BRIDGE, the program being developed by the Charleston County School District to evaluate teachers, scares some educators. They fear it will be unfair, misleading and punitive.
But there are data to dispel those fears, and there are sound reasons the district and school board are proceeding with it.
One main reason: Students in some schools are still not succeeding. Parents and the taxpaying public want better results.
BRIDGE offers learning programs and incentives to encourage improvement on that part of the equation. It offers more teacher training than is now provided, and it is individualized. It offers the help as a teacher's needs arise, not just on certain days of the school year.
And BRIDGE is designed to reward teachers for exemplary performance - up to $5,000 each.
Meanwhile, principals across the county will be trained to evaluate teachers objectively after observing them in the classroom.
The program is designed to have all of the principals use the same measuring stick in the evaluation process, thereby increasing the objectivity of the process.
Student growth also will be a factor in the evaluation process. The formula will take into account different circumstances from one school to another.
Some teachers resist evaluation based on student achievement, saying that teachers in suburban schools are more likely to do better than those in schools with a high rate of poverty. But the program is designed to take into account those differences.
One clear problem with BRIDGE is the complexity of the language that the district uses to explain it.
For example, district administrators have put together a two-and-a-half-page guide. In that short document are eight acronyms: HCMS, PALMS, ECHO, CCSD, ADEPT, COT, SLO and PBCS.
Adding to the confusion is the fact that BRIDGE continues to be a work in progress. District officials are still adjusting it an effort to resolve teacher objections.
And as presented, it is not clear how CCSD will deal with teachers who don't measure up, even with individualized training.
Fourteen local schools are using BRIDGE this year to test it. Teachers have been invited to visit those schools. Administrators contend they will find that teachers in those schools are largely happy with BRIDGE.
Perhaps more important, those test schools should provide more evidence about BRIDGE's worth in evaluation and improving academic achievements. Test scores aren't yet available to make that determination, but they should ultimately help settle the argument about whether tying teacher pay to student performance - in part - actually works.
The local school board has been asking for teacher accountability for years.
Common sense says that when teachers enhance their instruction, student outcomes improve. And that finding is supported by studies cited by BRIDGE supporters.
Struggling teachers need more than a handful of countywide seminars to help them improve.
But even the best teachers can benefit from honing their techniques.
Educators don't allow their students to avoid subjects just because they don't like them.
They shouldn't expect the district to pull back on efforts they don't like, either - including making student growth one factor in teacher evaluation.
Call it outcome-based evaluation.
The district appears to be doing what it can to make sure that this method of teacher evaluation is fair, consistent and measurable.
And once that goal is achieved, why should effective teachers oppose the BRIDGE program?
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