School-Level Factors Associated
with Teacher Retention in South Carolina


Retaining teachers is an ongoing challenge in K-12 education in the United States. Teacher turnover rates in the South, including South Carolina, are even more pronounced. To gain an understanding of the overall conditions regarding teacher turnover in South Carolina, we investigated school-level factors associated with teacher retention in the state. An analysis of 1,100 public schools in 82 school districts revealed that teachers’ satisfaction with school climate, teachers’ views of school safety and student behavior, school poverty, principals’ years at the school, and teacher salary played important roles in teacher retention. Additionally, the average teacher retention rate at high schools was significantly higher than that in elementary and middle schools. Further, the average retention rate at high poverty schools was significantly lower than that in low and medium poverty schools. Moreover, schools with new principals (three or fewer years of experience) had significantly lower teacher retention rates than the schools with experienced principals (more than three years). Finally, teacher retention rates did not differ significantly between urban and rural schools. We conclude this paper with recommendations and suggestions for strategies to retain teachers in South Carolina.

Profile of the South Carolina Teacher Workforce for 2018-2019


The United States is facing a national crisis in education with K-12 teacher shortages. The same is true for the state of South Carolina. To fully address teacher shortages, it is important to have a firm handle on the current landscape of the teacher workforce. Such datasets exist at the national level; however, until recently, there was no South Carolina-centric database. The South Carolina Teacher Education Advancement Consortium through Higher Education Research (SC-TEACHER) Center was commissioned to ascertain, through comprehensive research, the impact of teacher education recruitment, preparation, and retention activities on teacher effectiveness in South Carolina. The center is developing a South Carolina-centric longitudinal data system to contribute to an understanding of statewide issues of teacher turnover, while reconciling innovative efforts from across the state to better assess the impact those efforts are having in addressing teacher recruitment and retention. In this paper, we share findings from a study that was conducted to define the landscape of the South Carolina K-12 teacher workforce. The study examined key demographics of the teachers as well as the geographic context of the schools in which they teach and the socioeconomic context comparing various teacher demographics by the poverty level in which the schools were situated. Compared to national data, South Carolina had more Black teachers, fewer Hispanic teachers, more female teachers, more teachers with advanced degrees, and lower average teacher salary. However, the percentage of teachers of color in South Carolina is under representative of the student population suggesting the need for a focus on diversity in recruitment efforts for teacher preparation programs. Considering differences between schools in rural and urban locations of the state, rural schools tend to have teachers with more teaching experience, lower teacher performance on the assessment portion of the state teaching evaluation, and employment of more international teachers than urban schools. Comparing higher and lower poverty schools in the state, higher poverty schools tend to have more Black teachers, fewer White teachers, lower teacher salary, more international teachers, and fewer National Board-certified teachers than higher poverty schools.

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Teacher Workforce Demographics and Data:
A Deeper Dive with Working Paper Series II

by Dr. Thomas E. Hodges, Director for SC-TEACHER and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in the College of Education at UofSC

In just two years, one of which continues to be impacted by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the South Carolina Teacher Education Advancement Consortium through Higher Education Research (SC-TEACHER), our state’s Center for Research on Teacher Education, has already provided numerous insights into policy and practice issues related to the recruitment, preparation, and retention of South Carolina’s teacher workforce. A variety of education leaders and stakeholders have lent their voices to speak on pressing issues impacting the teacher pipeline. To establish a current state of affairs, SC-TEACHER commissioned Working Paper Series I: Setting the Baseline for South Carolina. These seven papers, complete with fact sheets, infographics, and in several cases, recorded webinars, provide a rich understanding of projects undertaken across the state. Researchers from both public and private higher education institutions across South Carolina contributed to Series I. From the recruitment of traditionally underrepresented groups, to alternative pathways, and mechanisms for embedded learning experiences in preparation programs and Professional Development Schools, Series I serves to define the landscape of recruitment, preparation, and retention efforts in our state.

As the pandemic impacted every facet of our lives, including the teacher pipeline, SC-TEACHER, along with leadership from ALL4SC, and support from the South Carolina Department of Education, Palmetto State Teachers Association, and The South Carolina Education Association, conducted state-wide research that led to Teachers and Teaching in the Midst of a Pandemic:
Implications for South Carolina’s Policy Leaders. This state-wide survey and focus group work laid bare the myriad of challenges teachers faced as they engaged in emergency distance teaching over the last few months of the 2019-2020 academic year. As the research makes clear, an undeniable value of a center such as this is the ability to quickly ramp up research and development efforts to address emergent policy and practice needs in South Carolina.

Against the backdrop of our successes over the past two years, I am excited to announce a pivot in our upcoming publications associated with Working Papers Series II: What We Know about the SC Teacher Workforce. Through our partnership and data sharing agreement with the South Carolina Department of Education, we have spent the last several months cleaning and compiling large scale data sets for analysis. Each of the upcoming papers, written in collaboration with the methodological and psychometric expertise housed in the Research, Evaluation and Measurement Center at the University of South Carolina, will provide a rich understanding of characteristics of the teacher workforce in South Carolina. These papers connect those data gathered in our partnership agreement with other publicly available data, such as the School Report Card. Written over the last several months, we believe these papers provide a unique and far more granular look into the characteristics of our teacher workforce in schools and districts. And while there are key take-aways from each paper, they also aim to highlight further data needs in our state that will help to provide an even clearer picture upon which policy and practice decisions can be made.

The first paper in Series II profiles the demographics of the South Carolina teacher workforce, including relationships to the geographic and socio-economic context of the schools in which teachers work. The second paper will explore issues of teacher retention in relation to school level factors. This groundbreaking, first-of-its-kind work for South Carolina will allow policymakers and practitioners to understand the impact of certain school factors and target resources to teachers and schools in most need. The third paper will focus on issues of poverty and academic performance, as well as school climate in South Carolina, with implications for teacher education and professional development. Subsequent papers will continue to elevate our current understanding of the South Carolina teacher workforce.

SC-TEACHER, established with Centers of Excellence funding through the Commission on Higher Education, is now in its third year of a four-year grant. If South Carolina is to make data-driven policy and practice decisions around its teacher workforce, there is an acute need for SC-TEACHER to extend well beyond this initial four-year period. SC-TEACHER is poised to analyze available data, as well as make recommendations around data needs in the years to come. In collaboration with the Center for Teacher Quality, SC-TEACHER serves as an incubator for systemic change, including extending the architecture for data infrastructure, engaging in working conditions survey development and deployment, and providing tailored reports and professional development on analysis and action. To fulfil this vision, SC-TEACHER needs a continuing financial commitment from our state.

It is a true honor to serve as Director of SC-TEACHER. Working Paper Series II is an exciting next step in the work of the center, one that I am confident will serve communities, schools, families, and policymakers alike.