South Carolina wants waiver on No Child Left Behind

COLUMBIA — South Carolina schools would earn letter grades for their performance, high-performing schools could receive up to $10,000 and teachers would be rated for classroom effectiveness under Superintendent Mick Zais’ drafted application for opting out of No Child Left Behind.


Zais said Friday he wants to replace the federal government’s all-or-nothing accountability system with one that makes sense. The 2001 law unfairly labels a school as failing to make progress if it misses a single target, he said.

“It’s confusing to parents and demoralizing to hard-working administrators and teachers,” Zais told The Associated Press. “We want an attainable high-standards system of measuring accountability. Goals must be perceived as attainable to be motivational.”

The state Education Department put its proposed fix online Friday afternoon. The agency is seeking input through Jan. 23 on the drafted waiver application. Zais plans to hold at least 18 meetings across the state, and a virtual meeting online. The agency must submit its application to the U.S. Education Department by Feb. 23.

The proposal includes changing how teachers are evaluated. Rather than receive pass-or-fail marks, teachers would be rated on a scale. Ratings under consideration are unsatisfactory, needs improvement, proficient and exemplary.

Classroom teachers’ evaluations would include how much their students have improved over the school year. Other components would include peer evaluations.

Zais said accurately determining growth on a per-student basis will require a sophisticated statewide data system, which is being developed. Obviously, he said, students enter classrooms performing at different levels, so progress can’t be generalized.

He pointed to TAP, a national teacher advancement system, as a good model for determining teacher effectiveness. Sixty schools in South Carolina already participate in a system that bases pay and career advancement on performance, Zais said.

The waiver helps Zais in his push for performance-based teacher pay, an issue he advocated during his successful campaign last year. Currently, teachers are paid based on their years on the job and number of degrees.