BY gary l. burgess sr.

The recent furor about State Superintendent of Education Mick Zais’ proposed teacher evaluation system, I suspect, is primarily promoted by unions for teachers and administrators. Dr. Zais should stand his ground.

It is surprisingly ironic for teachers and district leaders to admit the “A-F” letter-grade system does not adequately assess and motivate students; therefore, they argue it should not be implemented for teachers.

While that argument might hold some credence, those same professionals stake their reputations on letter grades given to students and standardized tests which evaluate students. Moreover, teachers and district leaders are relentless in defending the letter grade system and standardized testing system.

I’m baffled and I am left with a series of questions: Should teachers be graded predominantly on student performance? Is academic growth the mission of every teacher for every student?

Should a teacher be judged on the academic growth of his students from the point they entered his class until the point they exit his class? Can ineffective teachers help students master the subject matter taught? What’s the real issue educators have with teacher evaluation?

This is what I do know: Teachers and systems that believe all students can master quality curriculum at high levels of achievement have a “can do” and “will do” classroom and school environment.

Teachers and systems that don’t blame the home, and other outside factors beyond their control, do an extraordinary job with their students academically.

Teachers and systems that take immediate intervention when they first detect academic concerns with their students help their students grow academically.

Teachers and systems that give students no choice but to succeed; where failure is not an option, by having mandatory academic-tutoring and extended learning time move their students and schools to world-class status.

Teachers and schools that place an emphasis on “learning ” rather than punishment soar. Systems which allow teachers to teach have students who learn. Moreover, those teachers are “A” teachers ready to be held accountable.

Those school systems are world-class systems ready to be assessed.

Fortunately, I have personally worked for and know great teachers. Ninety-nine percent of those teachers would receive a recurring “A” grade, year after year after year.

I have great faith in the teachers and the students of South Carolina. I encourage Superintendent Zais to stand his ground for the sake of the children of South Carolina and the awesome teachers I have and continue to have the opportunity to work for.

Gary L. Burgess Sr., Ph.D., is a member of the Anderson County Board of Education. He lives in Pendleton.