Great public schools form the backbone of a strong state and a prosperous economy. That's why education is such an important issue.
By focusing on improving South Carolina's public schools, we are preparing our students for college and the work force, and ultimately preserving the well-being of the Palmetto State.
With this in mind, our state still has a ways to go to ensure that all our students get the world-class education they deserve.
According to the 2011 National Assessment of Education Progress scores, South Carolina fourth-graders ranked 39th in the country in reading, while eighth-graders ranked 38th. Unfortunately, our statistics in math aren't much better. Results from this same assessment show that 64 percent of fourth-graders and 68 percent of eighth-graders score below proficiency in math. We know our kids can do better, and we owe it to them to help them achieve their fullest potential.
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If our state wants to get serious about improving education, we must focus on the hard-working men and women who serve in our public school classrooms.
While parents and guardians play essential roles in a child's academic success, teachers remain the most important in-school factor influencing student learning. Outstanding educators go beyond the call of duty on a daily basis, building confidence, expanding knowledge and stretching imaginations to turn dreams into realities for kids.
Students with a high-performing teacher gain an additional five to six more months of learning in comparison to students in classrooms with the lowest-performing teachers. In fact, the National Bureau of Economic Research found that a highly effective teacher could add $20,000 to each student's lifetime earnings compared to the average teacher.
Despite this vital role, South Carolina misses out on a valuable opportunity to improve teacher quality and address ineffectiveness. Our state's weak evaluation procedures don't provide the constructive feedback teachers need to improve their practice and fail to focus on the primary goal: Improving student achievement and ensuring our kids graduate with the skills and knowledge they need to be successful in school and beyond.
In order to address this, we are proud to come together on this important issue by inviting educators to be part of the discussion. Starting Monday in Bluffton, we will unite to host teacher roundtables across the state in an effort to advance the dialogue about ways to elevate the teaching profession. The meeting will be at 4 p.m. at Bluffton High School. We encourage our colleagues who serve, whether in the classroom or elected office, to join the conversation.
In the coming weeks, we look forward to hearing directly from teachers and parents and examining the need for meaningful teacher evaluations in South Carolina. By working together on this important issue, we can equip school leaders with the information they need to make decisions that improve the educational quality of our schools and enable educators to reach their full potential. Most importantly, we can treat teachers like the hard-working professionals they really are and support our students' educational success.
We firmly believe that every child -- no matter his or her ZIP code or background -- has the potential to achieve and excel in the classroom. However, these children deserve to have strong, effective teachers. Our state cannot continue to miss out on an opportunity to recognize and identify excellence in our classroom.
Next session, we must act on passing transformative reform that improves our state's evaluation system -- for the sake of South Carolina's teachers and students. We encourage our colleagues to make their voices heard and join us in this timely conversation.
Rep. Andy Patrick, R-Hilton Head Island, represents District 123 in the S.C. General Assembly. BeaAtrice Mazyck is a public school teacher at C.A. Johnson High School.