and principals a letter grade from an A to an F are not based on true growth factors.

"Teachers expect to be held accountable for student progress and work in their class," said Robbie Binnicker, principal in Anderson County School District 1. "However, a system that evaluates teachers on student performance or progress that does not account for student circumstances way beyond the control of the teachers or school district is unfair. … I know that a teacher is assigned some of the most difficult students to teach and some of the progress of those students may not be as much as some of the progress of other students in our districts."

Binnicker added that he didn't understand how a "math formula" could state whether a teacher or principal was doing his or her job.

Four other individuals also spoke to the Board of Education during the public comments section, agreeing with Binnicker, which included Jackie Hicks, president of the S.C. Education Association. Hicks said the teacher and principal evaluation tool is "not a reliable, and therefore not a valid, system."

"All we seem to hear is punitive measures about getting rid of bad teachers," Hicks said. "… Ineffective teachers do not stay in the classrooms. We need to continuously look at what will make a positive difference for the students and teachers in our public schools in South Carolina. Teachers want to do the very best for our students. We do not always learn (in college) how to handle all situations."

Later during the meeting, board members received a presentation by John White, of SAS, which is the for-profit corporation that has been implementing teacher and principal evaluations for many years in several states. White explained that the evaluation tool recognizes teachers can't control measurement error, missing test data and educators serving different types of students. He added that the tool is fair, valid and reliable by focusing on all students on various achievement levels to provide educators with tools for improvement.

State Education Superintendent Dr. Mick Zais said he thinks the academic change in a school goes back to the leadership in the facility, which is one factor that would be highlighted if the evaluation tool is implemented in the state.

"Again and again it comes back to leadership," Zais said. "Good leaders will turn that around. The demographics of the students are the same. The educational level of the parents is the same. The difference is the quality of the leadership in the school. Quality leadership will recruit, develop and motivate effective teachers. We know that."

Zais gave an example of a state middle school that had an average rating three years ago, but with the change in a principal, the school now has a 100 percent rating.

The S.C. Department of Education is still reviewing the evaluation tool and once it's complete, staff will bring all the information to the board for action. White could not tell board members Wednesday how much the tool would cost the state to implement.

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