This "teacher effective- ness measure" is part of President Barack Obama's Race to the Top initiative, a national education reform program that aims to help schools prepare students for the workplace, employ effective educators, measure student success, and turn around low-performing schools.
Cherokee County students will be used as barometers to deter- mine the effective- ness of their teachers. At the beginning of the year, students will be given a test covering the entirety of the class' core curriculum. At the end of the year, students will retake the same test. The test results will be one factor in determining the "effective- ness" of teachers.
"This way there is guaranteed growth," said Michelle Whitmire, a Holly Springs Elementary teacher and one of three teachers who met with Superintendent Frank Petruzielo regarding the new teacher effectiveness measure.
Test scores will not be the only means of gauging the effectiveness of a teacher, Whitmire said. Lesson plan- ning and implementation will be taken into account as well.
Petruzielo, who petitioned for Cherokee to be chosen for the Race to the Top grant, wanted the county's school system to lead the program, not follow, Whitmire said.
Some educators, however, are deeply opposed to the teacher effectiveness measure.
Robin Whitaker, head of the Cherokee High School English department, said, "It is impossible to pay teachers based on performance."
There are too many variables that confound a student's test scores, Whitaker said, such as the student's particular level of ability, home environment and what the student does in his free time.
"Perhaps a student couldn't read, but his teacher taught him how," Whitaker said. "Now he will perform better on every test, but the teacher responsible may have low-test scores among her own students and be evaluated as a poor teacher. Maybe a student has a terrible math teacher, so he goes for help every morning to the good teacher he had last year and so performs well on the test."
The overall curriculum is still developing and is subject to change. The teacher effectiveness measure is a work in progress, with the ideal goal of creating a more proficient environment for students and teachers.