South Carolina teachers are uneasy about a new grading system being introduced in public schools. The A–F letter grades are familiar, but the educators won’t be giving out the marks—they’ll be receiving them.

As a push to further improve the public school system in South Carolina, State Superintendent of Education Mick Zais has developed this new way of evaluating teachers. The program is in its first two years of pilot testing at twenty-two schools, and though it hasn’t yet been formally presented for a vote to the South Carolina State Board of Education, it is tentatively slated for statewide use in the 2014–2015 school year. After the current school year comes to a close, officials will review the pilot test’s results, making any needed changes before testing again for the 2013–2014 term.

Teachers have responded strongly against the proposal. They have stated that receiving letter grades would be offensive and demeaning, and they find it ludicrous that no teachers were consulted during the proposal development. Of course, teachers understand the need to be evaluated. They would simply prefer being evaluated in a more professional way, on a scale from exemplary to unsatisfactory.

Though these letter grades would not affect salary, teachers performing at D or F levels two years in a row would be terminated from their positions. Teachers’ grades would be based roughly two-thirds on observation by principals and peers and one-third on the statistical analysis of yearly student standardized test scores, comparing actual student growth against predictions. Teachers would be evaluated based on whether a student meets, fails to meet, or exceeds expectations. Another one of the bigger issues teachers have taken with this plan is the way it plans to grade those who teach subject areas not included on current standardized tests, such as music, art, physical education, special education and so forth. For these teachers, 30 percent of their overall grade would be based on how the entire school does on standardized testing, even though the teachers’ subjects have no direct impact on students’ scores.

Fortunately, though Superintendent Zais states that he wants letter grades because they clearly communicate levels of performance, he also states that he is willing to negotiate and that his primary goal is to ensure quality teachers are teaching kids. For South Carolina’s sake, hopefully Zais, teachers and school administrators can come together to create an evaluation system that is fair, mutually agreed upon and serves to reward gifted teachers more than focusing on those who are underperforming.

Further Reading:

“South Carolina Teachers Worry as State Plans to Grade Them,” accessed February 21, 2013.
“SC plan to grade teachers stirs protests,” The State: South Carolina’s Homepage, accessed February 21, 2013.