Labrew: Our kids deserve the best; teacher-evaluation system will help them get it

December 5, 2013 

— I know that a great education is the key to my grandchildren achieving their dreams. I also know that excellent teachers are a crucial part of a quality education.

In no other field are challenges as clear or expectations as high as in teaching. I was lucky to have a number of incredible teachers while in school. Sadly, that is not the case for all students.

It is unjust that some students — often those from poor communities — have ineffective teachers who don’t meet their needs.

It’s no secret our schools are falling short. On the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress, our fourth graders ranked 39th nationally in reading and 37th in math. Furthermore, while 78 percent of white eighth graders in South Carolina passed the 2013 Palmetto Assessment of State Standards, only 51 percent of African-Americans did.

We must do better. And the best way to do so is by ensuring great teachers are in every classroom.

But our state law isn’t designed to help teachers improve. Many of our teachers receive little or no feedback on their performance in the classroom, and administrators have no standard way to measure or compare teacher quality.

That’s why South Carolina should strive to improve the quality of teachers by implementing a comprehensive teacher-evaluation system. This will elevate the teaching profession, help teachers perfect their craft and improve student achievement so all kids can graduate with the skills they need to be successful in college and beyond.

A teacher-evaluation system would provide teachers and administrators with a clear sense of their strengths and weaknesses — a key first step to improvement. Principals and other administrators also would be able to analyze trends to design professional development that meets the needs of teachers.

A recent study found that under the teacher evaluation framework used in Washington — called IMPACT — good teachers became better, struggling teachers improved and ineffective teachers exited the classroom.

Furthermore, meaningful evaluations will hold teachers accountable. Teachers are important to student learning, so it’s essential for us to ensure they’re reaching all of their students.

I applaud the efforts of Rep. Andy Patrick to host roundtables with educators to start the conversation on this issue. I hope other legislators follow his lead, because every student in South Carolina deserves a great teacher. A comprehensive teacher-evaluation system is a crucial part of achieving that goal.

Regina Labrew

Columbia

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