Bridging the Gap with Support and Planning

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

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

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.

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

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.

Selectivity as a Lever for Teacher Diversity and Student Achievement

The economic vitality of South Carolina is inextricably linked to the achievement of children of color who comprise 40% of the student population. To be clear, white is indeed a color and my personal definitions of diversity and all students include white children (perhaps a blog post for another day). However, African American and other minoritized students continue to lag their peers on indicators used to measure student achievement. Recent data reveal the disparities are chronic with little cause for optimism.

"... Education stakeholders have been grappling with the question of how to recruit more teachers of color who currently represent just 22% of teachers in the Palmetto State."

I find it heartening to observe our 30 educator preparation programs, the South Carolina State Department of Education, the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education, and school districts coalesce to address this quagmire. One point of consensus is the need for a more diverse pool of effective teachers. More than a matter of role models or representation, the Pygmalion Effect posits teachers’ expectations of students (not their melanin) are key factors in academic outcomes. So as one approach to closing achievement and diversity gaps, education stakeholders have been grappling with the question of how to recruit more teachers of color who currently represent just 22% of teachers in the Palmetto State.

Sometimes the most expedient way to address a question is to determine what the answer is not.  As such, I want to call attention to the false dichotomy between selectivity and diversity. There is a misconception that If we insist on diversity, we will have to lower our standards for entry into the profession.. My position is to the contrary. I staunchly believe increased selectivity can be leveraged to increase teacher diversity; however, we must also address the conditions which stymied efforts to diversify the teacher workforce to begin with (i.e. the declining status of the profession, teacher pay gaps/unlivable wages, and inhospitable work environments resulting from poor school leadership).

If we want to attract academically talented students of color to education, we must bolster our efforts to elevate the profession and aggressively pursue them. Students who are accomplished and think something of themselves want to be affiliated with institutions, programs, and careers, of which they can be proud and belong. If we want “smart” students to choose teaching, teaching must be presented as a profession smart people choose. While altruism is important, the demand for highly skilled professionals must be emphasized by making the intricate work of effective teaching explicit. Scaffolding, effective questioning techniques, and cultural dexterity are only a few of the required competencies.

"At present, we are literally asking intelligent people to work to their own “debtriment” (the misspelled pun intended) and amass debt to pursue a profession which pays considerably less than more accessible fields."

We also seem to require prospective teachers to choose martyrdom. At present, we are literally asking intelligent people to work to their own “debtriment” (the misspelled pun intended) and amass debt to pursue a profession which pays considerably less than more accessible fields. Before even entering the teaching profession, there are processes and expenses related to program admissions that are required of no other majors. High academic achievement prior to college affords other students the opportunity to pursue their chosen profession at no additional costs or testing. One of the barriers to underrepresented students entering education is high-stakes assessments; and for students who test well, affordability of the numerous assessments remains a burden.

This is not a rebuff of standardized testing. Testing has its place. Nor am I advocating for a Statue of Liberty admissions policy. South Carolina’s children do not deserve the tired and weary leading our classrooms. Becoming a teacher must remain a rigorous process which requires a demonstrated command of content and pedagogy. I am simply asking whether applying what we know about valid assessment warrants revisiting our metrics for program admissions. There are multiple measures (e.g., teaching demonstrations, leadership skills, and dispositions) that are less cost-prohibitive, more predictive of teacher effectiveness, and also can be used to inform program admissions, which is a known chasm in the teacher pipeline.

We also know choosing education as a career today is a decision high achieving students are often required to defend. “Why teach, when there are so many careers with less pressure, better pay, more respect, and greater room for promotion?” When recruiting academically talented students of color, we must equip them to counter such questioning and believe in the honor and gratification of becoming teachers. Teaching is not for everyone. If anyone could do it, the very recruitment and retention issues we are trying to address would not exist. But we don’t need just anyone. South Carolina’s children deserve the best.

South Carolina Teacher Residency Programs: Preparation Characteristics, Outcomes, and Recommendations


The National Commission on Excellence in Education’s landmark report A Nation at Risk(1983) identified significant problems facing America’s schools. Nevertheless, more than three decades later, teacher recruitment and retention are among the challenges that still confront the nation’s public schools. While initiatives such as vouchers, charter/magnet schools, and high-stakes testing have focused on students, they have had little impact on teacher recruitment and/or retention. However, during the past several years, school districts, non-profit organizations, and colleges/universities have collaborated in establishing teacher residency programs (TRPs). These programs are notable for providing teacher candidates with an extended clinical experience (one year) in the classroom of a master teacher.

Another innovative aspect of TRPs is their focus on recruiting teacher candidates for critical-needs subject areas and/or for high-needs schools/school districts. Preliminary data suggest that TRPs are successfully meeting some of the challenges associated with teacher recruitment and retention. In South Carolina, there are several established and emerging programs that incorporate various components of TRPs, making them a promising development in the ongoing attempt to improve the state’s public schools.

Helping Education Win The Race

There is an old saying that the course of civilization is a race between catastrophe and education. In a democracy such as ours, we must make sure that education wins the race. - John F. Kennedy

With a renewed focus on education policy and practice in South Carolina, our state has a unique opportunity to address systemic issues that ensures education, as JFK put it, “wins the race.” Doing so will require different ways of thinking about how we make policy and practice decisions. SC-TEACHER is poised to advance education in South Carolina through a focused, data-driven approach to understanding teacher education recruitment, preparation, and retention. As Barnett Berry noted in his SC-TEACHER blog post, other states have begun accumulating state-level data to help drive decision-making. For certain, there are a number of very promising approaches to recruitment, preparation, and retention that already exist in South Carolina, many of which serve as national models in teacher education. Yet, these pockets of innovation can do more to advance our collective practice.

Reading The Teaching Gap dramatically shaped my understanding of the complex and culturally-woven nature of our education system. In their book, Stigler and Hiebert write:

In a true profession, the wisdom if the profession’s members finds it way into the most common methods. The best of what we know becomes the standard way of doing something. (p. 179)


SC-TEACHER launched with a vision to provide South Carolina with a broad understanding of the current landscape of teacher education recruitment, preparation, and retention practices, while building a database with district, State Department, and higher education partners. These practices, which have become the “best of what we know,” cannot advance to the “standard way” without a common platform on which to share them, and without a common vision for how the State’s resources can be directed toward them.


Although we are just months into the launch of SC-TEACHER, I am proud to announce the upcoming publication of a working paper series focused on key issues in teacher education. Drawing upon teacher education expertise from across South Carolina, the working paper series will provide a solid foundation for the work of SC-TEACHER and supply legislators, education leaders, and other stakeholders with critical “current state of affairs” data. A total of seven working papers were commissioned, with the following areas of focus:

  • Teacher Residency

  • Recruitment of Traditionally Underrepresented Teachers

  • Alternative Certification

  • Teacher Induction

  • Rural Educators

  • Professional Development Schools

  • Embedded Methods Courses

Each paper outlines both the national and state context for its area of focus, highlights promising approaches in South Carolina, and includes challenges and recommendations for the future. Each full-length working paper is accompanied by a policy brief.


A true strength of SC-TEACHER is in its diversity and inclusion of 20 partners. True to form, the working papers reflect the diversity of our partnerships. Authors of the working papers have either previously served or currently serve as faculty at the following higher education institutions in South Carolina:

  • Clemson University

  • Columbia College

  • Converse College

  • Furman University

  • Newberry College

  • University of South Carolina

  • Winthrop University

SC-TEACHER continues to make a concerted effort to engage a wide variety of stakeholders to leverage our collective expertise and avoid myopic, individualistic perspectives. I am confident readers of these working papers will witness a variety of research-driven promising practices that can elevate our understanding of teacher recruitment, preparation, and retention.

The first working paper will be published in the coming weeks, with regular dissemination of the remaining working papers thereafter. I personally invite readers to engage with SC-TEACHER and/or the authors of the papers.


While this post has focused on the upcoming working paper series, you will continue to see regular blog posts from a variety of individuals with important messages to share. Furthermore, you will also soon hear from teachers, sharing their own narratives from the classroom, which provide critically important elements in the construction of a comprehensive look at teacher education. Finally, we will continue to build out a database that can help answer important, long-standing questions for our state’s educational system. We are thankful for our partnership with the State Department of Education alongside eight school districts and five higher education institutions to make SC-TEACHER a success.