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

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)

A PLACE FOR THE BEST OF WHAT WE KNOW

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.

THE WORKING PAPER SERIES

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.

MULTIPLE VOICES FROM MULTIPLE INSTITUTIONS

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.

MORE TO COME

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.