South Carolina is facing a crisis finding teachers, a shortage also affecting York County. Some experts say it could threaten the state’s quality of education and future economic development.
“Our state’s public education system faces a crisis. An ever-growing number of vacancies in schools across South Carolina has created an urgent need for more teachers,” Jennie Rakestraw, dean of Winthrop University’s Richard W. Riley College of Education, wrote in a statement. “However, new teachers need to be well prepared and able to help every student learn and succeed in school and beyond.”
Fort Mill schools are seeing teacher shortages in areas such as foreign language and special education. There also is a shortage of middle level certified teachers, said Joe Burke, district spokesperson. Fort Mill serves more than 14,500 students in 16 schools.
“The district actively seeks to hire teachers that are certified in more than one core content area to have flexibility dependent upon our needs,” Burke wrote in an email to The Herald. “A large part of the shortage is due to the lower numbers of college students majoring in education and then entering the profession.”
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Tanya Campbell, chief personnel officer for the Rock Hill school district, said Rock Hill sees more teachers leaving jobs than there are certified graduates to fill them.
“We’re not producing as many teachers per year as we are exiting,” Campbell said. “We’re not finding enough people who want to pursue education. We need to do a better job in starting early in finding those people who have potential to be great teachers.”
We’re not producing as many teachers per year as we are exiting.
Tanya Campbell, Rock Hill school district
Campbell said Rock Hill recruits teachers from in-state and out-of-state recruitment fairs. Campbell also said the district encourages other professionals to pursue teaching through alternative certification routes approved by the state. Those routes allow people who did not major in education through an accredited college or university to become certified to teach in South Carolina.
“We want to encourage those that have a passion for teaching,” Campbell said.
South Carolina’s school districts are hiring fewer teachers from in-state teacher preparation programs, according to Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention and Advancement. The number of hires from those sources has declined by 25 percent since 2012-13 because fewer students in the state are graduating with a bachelor’s degree eligible for teacher certification.
“Because South Carolina colleges and universities are not producing enough teachers to fill current vacancies, school districts are hiring more teachers from other states and countries and from alternative certification programs,” a release states.
On Jan. 18, CERRA released vacancy information from its South Carolina Annual Educator Supply and Demand Report for the 2017-18 school year.
Tackling the issue
The teacher shortage is a problem area college and university leaders are tackling.
Deans from six of South Carolina’s larger institutions and colleges of education, including Winthrop University, met in the fall to discuss the state’s shortage.
“The shortage of qualified teachers in South Carolina, especially in high poverty and rural areas and in disciplines including math and science, has become so critical as to compromise both the quality of education and future economic development across the state. Enrollment declines at colleges of education only serve to exacerbate this crisis,” a Winthrop release states.
Teachers play a key part in workforce development.
Deans from Winthrop University, Clemson University, College of Charleston, Francis Marion University, The Citadel and University of South Carolina, as well as representatives from CERRA and S.C. Education Oversight Committee discussed the problem and potential solutions, the release says. The deans also met with State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman and Jeff Schilz, interim president of the S.C. Commission on Higher Education.
Some reasons for the shortage are low pay, the need for programs that increase the supply of qualified teachers, recruitment tools such as loan forgiveness and addressing what causes educators to leave in their first five years, according to the release.
Rakestraw and USC’s Dean Jon Pedersen served on the South Carolina Department of Education’s Committee on Educator Retention and Recruitment Recommendations, which was formed last year to study the causes of teacher shortages and the state’s demand for teachers. Spearman chairs the committee.
The committee includes superintendents from small, medium and large school districts, chairman of the Palmetto State Teacher’s Association, chairmen of Senate and House education committees, chairmen of Senate and House labor committees, Senate and House majority and minority leaders, chairman of the state board of education, chairman of the South Carolina Education Association, or designees, and the university deans along with representatives from CERRA and the state’s education oversight committee.
The committee submitted findings and recommendations at the end of 2017 to the General Assembly.
Our state’s public education system faces a crisis. An ever-growing number of vacancies in schools across South Carolina has created an urgent need for more teachers.
Jennie Rakestraw, Winthrop University
Some of the recommendations include: raising teacher salaries; better marketing of the teaching profession and incentive programs available in South Carolina; improving student loan forgiveness programs; providing teacher mentoring programs; and improving programs to identify middle and high school students as teacher candidates.
Many of the recommendations will take action from the Legislature and state department of education.
“Many issues and actions that we discussed in the dean’s meetings earlier in the fall informed the contributions that Jon and I made to the state committee,” Rakestraw wrote in a statement. “In addition, each of the college deans who met last fall are working toward ways to prepare more teachers for South Carolina schools, including how to create innovative pathways such as teacher residency programs.”
Teacher residency programs, in which students work full time beside teachers, have increased teacher retention and preparedness and student achievement, according to Clemson University. In November, Clemson’s board of trustees approved the College of Education’s plans for South Carolina’s first university-led teacher residency program.
Graduates of Clemson’s residency program complete graduate education classes and a year-long student teaching experience to earn both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in education, according to the university. The state board of education and commission on higher education approved the program.
Rakestraw said residency programs take funding and a commitment from the university and school districts. She said residencies are one example of what colleges and universities need to do amid the shortage. It’s something Winthrop is looking into.
“(Universities) are very interested in being part of the solution for putting well qualified, dedicated teachers in the classroom,” she said. “Every college or university preparing teachers wants this to happen. We’re hoping a lot more will be done in the future.”
Amanda Harris: 803-329-4082
By the numbers
▪ About 6,700 South Carolina teachers left their positions during or at the end of the 2016-17 school year. Of those, about 4,900 teachers are no longer teaching in a public school in the state.
▪ Of the teachers who left in 2016-17, excluding those who went to another South Carolina district, 35 percent had five or fewer years of experience and 12 percent were in their first year.
▪ Of first-year teachers who were hired for the 2016-17 school year, 22 percent left their positions by the end of that year and are no longer teaching in any public school district in the state.
▪ South Carolina public school districts reported 550 teaching position vacancies at the start of 2017-18, a 16 percent increase compared to 2016-17.
▪ Rock Hill schools had 42 vacancies as of Feb. 6, most of which are for jobs in 2018-19, according to the district. Rock Hill has 27 schools serving about 18,000 students.
▪ The Clover school district is looking to fill 54 teacher positions in 2018-19. Clover has 11 schools and serves more than 7,500 students.
▪ The York school district has 24 classroom teaching positions open for next school year. York has 10 schools that serve about 5,200 students.
▪ Winthrop University currently has 847 students enrolled in an education major to teach. Since 2014, 453 students graduated from Winthrop and were certified to teach.
Information compiled from York County school districts, Winthrop University and CERRA
Teacher recruitment fairs
The Rock Hill school district is hosting a teacher recruitment fair 8:30 a.m.-noon Feb. 24 at South Pointe High School, 801 Neely Road, Rock Hill. The district is looking to fill certified teacher vacancies for the 2018-19 school year. Register online at rock-hill.k12.sc.us/rockstars.
Chester County School District is hosting a recruitment fair 9 a.m.-noon March 3 at Gateway Conference Center, 3200 Commerce Drive, Richburg. Registration on the district’s website. Chester schools are seeking teachers to fill K-12 positions in early childhood, social studies, special education, foreign languages, science, related arts and more.