Finding effective school leaders in South Carolina

COLUMBIA (WACH, AP) -- Legislators are considering proposals that would require South Carolina's nearly 1,150 principals to be evaluated more frequently and provide a way for non-educators to take the helm of a public school.

If principals perform really well, schools turnaround, teachers succeed and students achieve, says state TMs Deputy Chief for educator quality Mark Bounds.

According to Bounds the proposed regulations are about finding and creating the most effective school leaders. While teachers are the most important factor in students' success, he says principals are close behind.

Under one proposal, district officials would have to fully evaluate principals every other year, rather than every three years as currently required, and provide those records to the state through a new online system.

The South Carolina Association of School Administrators supports the proposal.

We have always had a very strong accountability program here, so this really just gives us a better foundation for that, says Molly Spearman, executive director of SCASA.

But what Spearman is not pushing is legislation providing a way for a non-educator to become a principal.

If approved, an individual with a master's degree in any field could become a principal after going through a rigorous training process.

There is already an alternative route for people wanting to get into teaching or work as a superintendent.

We have never had a good alternative route for principals and this regulation change would do that, Bounds adds.

However, Spearman prefers a traditional path for future principals and a person with classroom experience.

They really have to know a lot about instruction, instruction strategies, how to observe teachers, and how to support teachers, Spearman says.

Spearman doesn't expect many, if any, principals to be hired through the alternative route.

Action on both proposals is expected to take place in the state house within the next month.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)