Frequency of Evaluations: South Carolina

Identifying Effective Teachers Policy


The state should require annual evaluations of all teachers.

Meets goal in part
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2013). Frequency of Evaluations: South Carolina results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from:

Analysis of South Carolina's policies

Regrettably, South Carolina does not ensure that all teachers are evaluated annually.

South Carolina policy leaves the frequency of a formal evaluation for nonprobationary, "continuing contract" teachers to the discretion of the local school district. A district may opt to conduct a formal evaluation or a "goals-based evaluation," which is a more minimal assessment that allows for review of a teacher's progress in meeting three professional development goals related to student learning. The goals-based evaluation cycle is a maximum of at least five years, to be timed with the validity period of a teacher's professional certificate.

New teachers in South Carolina must be formally evaluated twice a year. The formal evaluation period consists of two evaluation cycles. The first (preliminary) cycle occurs during the first semester of the school year; all or at least a portion of the second must occur during the second semester. "Any performance weaknesses that are identified during the preliminary evaluation cycle must be included in educators' professional growth and development plans at the time of the preliminary evaluation conference."
During the first annual contract year, at the discretion of the district, an annual contract teacher may either complete the formal evaluation process or be provided diagnostic assistance. 
The federal government recently approved South Carolina's evaluation guidelines submitted as part of the ESEA flexibility waiver process; however, it is not clear at this point how these guidelines will affect evaluation frequency in the state. 


Recommendations for South Carolina

Require annual formal evaluations for all teachers. 
All teachers in South Carolina should be evaluated annually. Rather than treated as mere formalities, these teacher evaluations should serve as important tools for rewarding good teachers, helping average teachers improve and holding weak teachers accountable for poor performance.  

Base evaluations on multiple observations.
To guarantee that annual evaluations are based on an adequate collection of information, South Carolina should require multiple observations for all teachers, even those who have nonprobationary status. Further, as evaluation instruments become more data driven, it may not be feasible to issue multiple formal evaluation ratings during a single year. Applicable student data will likely not be available to support multiple ratings.  

State response to our analysis

South Carolina asserted that its ESEA flexibility waiver requires an educator evaluation system that not only evaluates teachers annually but also incorporates student achievement data. The state is currently in the pilot year and will begin statewide implementation in 2014-2015. 

Research rationale

Annual evaluations are standard practice in most professional jobs.

Although there has been much progress on this front recently, about half of the states still do not mandate annual evaluations of teachers who have reached permanent or tenured status. The lack of regular evaluations is unique to the teaching profession and does little to advance the notion that teachers are professionals.

Further, teacher evaluations are too often treated as mere formalities rather than as important tools for rewarding good teachers, helping average teachers improve and holding weak teachers accountable for poor performance. State policy should reflect the importance of evaluations so that teachers and principals alike take their consequences seriously.

Evaluations are especially important for new teachers.

Individuals new to a profession frequently have reduced responsibilities coupled with increased oversight. As competencies are demonstrated, new responsibilities are added and supervision decreases. Such is seldom the case for new teachers, who generally have the same classroom responsibilities as veteran teachers, including responsibility for the academic progress of their students, but may receive limited feedback on their performance. In the absence of good metrics for determining who will be an effective teacher before he or she begins to teach, it is critical that schools and districts closely monitor the performance of new teachers.

The state should specifically require that districts observe new teachers early in the school year. This policy would help ensure that new teachers get the support they need early and that supervisors know from the beginning of the school year which new teachers (and which students) may be at risk. Subsequent observations provide important data about the teacher's ability to improve. Data from evaluations from the teacher's early years of teaching can then be used as part of the performance-based evidence to make a decision about tenure.

Frequency of Evaluations: Supporting Research

For the frequency of evaluations in government and private industry, see survey results from Hudson Employment Index's report: "Pay and Performance in America: 2005 Compensation and Benefits Report" Hudson Group (2005).

For research emphasizing the importance of evaluation and observations for new teachers in predicting future success and providing support for teachers see, D. Staiger and J. Rockoff, "Searching for Effective Teachers with Imperfect Information." Journal of Economic Perspectives. Volume 24, No. 3, Summer 2010, pp. 97-118.