Columbia, SC — With the right policies in place, South Carolina can improve educational outcomes for kids. This was the idea behind StudentsFirst’s second annual State Policy Report Card.
This report is not a reflection on our students or teachers, but an assessment of educational policies aimed at creating an environment in which schools thrive and students are given the best shot at success.
StudentsFirst evaluated S.C. policies based on three critical pillars that have the highest impact on student achievement: empowering parents with information and choice, ensuring public dollars are being spent wisely in ways that help students learn, and elevating the teaching profession.
We have a ways to go to provide our kids with the education they deserve. On the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress, our 4th graders ranked 39th nationally in reading and 37th in math. Furthermore, while 78 percent of white S.C. 8th graders passed the 2013 Palmetto Assessment of State Standards, only 51 percent of African-Americans did.
We must do better, and it starts with great teachers. Teacher quality is the most important in-school factor affecting student achievement. If we want our students to reach their potential, it is crucial that we have policies that help us have a great teacher in every classroom. But, as reflected in the report card, South Carolina law does not prioritize great teaching.
As an educator, I take pride in doing whatever is necessary to help my students achieve. I believe I have an obligation to them to improve continuously. Unfortunately, many teachers in our state receive little or no feedback on their performance.
That’s why South Carolina should implement a comprehensive teacher-evaluation system. This will elevate the teaching profession, help teachers improve their craft and set our students up for success.
Reforming our schools is a hard process that will not produce results overnight, but I’m glad StudentsFirst has provided our leaders with a blueprint to get us on the right path. Let’s use the StudentsFirst report card as a tool for removing outdated policies and enacting changes that will strengthen our teaching corps.