Details needed on why district hired nonprofit

Beaufort County School District needs to explain why it is contracting with a nonprofit to improve its teaching force.

info@islandpacket.comJanuary 22, 2014 

Weighty questions remain about the Beaufort County School District's hiring of a nonprofit to help identify the best teaching candidates and retool the district's teacher evaluation and recruitment efforts. District officials need to move quickly to justify the hiring.

At issue is the district's recent announcement that it will contract with Ohio-based Working with Battelle for Kids to find the most effective teachers and finger the colleges and universities from which they graduate. Last week, the district and nonprofit were hesitant to explain what that entails until a contract is signed.

Now, a nearly $124,000 contract has been inked, and it's time for some answers.

Superintendent Jeffrey Moss has said the district already hires quality teaching candidates but needs outside help so it can more quickly and accurately locate and attract future top-tier teaching candidates.

Does this mean the district doesn't already know which colleges and universities are producing the best teaching candidates? It seems that a district that hires about 75 to 100 rookie teachers each year would know this based on experience and not need outside help. And what measures will the nonprofit use to evaluate colleges?

Battelle's work will also include crafting new evaluation techniques that administrators will use to evaluate teachers. District administrators already evaluate teachers, but the hope, according to district officials, is to make the process more meaningful.

That raises questions of whether the current evaluation system is flawed and why it hasn't been amended prior to now.

The sooner these questions can be answered, the sooner teachers and parents can decide whether it's a good investment. It should also give guidance to teaching candidates on district-sought qualities and which colleges are teaching them.

All of this is not to say we don't applaud district efforts to improve its teaching force. Research has repeatedly shown that the quality of a classroom teacher is a powerful predictor of student performance. Efforts to recruit and retain the best teachers should be a priority.

But district leaders must tread carefully and offer a full explanation on why outside help is needed to rework current practices.

It's not clear what shortcomings the district is attempting to addressed and why they cannot be solved in-house. Those answers need to be provided soon by the school district.

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