Evaluation of Effectiveness: South Carolina

Identifying Effective Teachers Policy


The state should require instructional effectiveness to be the preponderant criterion of any teacher evaluation.

Meets goal in part
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2013). Evaluation of Effectiveness: South Carolina results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/SC-Evaluation-of-Effectiveness-22

Analysis of South Carolina's policies

South Carolina does not require that objective evidence of student learning be the preponderant criterion of its teacher evaluations.

The state requires local districts to use the statewide evaluation system (ADEPT), which is designed to measure teachers' success in meeting the state's 10 performance standards, or to use a district evaluation instrument that is state approved and equivalent to the state instrument's expectation. These 10 standards fall under four domains: planning, instruction, classroom environment and professionalism, which are all designed to measure a teacher's ability to improve student achievement. The performance standards mostly consider teachers' behavior and practices. The state added a "unit work sample" to bolster evidence of teachers' impact on student achievement; however, it does not appear that this is collected and reviewed in a way that would characterize it as objective evidence. 
Classroom observations are required. 
In March 2013, pursuant to South Carolina's Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Flexibility Waiver, the federal government approved the Superintendent's educator evaluation guidelines. The proposed system will incorporate student learning as a "significant" component and use a multitiered rating system. 

Teacher support and evaluation model reflects the following components/percentages:
Professional Performance: 50%
Impact on Individual Student Growth: 30%
District Choice: 20%


Recommendations for South Carolina

Require instructional effectiveness to be the preponderant criterion of any teacher evaluation. 
South Carolina's new guidelines fall short by failing to require that evidence of student learning be the most significant criterion, and the state's vague language leaves room for interpretation as to the actual measure of "significant" in the overall evaluation score. South Carolina should either require a common evaluation instrument in which evidence of student learning is the most significant criterion, or it should specifically require that student learning be the preponderant criterion in local evaluation processes. This can be accomplished by requiring objective evidence to count for at least half of the evaluation score or through other scoring mechanisms, such as a matrix, that ensure that nothing affects the overall score more. Whether state or locally developed, a teacher should not be able to receive a satisfactory rating if found ineffective in the classroom. 
Ensure that evaluations also include classroom observations that specifically focus on and document the effectiveness of instruction.
Although South Carolina requires classroom observations as part of teacher evaluations, the state should articulate guidelines that focus classroom observations on the quality of instruction, as measured by student time on task, student grasp or mastery of the lesson objective and efficient use of class time.

Codify evaluation requirements.
To ensure that teachers are evaluated based on the requirements articulated in the guidelines, South Carolina should codify pertinent criteria. This will ensure that student growth data continue to be a part of teacher evaluations even after the expiration of the ESEA waiver. 

State response to our analysis

South Carolina recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state added that nationally, no state is planning to follow NCTQ's recommendation that more than 50 percent of a teacher's evaluation should be based on student achievement. 

Last word

NCTQ does not recommend that more than 50 percent of a teacher's evaluation should be based on student achievement. This goal recommends that student achievement should be the preponderant criterion, meaning it should not be possible to receive an effective rating overall if the objective evidence suggests otherwise. Nineteen states now have such an evaluation system (see Figure 63).  

Research rationale

Teachers should be judged primarily by their impact on students.

While many factors should be considered in formally evaluating a teacher, nothing is more important than effectiveness in the classroom. Unfortunately, districts have used many evaluation instruments, including some mandated by states that are structured, so that teachers can earn a satisfactory rating without any evidence that they are sufficiently advancing student learning in the classroom. It is often enough that teachers appear to be trying, not that they are necessarily succeeding.

Many evaluation instruments give as much weight, or more, to factors that lack any direct correlation with student performance—for example, taking professional development courses, assuming extra duties such as sponsoring a club or mentoring and getting along well with colleagues. Some instruments hesitate to hold teachers accountable for student progress. Teacher evaluation instruments should include factors that combine both human judgment and objective measures of student learning.

Evaluation of Effectiveness: Supporting Research

Reports strongly suggest that most current teacher evaluations are largely a meaningless process, failing to identify the strongest and weakest teachers. The New Teacher Project's report, "Hiring, Assignment, and Transfer in Chicago Public Schools", July 2007 at: http://www.tntp.org/files/TNTPAnalysis-Chicago.pdf, found that the CPS teacher performance evaluation system at that time did not distinguish strong performers and was ineffective at identifying poor performers and dismissing them from Chicago schools. See also Lars Lefgren and Brian Jacobs, "When Principals Rate Teachers," Education Next, Volume 6, No. 2, Spring 2006, pp.59-69. Similar findings were reported for a larger sample in The New Teacher Project's The Widget Effect (2009) at: http://widgeteffect.org/.  See also MET Project (2010). Learning about teaching: Initial findings from the measures of effective teaching project. Seattle, WA: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

A Pacific Research Institute study found that in California, between 1990 and 1999, only 227 teacher dismissal cases reached the final phase of termination hearings. The authors write: "If all these cases occurred in one year, it would represent one-tenth of 1 percent of tenured teachers in the state. Yet, this number was spread out over an entire decade." In Los Angeles alone, over the same time period, only one teacher went through the dismissal process from start to finish. See Pamela A. Riley, et al., "Contract for Failure," Pacific Research Institute (2002).

That the vast majority of districts have no teachers deserving of an unsatisfactory rating does not seem to correlate with our knowledge of most professions that routinely have individuals in them who are not well suited to the job. Nor do these teacher ratings seem to correlate with school performance, suggesting teacher evaluations are not a meaningful measure of teacher effectiveness. For more information on the reliability of many evaluation systems, particularly the binary systems used by the vast majority of school districts, see S. Glazerman, D. Goldhaber, S. Loeb, S. Raudenbush, D. Staiger, and G. Whitehurst, "Evaluating Teachers: The Important Role of Value-Added." The Brookings Brown Center Task Group on Teacher Quality, 2010. 

There is growing evidence suggesting that standards-based teacher evaluations that include multiple measures of teacher effectiveness—both objective and subjective measures—correlate with teacher improvement and student achievement. For example see T. Kane, E. Taylor, J. Tyler, and A. Wooten, "Evaluating Teacher Effectiveness." Education Next, Volume 11, No. 3, Summer 2011, pp.55-60; E. Taylor and J. Tyler, "The Effect of Evaluation on Performance: Evidence from Longitudinal Student Achievement Data of Mid-Career Teachers." NBER Working Paper No. 16877, March 2011; as well as H. Heneman III, A. Milanowski, S. Kimball, and A. Odden, "CPRE Policy Brief: Standards-based Teacher Evaluation as a Foundation for Knowledge- and Skill-based Pay," Consortium for Policy Research, March 2006.