Creating the Office of Transformation to Address Poor School District Performance

H.4779 creates the Office of Transformation within the Department of Education for the purpose of providing service and support to school districts and schools. This translates into going into the schools across the state, providing leadership and curriculum coaches, and working with school authorities and parents to plan and implement improvements. The bill mandates that direct coaching and support be provided through the analysis of data, and interventions be targeted based on district strategic and school renewal plans.  An external review team made up of instate and out-of-state education leaders would conduct diagnostic reviews of each school every two years, and the coaches working in each district would help school leaders implement solutions to the issues raised in the diagnostic reviews.

The bill also instructs the Office of Transformation and the Department of Education to identify priority schools and focus schools based on an undefined state and federal accountability model. Schools would need to demonstrate three years of sustained improvement before they would no longer be classified as “priority” or “focus”. Finally, the Office of Transformation is instructed to identify and implement best practices used in other states for the prescribed school interventions.

This is a very vague, broad, and poorly-constructed plan to “solve” our education woes in South Carolina. There are several problems with this bill:

  1. It assumes that the educational problems we face are local problems, not statewide. However, our problems are indeed caused by an unaccountable, bloated, and ill-advised statewide approach to education. This is not a problem this bill can touch, let alone fix.
  2. It creates another board with a set of vague mandates to carry out. Growing government is never the solution and vague mandates are an open door for overreach, inefficiency, and corruption.
  3. This will take a significant amount of money that could be better spent providing solutions that actually work, like school choice, or performing other essential functions like maintaining our roads.
  4. There is simply not enough time to do this. The Abbeville decision mandates an educational system overhaul, and this bill encapsulates an approach that may or may not produce any real results, will take a long time to implement, and does not meet the requirements in the Supreme Court’s decision.

H.4940 is similar, but is slightly less intrusive and limits “assistance” to underperforming schools and districts.

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