Students are evaluated nearly every day with tests, homework or class exercises. But questions linger about how best to evaluate the teachers who instruct those students.
Some Beaufort County School District teachers told a state representative Monday that being evaluated more often would be a good start.
Rep. Andy Patrick met in the Bluffton High School auditorium with about 50 teachers to hear their thoughts on the state's current evaluation system.
The meeting was the first of three that Patrick, the chairman of the S.C. House of Representatives committee on K-12 education, will conduct around the state. He said he is seeking feedback before he heads back to Columbia in January for the 2014 legislative session.
Patrick said comments in these meetings -- the others will be Nov. 11 in Greenville and Nov. 12 in Columbia -- will directly influence legislation he intends to draft.
"We are going to be making some decisions this next legislative year, and the premise is really about teacher effectiveness and quality of teachers," Patrick said at the meeting. "This is your opportunity to have your voice heard, and you need to be very open and very honest so I can go back to Columbia informed."
Teachers, district administrators and board members broke into several groups at the meeting. Patrick told the teachers not to be intimidated by the top officials and that he wanted to know what they really thought.
Common themes emerged.
The first was the frequency of the classroom observations and evaluations. One teacher said she had been evaluated only three times in 10 years of teaching in the district. Many said they would like more frequent observations and annual evaluations.
Teachers also said they would like greater consistency. Evaluation methods vary around the district, based on the curriculum or instruction offered at a specific school; some argued the standards should be more uniform.
The evaluations also should be meaningful and helpful. Teachers said evaluations don't help them grow when those who do them don't know the material they are teaching.
Jermaine Husser, director of StudentsFirst South Carolina, who also helped put on the Monday meeting, agreed. The state should consider putting funding in place for mentors and support effective evaluations, he said.
"I think this is a steppingstone for South Carolina to have a strong evaluation process in place for our teachers and schools," Husser said. "Effective evaluation is key to help us all improve and better serve our kids."
StudentsFirst is a national education-policy advocacy group led by Michelle Rhee, a well-known and controversial former chancellor of Washington schools.
Teachers said they were happy to have the opportunity voice their opinions and help guide legislation.
"This is a first step, and I hope we see more of it," said Christine Gray, a math teacher at Hilton Head Island High School. Teacher evaluations "is a nationwide thing right now, and it is better for us to be on the front end helping to create it, than on the back end wondering what it is and how it affects us."
Video: SC Rep. Andy Patrick on meetings with educatorsVideo by reporter Sarah Bowman
Follow reporter Sarah Bowman at twitter.com/IPBG_Sarah.