Lindsay Egloff was one of a handful of teachers who cautioned the Charleston County School Board Monday against adopting a pay-for-performance system, which would tie teachers' evaluations and pay to how well their students perform on standardized tests.
That system, known as a "value-added" approach, hasn't improved student achievement in several places, including Texas and Nashville, Tenn., said Egloff, a fifth-grade teacher at Drayton Hall Elementary School. "Teachers already are working hard," she said. "There are so many influences on test scores," she said. "It's not just about how a teacher performs in a classroom. There are just too many other factors in student performance."
A coalition of teacher and student advocacy groups wants the Charleston County School District to abandon its effort to create new teacher evaluation and compensation systems. Representatives of those groups - EdFirstSC, the S.C. Education Association and the Charleston Area Community Voice for Education - attended Monday's school board meeting to ask district leaders to re-consider the evaluation approach.
The school district has been working on the new evaluation and compensation systems, dubbed BRIDGE, with the help of a $23.7 million federal grant. The new evaluation system will use students' test scores to gauge teachers' effectiveness. Some teachers fear that it will be an unreliable way of judging and paying them, and that it eventually will be used to eliminate teachers' step increases, or the annual raises given to teachers based on their experience.
Patrick Hayes, director of EdFirstSC and a third-grade teacher at Drayton Hall Elementary, brought to the meeting a huge bouquet of balloons that said "Shut Bridge Down." The plan is an "object of serious concern" to his group, he said, and he wants to draw attention to it. "We're looking for something a little disruptive," he said.
Superintendent Nancy McGinley has said she is committed to the grant, but the district needs the state and local school board's approval to institute these new systems.
McGinley said Monday that "civil people can have differences of opinion."
If the district were to send the grant money back, she said, there would be no federal money to reward teachers and no money for professional development tools. And the district still will hold teachers accountable for student performance.
Lisa Trott, a fourth-grade teacher at Ashley River Creative Arts Elementary School and the school district's Teacher of the Year, was one of several teachers who spoke in favor of the BRIDGE program. She said the program still is in the works, and the district has been inclusive in developing it.
But, she said, there is a nationwide trend toward holding teachers accountable for student performance. "There are winds of change in the United States," she said.
Sarah Johnson, a parent of two children in Charleston County schools and a member of the Charleston Area Community Voice for Education, said her group was founded more than two years ago "to fight high-stakes testing," preparation for which she thinks takes up too much of students' school days. She thinks the BRIDGE program would be harmful to the relationships between students and teachers, and that the quality of instruction would drop if the program is implemented. "It's unfair, unreliable and unrealistic."
Reach Diane Knich at 843-937-5491 or on Twitter at @dianeknich.