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South Carolina teachers complain of testing, low pay

November 15, 2018

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Educators in South Carolina have told state lawmakers that constant student testing is one of the biggest roadblocks they face.

A Senate panel met Wednesday to get ideas on how to deal with a teacher shortage in South Carolina, news outlets reported. Nearly 5,000 teachers quit public school classrooms in South Carolina last year.

Camden Sen. Vincent Sheheen says his panel hopes to “remove useless paperwork, overbearing procedures and bureaucratic overkill that hinders our teachers from teaching our kids.”

Every educator testifying Wednesday complained about frequent student testing.

“We’re constantly walking students back and forth to the computer lab to take this assessment or that assessment, said Chesterfield County Superintendent Harrison Goodwin. “We haven’t taught them anything since the last time we assessed them.”

Most of the tests are on computers and Goodwin said that puts poor children at a disadvantage, since they are using machines they don’t know how to operate.

South Carolina requires more tests for third-through-eighth grade students than needed to meet federal requirements. State law requires four days of testing for students who don’t speak English well. There’s another five days of screening for every second grade student to determine whether they should be in a gifted and talented program.

Aimee Fulmer, principal at Bowen’s Corner Elementary School in Berkeley County, suggested there is a direct correlation between third grade students’ poor reading scores on standardized tests and the number of days of instruction they miss taking tests.

Kindergarten teachers spend much of their time testing, too. A 2014 law requires teachers to spend the first weeks of the school year testing students on a one-on-one basis to determine their skills as they start school.

Low pay is another problem.

Young teachers with college debt and low pay often must find second jobs, said Blythewood High School history teacher Patrick Kelly, also the teacher training coordinator for Richland District 2.

“Money is not the most important thing or what entices you to the profession, but when teachers are working second jobs,” it’s a problem, Saluda High Principal Sarah Longshore said.

State Education Superintendent Molly Spearman says a 5 percent salary increase for teachers would bring their average pay to the Southeastern average. A 1 percent increase approved earlier this year raised the average salary to just over $50,000 annually and raised starting pay from $30,000 to $32,000.

The panel plans to hold another hearing before writing legislation that would be introduced in the 2019 General Assembly that starts in January.

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