The state should ensure that its alternate routes provide efficient preparation that is relevant to the immediate needs of new teachers, as well as intensive induction support. The bar for this goal was raised in 2017.
South Carolina offers six alternate routes to certification: Program of Alternative Certification for Educators (PACE), Greenville Alternative Teacher Education Program (GATE), Teach For America (TFA), American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence (ABCTE), Career and Technology Education (CATE), and Montessori Initial Certification.
The CATE and Montessori Initial Certification programs are not analyzed below because the CATE and Montessori Initial Certifications are aimed at recruiting educators into extremely specialized subjects.
Therefore, the following analysis includes PACE, GATE, TFA, and ABCTE.
Coursework Requirements: South Carolina's PACE program must include a 10-day pre-service institute that focuses on the needs of new teachers, such as managing the classroom, handling behavior issues, preparing lesson plans, supporting diverse learners, and teaching strategies. Candidates must also attend additional training institutes and professional development meetings throughout the school year, in addition to completing three courses from a list of core courses approved by the state. These courses must be selected based on the individual candidate's experience, knowledge, and skills. Only one of these courses can be a Professional Development course, and all courses must be completed for college credit with an assigned letter grade of a B or better.
GATE candidates must participate in summer institutes and school-year seminars taught by district personnel and expert educators, but the state does not outline either the quantity or nature of the program's coursework.
TFA candidates must complete an intensive five-week summer-training program, but the program does not list specific coursework requirements. Like PACE program requirements, South Carolina requires TFA candidates to complete nine semester hours of graduate-level coursework from a list of state-approved courses, and these courses are to be selected based on the individual candidate's experience, knowledge, and skills
The ABCTE program does not outline its coursework requirements.
Lastly, PACE, TFA, and ABCTE candidates must pass a pedagogy exam before program completion.
Induction Support: South Carolina's PACE program requires that its candidates participate in an induction program that includes mentoring, the successful completion of the formal evaluation process, and a successful formal or informal evaluation during the final year of program participation.
GATE candidates must receive on-site, intensive coaching and mentoring from a school support team.
TFA candidates receive classroom support throughout the course of the program. Those who are employed on or before the 28th student attendance day are employed under an induction contract, and induction and mentoring requirements apply to TFA teachers during their first year of employment. In addition, South Carolina requires TFA candidates to participate in all district directed professional development.
ABCTE candidates must complete the induction and summative evaluation requirements as directed by their employing district or school.
Supervised Practice Teaching Requirements: South Carolina's PACE, GATE, and ABCTE programs do not require their candidates to participate in a supervised practice teaching opportunity. TFA, however, does require this of its candidates as part of the program's preparation.
South Carolina Department of Education, Alternative Certification Programs: http://ed.sc.gov/educators/teaching-in-south-carolina/alternative-certification/alternative-certification-programs/ S.C. State Board PACE Guidelines: http://ed.sc.gov/educators/teaching-in-south-carolina/alternative-certification/alternative-certification-forms/pace-guidelines/ South Carolina Department of Education, PACE participants: http://ed.sc.gov/educators/teaching-in-south-carolina/alternative-certification/alternative-certification-programs/program-of-alternative-certification-for-educators/pace-participants/ State Board of Education, 43-51 (IV), 43-53(I)(C) Greenville County Schools, Greenville Alternative Teacher Education Program: https://www.greenville.k12.sc.us/Employment/main.asp?titleid=gate; https://www.greenville.k12.sc.us/Employment/main.asp?titleid=gate_about S.C. State Board Guidelines for the South Carolina Teach for America Program: http://ed.sc.gov/educators/teaching-in-south-carolina/alternative-certification/alternative-certification-programs/teach-for-america-tfa/state-board-approved-guidelines-for-tfa/ TFA training and support: https://www.teachforamerica.org/join-tfa/leading-classroom/training-support TFA Summer Training: https://www.teachforamerica.org/join-tfa/leading-classroom/training-support/summer-training-experience South Carolina Department of Education, American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence: http://ed.sc.gov/educators/teaching-in-south-carolina/alternative-certification/alternative-certification-programs/american-board/ American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence: https://www.americanboard.org/south-carolina/
Establish coursework requirements for all alternate route programs.
While recognizing that PACE addresses specific coursework requirements, South Carolina should articulate guidelines regarding the nature and amount of coursework required of all candidates. Requirements should be manageable given the time constraints of a novice teacher and contribute to the immediate needs of new teachers. Appropriate coursework should include grade-level or subject-level seminars, methodology in the content area, classroom management, and scientifically based early reading instruction. However well-intentioned, any course that is not fundamentally practical and immediately necessary should be eliminated as a requirement.
Strengthen the induction experience
Although all of South Carolina's alternate route programs mention mentoring or induction, it is unclear that these programs are structured for new teacher success. The state should strengthen its induction experience by requiring that induction programs include: intensive mentoring with full classroom support during the first few weeks or months of school, a reduced teaching load, and release time to allow new teachers to observe experienced teachers during the school day.
Require opportunities to practice teach.
While TFA provides a practice teaching experience, South Carolina should ensure that all candidates are provided with a practice teaching opportunity prior to their placement in the classroom.
South Carolina recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis; however, this analysis was updated subsequent to the state's review.
South Carolina also noted that additional requirements related to job-embedded clinical experiences for alternate route certification candidates will be included in the revised Educator Preparation Program Guidelines.
5B: Preparation for the Classroom
Alternate route programs must provide practical, meaningful preparation that is sensitive to a new teacher's workload and stress level. Too many states have policies requiring alternate route programs to "backload" large amounts of traditional education coursework, thereby preventing the emergence of real alternatives to traditional preparation. This issue is especially important given the large proportion of alternate route teachers who complete this coursework while teaching. Alternate route teachers often have to deal with the stresses of beginning to teach while also completing required coursework in the evenings and on weekends. States need to be careful to require participants only to meet standards or complete coursework that is practical and immediately helpful to a new teacher. That is, while advanced pedagogy coursework may be meaningful for veteran teachers, alternate route coursework should build on more fundamental teaching competencies such as classroom management techniques, reading instruction, or curriculum delivery.
Most new teachers—regardless of their preparation—find themselves overwhelmed by taking on their own classrooms. This is especially true for alternate route teachers, who may have had considerably less classroom exposure or pedagogy training than traditionally prepared teachers. States must ensure that alternate route programs do not leave new teachers to "sink or swim" on their own when they begin teaching. It is critical that all alternate route programs provide at least a brief student teaching or other supervised practice experience for candidates before they enter the classroom, as well as ongoing induction support during those first critical months as a new teacher.