My Community of Mentors Lift Up, Support Learning — For All of Us

by Daniel Hoilett
2nd Grade Teacher at Brushy Creek Elementary

October of 2015 had arrived. Many veteran teachers had warned me that this would be the most difficult month to get through, but in my first year of teaching, all I could think was, “Well, I thought that August and September were pretty difficult!” Nevertheless, October brought parent-teacher conferences, adding yet another new experience to my first year — one that I was not sure I was ready to tackle. To say I was anxious would be a severe understatement. It was when I realized that there are parents coming to me who are just as anxious as I am that these feelings began to alleviate. I’ll never forget the day that I sat across the table from Tyler’s* father and watched him shed tears about his son’s progress. I forgot about the nerves and remembered again why I wanted to teach.

Tyler immediately won me over during my first year. He had a smile as wide as the sun and a heart that shone through in everything he did. He was the definition of pure innocence. His curiosity around learning made every lesson meaningful. Whether it was wondering what this “funny sounding” word was that I just read aloud or wanting to do a cloud simulation again so he could “watch the magic one more time,” Tyler tried day in and day out to keep a positive attitude despite being dealt many cards that created countless obstacles for his learning. As the year went on, he grew very open with me about how he viewed his ability. We often described it as a car engine that needed a few more turns of the key before the engine started. It was not that it would never turn on, but it would take more time than for others. And that was okay.

What I found most difficult that year was how to structure my reader’s workshop so that I could give Tyler and other students on his level the time and uninterrupted energy they needed to improve their skills. I’m highly conscious of the importance of daily workshop time because I know that being able to read is one of the top factors that influences how students will perform across other content areas. Whether my second graders came to my classroom needing more support phonetically or comprehension strategies, I wanted all of my students to feel confident and capable when tackling a new text and all that it has to offer them. Regardless of where the student is in that journey, though, it takes time and work. With a room of 23 students on varying levels of independence, the logistics of structuring this time so that I could rotate throughout the week working with small groups of four to five readers was a management and preparation conundrum.

This challenge magnified my gratitude for Furman University’s preparation.

In his time as the Site Coordinator for Providence Day School's Freedom School in Charlotte, NC, Daniel Hoilett's team hosted a morning read aloud during a gathering called "Harambee," a Kiswahili term for "Let's Pull Together!" Hoilett continues to use this classroom strategy, beginning each day enjoying reading with his students.

During my undergraduate period, my favorite courses were the primary and intermediate literacy classes. Reading has always been my favorite subject, and these classes took that passion to a new level for me as both a teacher and a reader. The combination of being taught about current and widely diverse literature with strategies that I would implement with my own students made these courses effectively empowering. The overarching message from both semesters was that learning to read is going to be an important hurdle for student achievement, but all students have their place on the continuum of success, and all will get where they need to be in time. When teachers start where students truly are and work with them from that point, it creates a more open environment for growth along that continuum as both learners and human beings. Developing a strong sense of the “why” behind reading allows for students to experience and thrive more off of success during the “how” so they can become lifelong readers and writers.

I found myself fondly recalling some of my own teachers who worked with me to develop my “why.” I honestly could not tell you today whether I was progressing below, on, or above grade level as a reader because that was not my teachers’ goal for me either. Good teaching will always bring that about, but the lasting goal is that I willingly pick up a book (MANY BOOKS) to read and grow with today — and always will for the rest of my life. That love was born and nurtured in the daily conversations with my first grade teacher, Mrs. Colotta, about the silly scenarios in the Arthur books that I had brought from home. It was in how my seventh grade English teacher, Mrs. Harris-Evans, opened my eyes to the world of murder mysteries by always detailing the mindset of the one she was reading at the time. It was in the unforgettable conversations outside of class with my high school advisor, Ms. Fishman, about books like A Lesson before Dying by Ernest Gaines and The Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle that illuminate how complex humanity is. These are just three of the teachers I think of now as I work to show my students that reading brings us so much more than just the words on the page.

Thankfully, through Furman’s Teacher Residency Program, I was supported in developing a complementary and effective “how” next. I was blessed to have literacy professors and other Furman mentors who cared and were right by my side during my first year to help me navigate how to structure my workshop time — by experimenting with several models before finding the right fit for my students. It can be so easy to stay on the micro level during the first year when you are constantly rethinking things. But I learned from mentors that nothing changes, if nothing really changes. We worked a great deal on how to take information gleaned from specific data that I was gathering during small group work and individual conferences to make more macro level changes for workshop time.

For example, from analyzing what they turned in after stations each week, I was noticing repetitive errors on their focus skill for the week in comparison to skills that I included as a review. So I worked to pare down the station task more to match our small group work and developed goals with them to tape on their desks as reminders. Not only did this help them to focus more while around the room, but when I checked in with groups the second time in the week, we started with “warm reads” to review our progress. As time went on, I was able to layer on the complexity of other skills around their focus skill again. With hard work, we eventually became a well-oiled machine where the music would start and they knew what to do! I eventually felt much more secure in meeting the needs of all of my students!

A second grade unit on Tall Tales included dropping clues each day about a “special guest” coming to share a story. Daniel Hoilett (aka Paul Bunyan as retold by Steven Kellogg) reads/re-enacts Bunyon’s story to help students clearly visualize the hyperboles of Tall Tales as part of his teaching approach to strengthen student comprehension.

I could not have done this without the help of my mentors. Having extra support to help prepare my reinforcement stations, followed by the addition of their perspectives on the layout of the classroom space was invaluable. What I most appreciated was their help for me to see the entire classroom better while at the kidney table where I worked with small groups of students. My mentors never overstepped, but they did help me to gain the hindsight of any off-task behavior happening across the classroom. We would brainstorm, try out ideas, and adjust as needed. Together! Our partnership helped both my students and me grow that year. And even four years later, as I work to finish my Master of Arts in Literacy Education, many of my professors at Furman still come to my classroom to offer support and feedback.

Do not get me wrong; this job is tough. The emotional and physical exhaustion is draining. I completely empathize with quite a number of my former colleagues who decided to leave teaching. So what is it that keeps me going? The community around me. I love the empowerment that we bring to a child’s future when we work together! Teaching is not something that we do in isolation. I was beyond blessed to begin this career with unrelenting support for my students and me from my mother, Brushy Creek Elementary family, countless colleagues that I’ve connected with through Freedom School Partners, and mentors from Furman University!

By the end of that first year of teaching, Tyler had worked through and experienced so much success that he went on to third grade starting his engine on the first turn of his key! His teacher often allowed him to come to me to share his accomplishments of meeting his reading MAP goal, being selected for the first time to showcase his writing at an Author’s Cafe in our school, and many more successes.

I’d be taking far too much credit were I to think that I am solely responsible for Tyler’s success. It takes a community of teachers to lift up and support the learning of students. My teacher residency experience at Furman University extended my community into that first critical year and beyond. Knowing what questions to ask and having professors to mentor me as I was figuring out those answers had a huge impact on my practice — and, most fortunately, on Tyler and his classmates.

* = Student name changed.

Professional Development Schools as a Mechanism to Support Teacher Recruitment, Preparation, & Retention in South Carolina


The Professional Development School (PDS), at its best, is “a superb laboratory for education schools to experiment with the initiatives designed to improve student achievement” (Levine, 2006, p. 105). Analogous to teaching hospitals where senior physicians provide mentorship to more novice physicians while engaging in research in both medical practice and education, PDSs provide opportunities for direct interactions between master and novice teachers in the company of P-12 students (Goodlad, 1984). These clinical partnerships between preparation programs and schools offer opportunities for shared professional learning, engagement of professionals in research, and implementation of a “grow your own” model for teacher recruitment. Despite their power, the complexities of creating, managing, and sustaining a PDS partnership often discourage such collaborations between P-12 schools and higher education. Continued lack of resources along with “questionable structures, ambiguous purposes, or inconsistent support” feed the challenges of widespread implementation (Hunzicker, 2018, p. 3). We attest that the value of the PDS supersedes such challenges. The dedicated space to engage in simultaneous renewal for the school and the university is unmatched. This paper provides a brief history of the PDS movement, explores foundational PDS standards and structures, and highlights impact evidence from South Carolina institutions. Recommendations for future efforts build on current research toward a more comprehensive approach to supporting teacher recruitment, preparation, and retention through Professional Developments Schools.

Read the Working Paper


Read the Fact Sheet


View the Infographic

Bridging the Gap with Support and Planning

by Madalyn Hazlett
Dreher High School Mathematics Teacher

At the end of my first year of teaching, I was asked to give one positive story that came from that school year.
I could not come up with a single one.
That shocked me.

Until then, I had not realized how much I struggled my first year. I could not think of one positive moment. The entirely new world I got thrown into my first year was often overwhelming, exhausting, and emotionally taxing. I will say, although I did not cry every day like some veteran teachers shared with me about their first year, I cringe when I think about some horror stories of that year.

How do you respond to an email from a parent who says you do not care about students who are in special education (when you have a brother with autism)? What are you supposed to do when you are in the middle of teaching and realize an “off limits” cell phone is interrupting learning? Cause a huge disruption by stopping the lesson and confiscating? Ignore it, to the benefit of other students not missing instruction, but hurting the student who is not paying attention? What about group chats your students create where they send one another pictures of homework assignments? How do you stop a group of kids from short-cutting their learning when they are not even in view? Challenging emails from parents, meetings that took away valuable (and never enough) planning time, learning how to implement IEPs properly, controlling the phones in my classroom, all topped off by the content I had to plan for and teach, I was definitely a different, more exhausted, unpleasant, troll-version of myself.

Hello, Carolina TIP (Teacher Induction Program).

The University of South Carolina’s College of Education decided that they should offer more supports “bridging the gap” between studying to be an educator and actually being one. Most anyone who has been in education long-term will tell you that the first few years of teaching are the most difficult. Carolina TIP was designed to address those difficulties and help teachers transition more smoothly from being students of teaching to being teachers of students.

I remember seeing an email about joining TIP and thinking, sure, I would be stupid not to get all the help I can! I knew there would be a time commitment, a few Saturdays to give up and a few meetings to add to my calendar, but if it helped me get my classroom in order, it would be worth it.

On the other hand, I did have my doubts about the program. I think most educators have been to professional development where their “attention” becomes about constantly watching the clock and fidgeting, thinking about the pile of work left at their desks. Fortunately, these supports got my undivided attention. We talked through much needed classroom management strategies during our first session (not by coincidence, I learned), and I have never been to a professional development so engaging and useful. I was floored by how many of my fellow TIP participants were jotting down notes along with me and trying to figure out how to best take the ideas back into our classrooms.

One compelling experience with TIP was a lesson modeled for us on the word floccinaucinihilipilification. The lesson was designed to help us learn how to best remember a word that none of us had ever heard of before or had ever even deigned to attempt pronouncing. To this day, I still remember how to pronounce the word and what it means. So not only were we given suggestions on management and instruction, we were also given the chance to see this teaching strategy modeled very effectively!

Ms. Hazlett (Pronounced HAZE-LIT)

There’s more to Carolina TIP than a few Saturday sessions on classroom management and instructional strategies. My assigned mentor, Nicole Skeen, visited my classroom to observe and meet with me. The important thing about this mentor relationship is that she was not there to give me evaluative feedback, unless I wanted it. She was there to listen, offer suggestions for things she saw (when asked), and generally support me. The very first meeting we had she started by asking how much time I was willing to let her stay and then setting a timer. I was floored by that; as a former teacher, she understood that my time was extremely valuable, and she respected that.

Candidly, looking back at my first year, I remember very little. It just seemed like a whirlwind of chaos interspersed with some terrible moments. I do remember, however, ending my first year thinking that I could count on my hand the number of people who believed that I was (or would be) a good educator. One of the few people who did was Nicole.

My last week of school, I asked her to come help me figure out how I could improve the start of my next year. We met for several hours that week and the next talking through exactly what I wanted my class to look like and how I wanted to manage my community of learners. I started by writing down everything I wanted, and she helped me figure out plans to implement it. The planning for year two was half the battle. The other half was having someone there to support me and tell me that they believed in me and would provide encouragement whenever I needed it. There is serious power in knowing someone is rooting for you and has skills to help you succeed.

I started off my second year of teaching with confidence. I knew exactly what I wanted to implement in my classroom and felt good about the plan. Throughout this second year, I have realized there are some things here-and-there that I need to tweak to get my classroom management where I want it to be for next year (if not sooner), but I no longer feel like I am drowning in the impossibility of teaching a classroom of 30 students. Just as importantly, I started participating more at our school outside of my classroom duties. I am the head of our math team, work on the literacy team, attend textbook caravans and showcases, co-sponsor our school’s new ESports team, and co-chair the Sunshine committee to support employee morale! I would never have felt comfortable becoming more active in my school community had I not felt comfortable with my own classroom.

I taught a number of the same students I had taught during my first year thanks to a new course that most of them progressed to. I remember on my first day of year two, as I was going over new rules and procedures with my classes, most of my former students were exchanging surprised looks over how much more structure I was putting in place. However, all of these kids progressed at a faster pace and did much better in the content this year. Their struggles with math seemed to have dissipated as did some of my struggles. I was able to connect with my students more deeply, understanding better how they were doing individually, and being more aware of what particular concepts were most challenging and how they learned best. This past year was more about what they needed because TIP gave me more of what I needed.

I was making announcements one day, and I cannot even tell you what I was going to say, but I must have started with “So since last year, most of you know that I am…,” and one of my students, without any hint of sarcasm blurted out, “…a better teacher!” I stopped, looked at him, and said, “Yes, that too.” This was a remarkable moment for me. Seeing my practice advancing through the eyes of a student was validating and invigorating.

My TIP colleagues have different versions of this story, all leading to the same positive result: returning to the classroom in year two more prepared and more confident. While every teacher is different, and every story is different, Carolina TIP is designed to tailor its support to those unique challenges, not be a one-size-fits-all program.

I still cringe when I think back to my first classroom observation from Nicole, but I have progressed and changed so much since then that I hardly recognize “that teacher”! I will never forget what Nicole said to me after the students left that first day she came to visit: “I’m proud of you.” Her belief in me and my ability as an educator not only kept me in the classroom, it also convinced me to embrace how overcoming my challenges would be worth the struggle. That’s a lesson I continue to pass on to my students every day.

Policy Discussion on Preparation, Recruitment and Retention of Teachers

by Melanie Barton, Executive Director - South Carolina Education Oversight Committee

The research is irrefutable:At the school level, teachers matter more to student achievement than any other school factor including facilities, services,and leadership.[1]  However, the data and trends in South Carolina’s preparation and retention of teachers, compiled by the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention, and Advancement(CERRA)in its annual Educator Supply and Demand Report, foreshadow a growing public policy crisis.

  • The number of individuals completing a teacher education program has declined by 32%since 2012-13.
  • Approximately 7,300 teachers left their positions during or at the end of the 2017-18 school year, which is an increase of nearly 10% compared to the 2016-17 school year. Of these teachers, 27%reportedly went to teach in another South Carolina public school district, leaving more than 5,300 teachers no longer teaching.
  • At the beginning of the 2017-18 school year there were 621 vacant teaching positions, which is a 13% increase over 2017-18 and a 29% increase compared to 2016-17.
  • Excluding teachers who retired, 48% of all teachers in 2017-18 who left had five or fewer years of experience in a South Carolina public school classroom, and 17% had been teaching in South Carolina no more than one year.
  • Of the first-year teachers hired in 2017-18, one out of four left their positions during or at the end of that school year and are no longer teaching in any SC public school. This percentage was 22% in 2016-17.

Policymakers understand the data and know thataddressing the teacher recruitment and retention problems will require a comprehensive approach that focuses onthe pipeline into teaching and new strategies to increase retention, especially for teachers in the first five years of their careers.

The pipeline into teaching begins with our traditional and alternative teacher preparation programs. A recent report by theSouthern Regional Education Board (SREB) Teacher Preparation Commission recognized the growing teacher shortage issue in many SREB states and proposed strategies to increase the number of highly effective teachers.

One strategy is to improve the clinical experiences of teacher candidates by:

  • Requiring programs to place candidates in high-quality clinical experiences. Program approval standards should require teacher preparation programs to clearly communicate what quality teaching looks like and to place teacher candidates with strong mentor-teachers. Images of effective teaching are critical to new teacher development, and those visions help new teachersto be more successful during their first years of teaching.
  • Providing mentor-teachers support and training, with specific strategies for giving good feedback. Engaging expert mentors in the preparation of teachers not only supports new teacher developmentbut also empowers those in the profession to stay there.
  • Prioritizing any available stipend funding for residencies for candidates who intend to teach in low-performing or hard-to-staff schools.Directing resources to the schools in greatest need can help those schools attract and retain high quality teachers. Further, research indicates (cite residency working paper)that teacher candidates completing residency programs have lower rates of teacher turnover than their peers.

These strategies likely will require additional funding for our teacher preparation programs and greater partnerships between teacher preparation programs and school districts. South Carolina policymakers are also considering legislation to allow institutions of higher education to offer alternative teacher preparation programs as well.Expanding access to the profession is critical to increasing the pipeline.

Regarding retention, policymakers focused efforts in 2019 on increasing the minimum starting salary of teachers from $32,000 to $35,000 and on increasing teacher salaries by 4%using the existing salary schedule that rewards teachers for years of experience and educational attainment. Policymakers concede that increased pay is necessary but insufficient to address the shortage.

Policymakers also need to hear directly from teachers. Implementing a periodic working conditions survey, similar to one used in North Carolina, would answer the question why teachers are choosing to stay or leave the profession. In talking to business leaders and human resources representatives in the state, the working conditions survey should also ask this important question of teachers leaving the profession:What could have been done to keep you teaching? Having the data would help in devising policies to improve teacher retention.

Others suggest that the state consider piloting an alternative teacher salary schedule like career bands. Teachers would move up the career bands based upon longevity, on added responsibilities in the school or district, or even for prior experience in the private sector. Districts could establish additional qualifications to move from one band to the next. Districts would annually submit their pay schedules to the State Board of Education for approval.

The most difficult issue to combat in the teacher shortage crisis is public perception. For the first time since Gallup began polling Americans about their attitudes toward public schools for the PDK in 1969, the majority of parents in 2018 do not want their children to become public school teachers. In 1969,75%of parents would have liked for their child to become a teacher. In 2018,46%of parents would have liked for their child to become a teacher. The sharp increase in the negative perceptions of the profession by parents started in the aftermath of the Great Recession, the first time in our nation’s history when teachers were laid off due to revenue shortfalls.

Unfortunately, policymakers cannot write a check or pass legislation to change public perception. This is where a broad-based coalition of South Carolinians who understand that the State’s economic and social future depends upon having a world class education system, a system which at its core function is based on having highly effective teachers in every classroom in every school in South Carolina. Why? Because our students matter, and our teachers matter.

[1]Teachers Matter. RAND Corporation.

The House is on Fire

by Patrick Kelly, Coordinator of Professional Learning in Richland School District 2

Over the past 12 months, I have heard more discussion about how to improve schools across South Carolina than at any other time since I moved here in 1999. This conversation is exciting and desperately needed, but after so many years of giving minimal attention to education, the volume of proposals for reform being discussed in the legislature and across the state are overwhelming and, to some extent, making it difficult to reach consensus on next steps. Our state seems to agree that something needs to be done, but the challenge now is determining what to do.

This determination isn’t easy given the multitude of issues to address in our schools, and in order to determine what should happen first, I find it best to use an analogy. Much like our schools, I currently have a long list of things I would like to improve about my house. But, like our state, I have finite resources to make improvements, so I have to prioritize. I currently have an ordered list of things I would like to do, but I also know I would discard that list in a moment if I went home and found my house was on fire. I wouldn’t pull in the driveway and think, “Today is the day I fix the door handle that sticks.” I would jump out of the car and do everything I could to put out the fire because, in that moment, none of the other repairs would matter if I couldn’t put out the fire.

When it comes to our schools, the house is on fire – and the fire is the ever growing teacher shortage crisis across South Carolina. The data about our teacher shortage is staggering. According to the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention and Advancement (CERRA), 5,300 teachers left South Carolina schools at the end of the 2017-2018 school year and did not return. This continued a five-year trend of growing teacher turnover in our schools, and the problem is amplified by a decline over the same period in the available supply of individuals completing a teacher education program in our state. As a result, our state opened the 2018-2019 school year with 621 vacant teaching positions. Assuming a student-teacher ratio of 20:1 (which is far lower than what is found in most of our state’s classrooms), that means more than 12,000 South Carolina students started the school year without a certified teacher in their classrooms. While it’s too early to have data for teacher turnover at the end of the 2018-2019 school year, any quick scan of current job postings by our state’s school districts shows that the problem is getting worse.

The stakes of this teacher shortage crisis could not be higher for our students and for the future of our state. Research by a wide range of groups has consistently shown that the most important school-related factor for student achievement is the quality of the teacher in the classroom. As a result, it stands to reason that a student in a classroom without a qualified teacher is being deprived of the single best resource our state can provide for their education. Beyond the negative impact of unfilled teaching vacancies, research shows that high turnover rates are harmful for student learning even when a qualified replacement can be found. A 2016 study out of Vanderbilt showed that students lose the equivalent of 32 to 72 days of instruction when teachers leave during the school year. And a 10-year study of more than one million students in New York City found that grade levels with high teacher turnover score lower in ELA and math and that, by reducing teacher turnover, student achievement increased in math by 2 to 3% of a standard deviation.

Given the picture painted by this type of research, finding a way to slow teacher turnover in our state has to be at the top of any meaningful effort for educational reform. Last year, the General Assembly addressed a wide range of reform topics, from district consolidation, to changes to standardized testing, to increasing school-to-workforce alignment. All of these topics are worthy of our time and attention, but none of them will realize their full potential unless our state can find a way to ensure that every student has consistent access to high quality certified teachers in every classroom.

The General Assembly took one important step in that direction last year by increasing teacher pay. I know this action is important because, from 2016-2018, I worked for the U.S. Department of Education, and during that time, I had the chance to talk with thousands of teachers and pre-service teachers across the nation. In those conversations, I always tried to address the issue of teacher supply. Without fail, teachers from all grade levels and all states identified four key factors that could reduce teacher turnover and recruit more individuals to the profession:

  • Improved Compensation: This was rarely the first thing mentioned, but it was always unanimous that increased compensation and improved benefits were key factors.
  • Time: I’ve written in the past about the increased time pressures teachers face today. Simply put, the expectations and requirements for great teaching have changed, but the basic structure of the work day has not.
  • Respect: Numerous teachers shared stories of feeling that they were constantly having to defend their judgments and status as professionals in the face of ever growing challenges from within and outside the education system.
  • Greater systems of support: Teachers expressed feelings ranging from isolation to micromanagement, but repeatedly, they noted the inadequacy of systems of support, including everything from a lack of available resources to insufficient opportunities for professional growth and learning.

There are some promising practices that are making a difference in addressing those topics. For example, our district is seeing great returns from the enhanced support many of our newest teachers are experiencing through CarolinaTIP. Our district has also worked to provide more opportunities for professional learning experiences that are teacher-driven and collaborative in nature, such as the Powered by Teach to Lead Summit we hosted in June. 

However, these steps alone won’t sufficiently address the depth of the teacher shortage. Issues like time and respect are unquestionably challenging, but the level of the challenge shouldn’t cause us to lose sight of the importance of the task. This is why the work of SC-TEACHER is such an exciting development as it seeks to pull together stakeholders from across the state to look more deeply at issues of teacher recruitment and retention. It is also why it is absolutely essential that policymakers continue to seek and facilitate direct and ongoing input and involvement of teachers in any discussion about educational reform. By talking to and working with teachers, policymakers can learn from the true experts on what works in a classroom while also demonstrating respect for teachers as professionals.

The house may be on fire in South Carolina education, but fortunately, in our teachers, our state has resources to put out the flames. Our collective job is to ensure that we are providing these professionals with the resources and support they need to do their jobs and keep them in the classroom.

Recruitment, Preparation, & Retention of Teachers from Traditionally Underrepresented Groups in South Carolina


This working paper provides a synthesis of the state of evidence as it applies to promising practices in teacher recruitment, preparation, and retention for traditionally underrepresented populations. The paper defines “traditionally underrepresented” as individuals of non-white racial and ethnic identities. Much of the data available categorizes these populations as being African-American or Black, Hispanic, Asian, and Native American.

The focus of the paper is based on practices in the state of South Carolina, but national trends are also referenced. Methods used include a comprehensive literature review of current research on the topic and anecdotal evidence collected through personal communications. The paper ends with conclusions and recommendations for South Carolina to increase recruitment, preparation, and retention of teachers who are from traditionally underrepresented populations.

SC-TEACHER Working Paper: Recruitment, Preparation, & Retention of Teachers From Traditionally Underrepresented Groups in South Carolina


SC-TEACHER Fact Sheet on Traditionally Underrepresented Groups in South Carolina


SC-TEACHER Infographic on Recommendations for Traditionally Underrepresented Groups in South Carolina

A Bold Plan for a P-20 System in South Carolina

By Jasmine Marshall, Assistant Project Director - National Network, Bank Street College of Education

Imagine an education system that works for everyone: Preparation programs have plenty of promising recruits across certification areas; districts have a strong pipeline of diverse, well-prepared teachers; accomplished educators become leaders in their profession from inside the classroom; and every student has an excellent teacher. It’s not the system we have right now, but it’s possible.

Across South Carolina, education leaders are working toward that vision. Pockets of success have made mentoring accessible for new teachers through programs like CarolinaTIP and prepared excellent teachers through high-quality residency pathways, like Furman University’s Teacher to Teacher Residency and Clemson University’s residency program. The education sector can and should expand such models to push toward a system that unites all our goals across higher education and P-12 schools, providing a greater pool of resources to improve the education ecosystem.

At Prepared To Teach, we work to support the kinds of changes that make success possible, with a specific emphasis on building tight partnerships between schools and teacher preparation programs to support funded residencies. Prepared To Teach facilitates conversations between universities and schools that deepen understandings of shared goals so that partners can develop mutually beneficial models. These sorts of partnerships are not unlike high quality professional development school partnerships, where higher education faculty and P-12 school personnel collaborate on ways to improve both preservice teacher preparation and in-service teacher professional development. Here are just a few ways those relationships are changing the system:

  • When teacher preparation programs know and understand district instructional priorities, programs better align their curriculum and clinical practice.

  • When school leaders know and understand the clinical experiences that candidates need, they leverage candidates’ presence in classrooms to support students.

  • When faculty have opportunities to work in P-20 schools supporting their candidates, they serve as a resource to other teachers and leaders in the building.

  • When districts establish formal clinical practice partnerships with local preparation programs, candidates feel connected to the local schools and are excited to apply for vacancies.

  • When teachers have the opportunity to take on formal mentor roles and actively assist in candidates’ preparation, they become teacher leaders, re-engaged in the profession.

  • When candidates have financial support so that they can afford to spend a year learning to teach in classrooms with a mentor teachers, more diverse individuals are able to enter the profession.

Across South Carolina and the nation, universities, districts, and schools have worked together to establish a strong foundation for the work. Now, it’s time to codify those partnerships in our schools and teacher education programs. In the Prepared To Teach network of residencies, that work has already begun:

  • Western Washington University and district partners are welcoming 20 interns across five schools in fall 2020. District and school leadership are reallocating substitute teacher and paraprofessional dollars to fund candidates during their yearlong clinical practice. The program will also embed a faculty member in one of its partner districts. This faculty member will spend a majority of her day in district schools, making her accessible to teacher candidates and mentor teachers, as well as other teachers and leaders in the building.

  • The College of Staten Island in New York also will enroll its inaugural cohort of funded residents in fall 2020. Residents will work in New York City public schools for a year with living stipends funded from a combination of sources—including principal-allocated school building funds.

  • In response to a substitute teacher shortage, the University of South Dakota placed six residents in a Sioux Falls school. All candidates work closely with mentor teachers and attend school training in order to facilitate strong connections to the district. Residents are also paid a living stipend.

Whatever your role may be, consider how your local education landscape can share space, time, professional learning opportunities, instructional strategies, and human capital:

  • Are there ways you can be more efficient?

  • Are there openings to deepen your understanding of one another?

  • How can local teacher candidates play a part in schools?

  • How can you build a strong teacher development trajectory for current teachers?

  • What do students need most, and how can we work together to give it to them?

If you’re ready to be a part of the movement for a united P-20 system, mark your calendar for 2:00pm ET on June 12th. Prepared To Teach will be co-hosting an SC-TEACHER webinar.

These are the kinds of questions we ask when partners first sit down together. Prepared To Teach has the specific goal of ensuring that every teacher candidate has the opportunity to learn through a funded residency, but before that comes, the understanding of what we’re all working toward—a system where everyone wins. By committing to closing the gap between P-12 schools and universities, we can come a little closer to a world where there’s a well-prepared teacher in every classroom and all students can succeed.

If you’re ready to be a part of the movement for a united P-20 system, mark your calendar for 2:00pm ET on June 12th. Prepared To Teach will be co-hosting an SC-TEACHER webinar with Michalann G. Evatt & A. Scott Henderson (Furman University) on teacher residencies and their potential to support educators, students, and schools. We’ll be talking about existing programs, promising strategies, recommendations, and the role sustainable funding plays in access and equity. More information here.