Recruitment Into The Teaching Profession

The number of students completing teacher education programs in South Carolina has been on a steady decline. The most recent data available from the SC Commission on Higher Education show that during the 2017-18 academic year, only 1,642 students graduated with a Bachelor’s degree that makes them eligible for teacher certification. This number is down from the prior year by 2.5% (40 completions), and it has dropped by 32% (800 completions) since the 2012-13 academic year. With teacher departure rates rising at an equally alarming pace, SC school districts are looking to other sources to fill empty classrooms. Districts are hiring more career changers and other alternative certification program completers, new graduates and experienced teachers from other states, and international teachers. More information about teacher departures and hiring sources can be found in the 2018-19 Annual Educator Supply and Demand Report published by the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention and Advancement (CERRA).

Why are fewer and fewer high school students choosing to enter teacher education programs and become educators? Money is not likely to be the primary reason that a high school student aspires to be an educator. Teacher pay in South Carolina continues to lag behind the southeastern average, and teachers typically say that they didn’t enter the profession for the money. Bills currently pending in the South Carolina legislature, House bill H.3759 and Senate bill S.419, both provide for an increase in the minimum starting salary for teachers, as well as an across-the-board increase for current teachers. Nevertheless, teacher pay likely will continue to lag behind the salaries associated with other professions requiring similar training, responsibility, and commitment.

What else is keeping young people from viewing the teaching profession as a desirable career? Students have a first-hand look at the profession every day in their classrooms. They perceive that teachers are stressed, frustrated, overwhelmed, unhappy, etc. Parents, including many who are teachers themselves, discourage their own children from becoming teachers. Phi Delta Kappa’s 2018 annual poll on the public’s attitude toward public schools revealed that only 46% of parents would like for their child to become a teacher, down from 70% in 2009.

How do we overcome the negative perception that many have of the teaching profession and encourage young people to become teachers?  It has been said that middle school-aged students may not know what they want to do when they grow up, but many have already decided what they do not want to do. As a result, it is critical that we start early to assure that K-12 students do not have a negative impression of teaching. Current SC programs offered through CERRA, such as ProTeam, encourage middle school students to develop a plan for their life and to consider preparing to enter a profession — such as the teaching profession. Unfortunately, not all middle schools offer the ProTeam course and if they do, many students are unable to fit the class into their schedules.

Jane Turner and the South Carolina Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention, & Advancement (CERRA) are partners in our work for SC-TEACHER.

Teacher Cadet (TC) is a college-credit high school course that goes further to expose students to the teaching profession and give them an opportunity to both observe and work with students. Through year-end course surveys, Cadets routinely report that their experiences working with students are the most influential component of the class. Institutions of higher education (IHEs) serve as College partners by sponsoring Cadet sites and awarding college credit to the Cadets.  These College partners also provide resources and support to the Cadets and the TC instructors. Public high schools in SC also are beginning to offer introductory education classes, and some offer after-school or extra-curricular opportunities for students who are considering becoming teachers. Organizations like The SC Education Association and the Palmetto State Teachers Association offer memberships and programs for high school students.

These experiences are worthwhile even if they do not lead to an immediate decision to pursue a teacher education program. College students or working adults may think back on their experiences in high school and decide to pursue teacher certification. Knowing this, what can IHEs do? Recruit from within by identifying students with undeclared majors or majors that are not associated with an immediate or clear job path. Make information available about the many forgivable loan opportunities for teacher education students, such as the SC Teachers Loan administered through the SC Student Loan Corporation. Making college more affordable and student loan debt less of a burden may impact students who have dismissed teaching as a profession because of pay.

IHEs also could pursue new avenues for the creation of alternative certification programs that are college-based, as opposed to those offered by the SC State Department of Education, local school districts, or commercial enterprises. The Commission on Higher Education, the State Department of Education, and the Legislature currently are looking at ways to allow IHEs to develop such programs. Assuming IHEs are able to administer alternative certification programs in the near future, it will be critical that they are able to freely innovate in ways that non-IHE programs are able to now.

What other ways can we expose students to the rewards the teaching profession has to offer?

Teacher Leadership Should Drive Education Reform

Too often we assume leadership is a title or a position. I believe leadership is a frame of mind, an attitude, and a willingness to serve.

Teachers are natural leaders. They lead students every day and have opportunities around them to lead their peers and influence the culture of their schools. We know that teachers who engage in these everyday leadership roles are more satisfied with their work and have students who achieve at higher rates. Yet, I find that too often teacher leadership is not at the forefront of our reform efforts.

I reached out to several successful teacher leaders to see how they might respond to the question, If you could tell someone about teacher leadership, what would you say?

I believe that a teacher leader is someone who energizes and inspires other teachers with the goal of improving the school’s performance. A teacher leader is engaged in school and community activities. A teacher leader can also act as a mentor to other teachers but never stops learning. All of this is tough to do while still teaching your own students but with good planning and discipline can be accomplished. — Kevin A., Award-winning Band Director

I believe that leadership is all about being a servant. I tell my children every day to show their hearts… by shining bright and being kind to others. I truly believe that if serving is below you, effective leadership is beyond you. — Ann Marie Taylor (former South Carolina State Teacher of the Year)

Serving isn't based on the worthiness of the recipient- it's based on the heart of the servant." I believe that when you lead with love and a servant heart, people will want to follow you - even through your mistakes. — Emily B., Special Education Teacher and Leader

Teacher Leadership allows teachers to grow in their own profession without making the switch to administration. Teachers have the opportunity to serve as leaders in their own schools. They may serve as specialists in their discipline, mentor teachers, cooperating teachers or even technology experts. I have grown the most as a teacher leader through our opportunity to serve as a Professional Development Facilitator for teachers across my district. Teacher leadership opportunities are vital to allow teachers to feel like they can continue to grow in our profession. — Billie W., Social Studies Teacher and Multiple State Champion Cheer Coach

Teacher leadership is incredibly important for growing teachers — both new and experienced. It is something that needs to be discussed but somehow isn't. There is so much focus on formal training and relationships between administrators and teachers that I think we forget how important teachers are to one another. Teacher leadership allows teachers to be vulnerable, to share their successes and failures with fellow colleagues in an effort to grow their practice as well as other teachers around them. It is iron sharpening iron. There is naturally more buy-in when a teacher listens to and grows from someone "in the trenches" with them each day. However, it is,,, more difficult to ‘get rolling’ because it means teachers must open the doors to their classrooms and allow others to see what they are doing and not a lot of teachers think they have anything to share (though on the contrary they do!). — Ali H., Government/Economics/Government Teacher

Dr. Melton, Superintendent of School District 5 of Lexington and Richland Counties, is a partner in our work for SC-TEACHER.

There are two words that make me cringe: ”just” and “only.” That is, “This is just my (insert a number) year” or “I am only a (insert a position).” I never want a teacher in my district to feel they are too new or in a position that does not afford them the opportunity to make our schools better places for learning and growing. I challenge all teachers, new and veteran, to be  leaders within their own schools. I also challenge school administrators to establish the conditions needed for teacher leadership within their schools.

I leave you with some questions to consider:

  • What are you doing to engage in teacher leadership?

  • How are you setting the stage so that others can engage in teacher leadership?

  • How are you preparing beginning teachers to demonstrate the capacity for teacher leadership?

Lead. Influence. Inspire. YOUR way.

A Destination Profession

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.

Getting Down to the Facts in Addressing South Carolina’s Teacher Shortages

Over the last several years a steady drumbeat of news has been telling the story of why South Carolina teachers are quitting in record numbers. And last month the Post and Courier published a story that generated even more cause for concern. The shortages have “gotten worse” in 2018, as more than 7,300 of the state’s teachers left their posts, a 10 percent increase from the previous year. Drawing on the latest report from the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention, and Advancement (CERRA) at Winthrop University, we also have learned that one in four new recruits to South Carolina’s classrooms leave after just one year. The Pee Dee region, where most schools serve high proportions of high need students, accounts for one-sixth of the state’s teachers yet tallies one-third of its vacancies.

The reasons for teachers’ departures are becoming more well-known. South Carolina teachers report that low salaries prevent them from making ends meet. And they point to top-down policies that keep them from teaching effectively — including pressures to teach to excessive numbers of standardized tests undermining the creative approaches they seek to use with students. In the Post and Courier article, Saani Perry, a fourth-year teacher in the Fort Mill School District, reported that his teaching job causes “whiplash of a sort.” The time he needs to serve diverse students and create more customized lessons for them are stymied by an array of organizational mandates and redundancies.

Perhaps the good news is that these challenges to recruiting and retaining teachers are not unique to South Carolina. And researchers consistently have uncovered the means to solving the teacher turnover problem. As we pointed out in the Kappan a few years ago, states like North Carolina were well on their way to solving teacher shortages in the 2000s, with a comprehensive set of strategies, until those ideas were abandoned. And now, North Carolina is facing equal if not even more dire challenges than its neighbor to the South to recruit and retain teachers.

One effort North Carolina has not discarded is collecting integrated data on the teaching profession, including on teacher education and alternative certification recruits, the extensiveness and usefulness of their training, where they end up teaching (and for how long), and if they leave, where they go and why. The North Carolina system is far from perfect; however, for ten years, the Education Policy Initiative at Carolina (EPIC) has worked with the state education agency and the UNC system to create and carry out an agenda of research designed to better understand teacher and school leader quality in the state. EPIC has conducted dozens of very important and methodologically sound studies related to educator effectiveness. And the Center for Teaching Quality (CTQ), a national partner with SC-TEACHER, is now working with EPIC and the Learning Policy Institute (LPI) to better understand the specific role of professional working conditions in retaining teachers. Our efforts are informing the deliberations of North Carolina’s Commission on a Sound Basic Education. (Be on the lookout for more specifics around this work later this spring as publications are released.)

Here is the better news: The University of South Carolina, through its work with districts, other IHEs, CTQ, and EPIC is learning how to build a system to further inform these same issues in our state — to create the data infrastructure, the tools, and analytical capacity to assemble specific evidence on who enters teaching, through what pathway, how effective they become, and what teaching and learning conditions help them improve, stay in the profession, and support long-term school improvement.

This work will be the heart of SC-TEACHER, a new Center of Excellence supported by the SC Commission on Higher Education, in an effort to develop for policymakers and practitioners much better and consistent evidence on teacher education and retention, connecting hard data to good practice and the policies needed for sustainability. It is one thing to develop reliable and valid data on the teaching profession — which has to be Job #1. It is another thing to do Job #2: co-creating with school practitioners the studies that would be most useful to them in recruiting, preparing, and retaining teachers, and how all of them can be more effective in service to our state’s 780,000 public school students. These are the two primary ambitions of SC-TEACHER, which include getting down to the facts and keeping Saani Perry and many others like him in their classrooms.

A Case for Teacher Mentoring, Coaching and Induction Support

I appreciate that many in our state are concerned about our teachers and are attempting to come up with initiatives to solve South Carolina’s teacher shortage. A number of legislators are publically speaking to the urgency of transforming education. Stakeholders all over the state are hosting forums to discuss ideas for addressing the teacher shortage.

"[SC-TEACHER] will focus on developing a body of comprehensive research to understand and address the impact of teacher recruitment, preparation and retention policies and practices on teacher effectiveness in South Carolina."

In response to the teacher shortage challenges and thanks to funding from the Commission on Higher Education, the UofSC College of Education has launched the South Carolina Teacher Education Advancement Consortium through Higher Education Research (SC-TEACHER). This Center of Excellence will focus on developing a body of comprehensive research to understand and address the impact of teacher recruitment, preparation and retention policies and practices on teacher effectiveness in South Carolina.

The complexities of the teacher shortage require multiple strategies. Currently, much of the focus regarding the shortage has been on recruitment and the need to do more to encourage individuals to enter the teaching profession and even go as far to make it “easier” to become a teacher. Although I cannot support making it easier to be a teacher, I do agree that we need to do more. There are numerous effective and promising recruitment practices taking place in South Carolina that are adding teachers to the pipeline.

Many educators say higher salaries is a key solution. I concur that teachers deserve more pay, but salary alone is not the answer. Teachers have also shared their frustration about not being treated as professionals or receiving adequate support in their schools. For some, this is as important as higher salaries, and we all need to support pre-K-12 education and those teachers who enrich the lives of our state’s children on a daily basis.

"Last year, we launched a retention effort called Carolina Teacher Induction Program (CarolinaTIP) to support our new education alumni for the first three years after they graduate."

However, making headway on the shortage of teachers in the state through recruitment only is a mere Band-Aid. We need to do significantly more to support, encourage and help teachers address the complex challenges that they and their students face. We are asking more and more of our teachers without providing the support necessary for them to accomplish that which we are asking.

While UofSC’s College of Education provides innovative programs grounded in the realities of classroom life, we need to do more. We and other colleges of education need to go beyond providing sustained and ample support for teachers in their undergraduate degrees and provide that support for new teachers’ induction into the profession.

I can think of no other profession that allows graduates to be placed in the workforce without continuing long-term support and mentoring. Public schools assign mentors and mentor programs for their new teachers, but while they are doing a good job, this is another responsibility for an already overwhelmed system.

Last year, we launched a retention effort called Carolina Teacher Induction Program (CarolinaTIP) to support our new education alumni for the first three years after they graduate. Knowing that as many as 30 percent of teachers quit within the first five years, we are proud to say that 100 percent of the teachers who participated in the inaugural program stayed in the classroom. This fall, we are expanding the program to include about 70 teachers. Our goal is to one day serve all Gamecock alumni who choose to teach in South Carolina.

We believe that providing support, uplifting them professionally and encouraging their professional development will increase the likelihood of new teachers staying in the profession and becoming more successful in the classroom with their students. If we could retain just 25 percent of those teachers who leave, we would reduce the shortage by 1,000 teachers. Since it costs between $3,000 and $25,000 to replace a teacher, this means we could save as much as $12 million.

"By supporting new teachers, we can help guarantee all children in the state will have high-quality teachers in their classrooms who will stay. "

Our goal at UofSC is to create a scalable model for induction and to work collaboratively with our school partners across the state in supporting new teachers. We could not have launched CarolinaTIP without the support of Colonial Life, which has generously provided start-up funds.

Over the next five years, our CHE-funded work of SC-TEACHER will allow us time to forge the necessary partnerships among other institutions of higher education, state policy leaders, and local and national funders to build and deploy a state-centric, longitudinal database system to more clearly understand statewide issues and best practices that help us keep teachers like those we are supporting through CarolinaTIP – and many more.

We know South Carolina’s greatest resource is its people. Without a high-quality education, we squander that resource. By supporting new teachers, we can help guarantee all children in the state will have high-quality teachers in their classrooms who will stay.