Education in South Carolina can become a destination profession – one that young people aspire to and one in which excellent educators will remain. We already know how to do this as a recent roundtable supported by the Learning Policy Institute and the Center for Teaching Quality demonstrated. We can do this in five steps:


  • Strengthen preparation. We can do better than 5-week crash courses and university programs that are disconnected from reality. Maybe residency models can help (e.g., here and here).
  • Improve hiring. Some schools actually observe teachers teaching before hiring. Good thought.
  • Increase compensation. Yes, money matters (e.g., here and here). Teachers need to stop saying, “I did not go into teaching for the money,” when we know many leave because of a lack of it. Some districts creatively address this.
  • Provide support for new teachers. As the 2013 Illinois Teacher of the year wrote, teachers are more likely to stay when they have mentoring support.
  • Improve working conditions. We know leadership, culture, politics, work structures, and resources matter (e.g., here, here, and avoid burnout factories).



We have districts who are actively problem solving – and not just ones that pay their teachers a lot. Linda Darling Hammond and her colleagues at the Learning Policy Institute refer to “sticky schools” that teachers don’t want to leave. When I talk to superintendents, I hear them talking about being “destination districts” – places where teachers really want to work. Administrators don’t want to leave these districts either.

Collective leadership is work toward shared goals by teachers and administrators.

Schools in South Carolina are figuring this out. With the support of the South Carolina Department of Education and the Center for Teaching Quality, a cohort of elementary, middle, and high schools have spent the last two years engaged in a Collective Leadership Initiative (CLI). Collective leadership is work toward shared goals by teachers and administrators. CLI is not a program; instead, collective leadership is a way of developing culture, capacity, and the work that matters most for students.

Without any additional financial resources, these schools have identified one shared goal, initiatives that they will stop, and observable evidence that they share each month with each other either virtually or face to face. The only requirement is that both teachers and administrators from each school have to be present. Through this collective leadership community, these schools are becoming sticky schools that better serve students. They know this because have identified evidence to track their progress, and in so doing, they are developing leadership.

We will always need more great teachers and administrators. Right now both are in short supply.

How do we build a destination profession with the resources we already have available? Increasing taxes is very unpopular in most states. So, let me suggest four areas that might not require additional funding.


Dan Pink eloquently describes this need for autonomy in all fields. Richard Ingersoll, a prominent sociologist of education, found that teachers with reduced autonomy were less likely to stay in teaching.

Good administrators are essential. Many South Carolina administrators are already doing powerful work. We all know that administrators can catalyze or constrain healthy working conditions. My most recent book, Leading Together: Teachers and Administrators Improving Student Outcomes compiles evidence from across the country that demonstrates what teachers and administrators can do with students when the working conditions are right.

These working conditions include resources, culture, and work design. South Carolina CLI schools are getting this right:

One school has seen a 300% increase in the number of teachers identifying themselves as leaders beyond the classroom and a 400% increase in the number of teachers opening their rooms for peer observation this year;

One elementary school is making plans to bring students into their school improvement planning process;

Between September and January, another school reported 989 peer classroom observations.


I prepare pre-service teachers at a small liberal arts college outside of Chicago. We have been tracking what our graduates have done since 2010. We know we can improve our program, and we know much of this from what our graduates tell us. A group of undergraduate researchers and I follow up with them regularly (which is why we get a remarkable 90% response rate on our first-year survey).

Additionally, we have an advisory panel of teachers and administrators who partner with our program in order to improve our work. Preparation programs of all kinds need to collect these data and look at this unblinkingly in order to better serve students.


Hiring earlier allows for a multi-step hiring process. Spend more time hiring, and you spend less time dealing with the consequences of a bad hire. The edTPA has moved teacher preparation from fill-in-the-bubble tests toward performance. We need to make similar moves from stand-alone interviews to thoughtful performance tasks where teams of educators observe teachers working with real kids.

Spend more time hiring, and you spend less time dealing with the consequences of a bad hire.

Once teachers are hired, they need support. This is one place where we can blur the lines between administrators and teachers (see Teacherpreneurs). Administrators can continue to teach or co-teach. Teachers need the opportunity to lead beyond their classrooms. By reallocating teacher and administrator time, both can better support one another.


As Barnett Berry likes to say, we need to value the profession that makes all others possible. As educators, all we can do is be amazing teachers and administrators who serve our students every day as they discover their own gifts and talents. They will tell our story; they already do. We can also tell those stories. Let’s keep elevating the conversation and highlighting the work that our colleagues and students are doing. SC-TEACHER can play a key role in catalyzing and tracking this progress.

We can make education a destination profession in South Carolina.