General Teacher Preparation Policy
The state should require teacher preparation programs to admit only candidates with strong academic records and support programs to encourage greater numbers of qualified individuals of color to become teachers. This goal was ungraded in 2020.
GPA/Testing Requirement: South Carolina requires prospective teachers to have a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.75 to gain admission to a teacher preparation program.
South Carolina requires that approved undergraduate teacher preparation programs accept only teacher candidates who have passed a basic skills test, the Praxis Core Academic Skills Test. Although the state sets the minimum score for this test, it is normed only to the prospective teacher population. South Carolina allows candidates to qualify by means of equivalent scores on the SAT or ACT.
Additional Requirements: The state allows educator preparation programs to waive admission requirements for up to 5% of students admitted. Specifically, educator preparation guidelines state that the "unit head may admit a candidate with a cumulative GPA as low as 2.5 if compelling evidence exists and not to exceed 5% of all candidates admitted at that institution." South Carolina requires all teacher preparation programs housed in institutions of higher education to obtain CAEP accreditation. Although meeting CAEP accreditation standards ensures a certain degree of proficiency, CAEP delays verification of a student's academic ability until graduation, rather than at the time of admission.
Diversity Programs: South Carolina is implementing a program designed to increase the diversity of its teacher candidates. The state funds the Call Me MISTER (Mentors Instructing Students Toward Effective Role Models) program, which provides scholarships, academic support, and cohort support to minority individuals who pursue teaching and are accepted into the program. The program is administered by Clemson University.
South Carolina Code Annotated 59-26-20(e); 59-26-30 South Carolina State Board of Education Minutes, October 11, 2006 http://ed.sc.gov/scdoe/assets/file/stateboard/documents/SBEandComms-Minutes-10-06.pdf Standards, Policies, and Procedures for South Carolina Educator Preparation Units https://ed.sc.gov/educators/educator-preparation/educator-preparation-units/accreditation/policies-and-regulations/standards-policies-and-procedures-for-south-carolina-educator-preparation-units/ Program Approval Standards for South Carolina Teacher Education Institutions R 43-90 Call Me MISTER https://www.clemson.edu/education/callmemister/
Require that teacher preparation programs screen candidates for academic proficiency prior to admission using more rigorous criteria.
Teacher preparation programs that do not sufficiently screen candidates invest considerable resources in individuals who may not be able to successfully complete the program, pass licensing tests, and ultimately succeed in the classroom. Candidates in need of additional support should complete remediation before entering the program to avoid the possibility of an unsuccessful investment of significant public resources. South Carolina should require candidates to pass a test of academic proficiency that assesses reading, mathematics, and writing prior to program admission that is normed to the general college-going population, rather than only the prospective teacher population. Alternatively, the state could increase its GPA admission requirement from a minimum grade point average of 2.75 to at least 3.0 for individual candidates or 3.2 for cohorts of accepted candidates in order to establish that prospective teachers have a strong academic history.
Consider requiring candidates to pass subject-matter tests as a condition of admission into teacher programs.
In addition to ensuring that programs require a measure of academic performance for admission, South Carolina may also consider requiring subject-matter testing prior to program admission, rather than at the point of program completion. Doing so would provide candidates lacking sufficient subject-matter expertise with an opportunity to remedy deficits prior to entering formal preparation.
South Carolina was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts that enhanced this analysis. The state elaborated that a provider may admit a candidate with a GPA between 2.5 and 2.75, only if compelling evidence exists; the candidate still must meet all other admission criteria, and the provider cannot utilize this GPA provision for more than 5% of all candidates admitted. South Carolina also indicated that, for accreditation purposes, the provider still must meet the CAEP requirement of a cohort average GPA of at least 3.0.
Evidence is strong that countries whose students consistently outperform U.S. students set a much higher bar for entry to teacher preparation programs than what is typically found in the United States. Far from the top third or even top tenth to which more selective countries limit candidates, most states do not even aim for the top 50 percent. Previous analysis has shown that many states do not require that preparation programs evaluate candidates' academic proficiency as a condition of admission to teacher preparation at all; most others set a low bar by requiring basic skills tests that generally assess middle school-level skills or by requiring a minimum GPA, but too few demand at least a 3.0.
In addition to the low skill level tested by current basic skills tests (e.g., the Praxis Core), another concern is that they are normed only to the prospective teacher population, which does not allow for comparability between prospective teachers and the entire college-bound population. Tests normed to the general college-bound population would shine a clearer light on the academic proficiency of those admitted to teacher preparation programs and allow programs to be truly selective.
While a positive start, CAEP standards are no substitute for states' own policies. CAEP's standards require that the group average performance on nationally normed ability assessments such as ACT, SAT, or GRE be in the top 50th percentile. However, CAEP allows programs the unnecessary freedom to determine whether the minimum criteria will be measured prior to admissions or at some point during the program. Clear state admission policies would send an unequivocal message to programs about the state's expectations for high admissions standards.
Research is clear about the positive effects of teachers with stronger academic backgrounds on student achievement. Higher teacher selectivity, as measured by factors such as SAT/ACT scores, GPA prior to program admission, and an institute of higher education's (IHE) general competitiveness or selectivity, has a significant, positive correlation with student achievement. Some studies support higher academic admissions standards for entry into TPPs, including studies showing a relationship between student achievement and teachers' verbal ability or selectivity of the teachers' college. Although research supports applying greater selectivity when admitting teacher candidates, some recent work has found no correlation between teachers' scores on tests normed to the general college-bound population (e.g., SAT, ACT) or IHE selectivity and student achievement.
States should support increased diversity in the teacher pipeline, in addition to maintaining high admissions standards for teacher preparation programs. Recent data show that 49 percent of students in the US were students of color, while only 17 percent of teachers were teachers of color. Twenty-eight states had gaps between the percentage of students and educators of color that were greater than 25 percentage points. A growing body of research suggests that students of color—students who often face the largest achievement gaps—benefit from having same-race teachers. Exposure to same-race teachers positively benefits student achievement, teachers' expectations and perceptions of students, teachers' assessments and perceptions of student behavior, students' rates of suspension and expulsion, students' assignment to Gifted and Talented programs, and students' perceptions of teachers. Some research suggests that teachers of the same race as their students are more likely to reduce high-school dropout rates as well as increase student attendance and college attendance intent, and improve discipline. Moreover, white students report that they favor teachers of color.