Friday, July 15, 2011

Will Charleston lose $1,000,000 for teacher evaluation?

If Charleston loses this million dollars, where does it go? Where has it been sitting for the past year?

Charleston County School Superintendent Nancy McGinley and former state Superintendent of Education Jim Rex struck a deal more than a year ago to work together and develop a new teacher evaluation system that would be based in part on how well their students perform.

But their agreement led to nothing, and now Charleston County school leaders will have to decide whether they want to spend more than $1 million to do some of what could’ve been done with the state, likely for less out of the district’s pocket.

“I don’t know what the motives are for not moving ahead, but I just know we haven’t,” said Jon Butzon, chairman of the Charleston Education Network, who was present at the March 2010 meeting between McGinley and Rex. “And we are still, as it relates to putting something on the table, not even on first base yet, and we ought to have something designed and pilot tested at this point.”

Both the state and the district are trying to create new evaluation systems for teachers that make them accountable for how well their students perform. School districts nationally are trying to find fair and valid ways to do that, and both the state and Charleston leaders hope to have some version ready by 2012.

It’s not clear why exactly the arrangement between Rex and McGinley fell apart, and those involved have different explanations. It seems to have been some combination of bureaucracy and politics, as well as disagreement and lack of compromise. Some, such as Butzon, question how serious the district is about wanting to move to this kind of evaluation system, while others such as Charleston County School Board member Mary Ann Taylor, want to understand why the partnership didn’t amount to anything before considering whether the district should bear alone the cost of a new evaluation system.

“It just seems to me that if this could’ve been done a 1 1/2 years ago and paid for in partnership with the state, then why not do it?” she said.

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