Alternate Route Usage and Providers: South

Expanding the Pool of Teachers Policy


The state should provide an alternate route that is free from regulatory obstacles that limit its usage and providers.

Meets a small part of goal
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Alternate Route Usage and Providers: South Carolina results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from:

Analysis of South Carolina's policies

South Carolina limits the usage and providers of its alternate routes.

Guidelines for South Carolina's Program of Alternative Certification for Educators (PACE) indicate that candidates are only authorized to teach in critical need subject areas determined annually by the State Board of Education. Candidates may only apply for critical shortage areas for K-12, middle or secondary certification.

American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence (ABCTE) candidates are only authorized to teach biology, chemistry, mathematics, physics and science.

PACE is a state-run program, with coursework offered by approved colleges and universities. ABCTE is the only other approved provider in the state.


Recommendations for South Carolina

Broaden alternate route usage.
South Carolina should reconsider grade-level and subject-area restrictions on its alternate route. The state should allow new teachers to work across all grades, subjects and geographic areas. Alternate routes should not be programs of last resort for hard-to-staff subjects, grade levels or geographic areas but rather a way to expand the teacher pipeline throughout the state.

Expand the diversity of alternate route providers.
South Carolina is commended for supporting licensure through completion of the ABCTE program. The state should continue to consider policies that encourage additional providers, such as school districts and other nonprofit organizations, to operate programs. A good diversity of providers helps all programs, both university- and non-university-based, to improve. 

State response to our analysis

South Carolina asserted that its alternative programs are not a last resort but rather they are valued pathways to the classroom. South Carolina's PACE program candidates are authorized to teach in all PACE-approved subjects in any public school district in the state. However, the state has requested a focus on secondary math and science.  South Carolina stated that it is important that alternative programs help address the most critical teaching needs in SC. Over the last three years, the state has reduced the number of teaching positions by approximately 4,000. South Carolina contended that it currently has a sufficient supply of early childhood and elementary teacher. Further, the state noted that TFA corps members may teach in all subject areas.

Last word

Although PACE candidates may currently be permitted to teach in all school districts in the state, program guidelines give the State Board of Education the authority to limit the districts in which alternative certification candidates can teach on an annual basis. The potential for these restrictions may serve as a disincentive to prospective candidates. If the intent is always to allow PACE candidates to teach in any district in the state, South Carolina should consider changing the program guidelines to reflect this.

Research rationale

From a teacher quality perspective—and supporting NCTQ's contention for broad-based, respectable, and widely-offered programs—there exists substantial research demonstrating the need for states to adopt alternate certification programs. Independent research on candidates who earned certification through the alternate-route Teach For America (conducted by Kane, Parsons and Associates) and the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence (conducted by Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. and ABCTE) programs has found that alternate route teachers are often as effective, and, in many cases, more effective, than traditionally-prepared teachers.  See also Raymond, M., Fletcher, S., & Luque, J. (2001). Teach for America: An evaluation of teacher differences and student outcomes in Houston, Texas. Stanford, CA: The Hoover Institution, Center for Research on Education Outcomes.

Specifically, evidence of the effectiveness of candidates in respectable and selective alternate certification requirements can be found in J. Constantine, D. Player, T. Silva, K. Hallgren, M. Grider, and J. Deke, An Evaluation of Teachers Trained Through Different Routes to Certification, Final Report. National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Services, U.S. Department of Education (2009), D. Boyd, et al. "How Changes in Entry Requirements Alter the Teacher Workforce and Affect Student Achievement." Education Finance and Policy, (2006).  T. Kane, J. Rockoff, and D. Staiger. "What Does Certification Tell Us About Teacher Effectiveness? Evidence from New York City." National Bureau of Economic Research. (2006). 

A number of studies have also found alternative-certification programs such as Teach for America to produce teachers that were more effective at improving student achievement than other teachers with similar levels of experience.  See Z. Xu, J. Hannaway and C. Taylor, "Making a Difference?  The Effects of Teach for America in High School." The Urban Institute/Calder. (2009); D. Boyd et al "Recruiting Effective Math Teachers, How Do Math Immersion Teachers Compare? Evidence from New York City." Calder Institute (2009).  

For evidence that alternate route programs offered by institutions of higher education are often virtually identical to traditional programs, see Alternative Certification Isn't Alternative (NCTQ, 2007) at: