Ms. Schriro with math students

New retention program earns A+ from teachers

College of Education expands teacher retention efforts after successful pilot program

College of Education alumna Alison Schriro ended her first year of teaching exhausted but optimistic about her future.

“I walked away from my first year feeling like I had a really, really great year. And I don’t always think that happens with new teachers,” says Schriro, a math teacher at Dreher High School in Columbia, South Carolina.

About 35 percent of new teachers in South Carolina leave the profession in the first five years. Schriro admits the first year was tougher than she expected, especially when learning to command a classroom full of high school freshmen.

“Midway through the year, right before Christmas break, I hit my breaking point,” Schriro says. “I couldn’t get my students to respect each other. They bickered, made fun of each other and brought outside drama into the classroom. It disrupted learning. I knew I had to figure out what I could — and should — do to get them to be civil and on task.”

Fifteen miles away, another University of South Carolina education alumna was facing her own mid-year challenges in her second-grade classroom at Irmo Elementary School.

“Classroom management was a rollercoaster for me,” Karlee Baxter says. “I taught my classroom procedures and set expectations for my students from the first day of school, but I found myself having to go over procedures time and time again which was eating up time for instruction.”

Baxter and Schriro reached out to Nicole Skeen, a veteran educator and the leader of the College of Education’s new teacher retention program called Carolina Teacher Induction Program (CarolinaTIP).

“We met for lunch over winter break and we ended up talking for hours,” Schriro says. “Honestly, I cried. We hashed it out. I left our meeting feeling empowered to launch a new game plan in the new year.”

“She recommended that I reset the clock, so to speak, during the winter break and start fresh in the new year,” Baxter says. “She suggested that I slow down and really concentrate on those classroom procedures — from walking down the hall to how to behave in the lunchroom — and reset expectations for the class because those management procedures will make a huge difference for my students.”

The new teachers used Skeen’s support and advice to help them implement new procedures and philosophies in their classrooms which they say changed the trajectory of their year.

“Near the end of the year, I had this moment. I realized and told my freshmen that they were my favorite class now,” Schriro says with a laugh. “I guess I learned right along with them as we all faced this new experience. After setting and sticking to new rules and procedures for acting civil toward each other, I could see them begin to mature and their mastery of math skills went up quickly.”

I walked away from my first year feeling like I had a really, really great year. And I don’t always think that happens with new teachers.

Alison Schriro, Carolina alum and high school teacher

For Baxter, her administrators and colleagues took notice of the change in her students.

“My principal said she could tell a difference and other teachers were talking about how my students behaved in the hallway and in cafeteria,” Baxter says. “Their feedback was reassurance that my classroom management changes were working. Now, I have a head start on next year. I will be able to come back to school with confidence and a better plan for success for me and my students.”

Providing new teachers support is the main goal of CarolinaTIP. Baxter and Schriro were two of 15 recent Carolina alumni who took part in the retention program’s inaugural year. During its first year, CarolinaTIP focused on graduates who were teaching at one of the 18 Professional Development Schools in the Midlands where the College of Education has deep and sustained partnerships. The group of teachers, who held Saturday workshops throughout the year, represented nine schools in four school districts. CarolinaTIP “coaches” helped the teachers implement best practices ranging from behavior management to instructional strategies.

Skeen observed the participating teachers in their classrooms numerous times throughout the school year to help them identify ways to improve. She realized she was helping them emotionally as much as professionally.

“I expected to focus more on instructional support in our first year, but found that what our new teachers really needed was emotional support,” Skeen says. “At various times, they needed a cheerleader, a counselor or a confidant. Those first years can be overwhelming. Of course, we did work on how to put into practice all the rich theory they learned at Carolina, but we also listened to their needs and adapted our program to meet those needs.”

Skeen says the three-year program will incorporate elements of emotional support, instructional coaching and leadership development. Baxter says the program positively impacted her first-year teaching experience.

“The reason I choose Carolina was the College of Education wanted us in the classroom from day one of our learning,” Baxter says. “And now that we are leading our own classrooms, Carolina is still here to support us. That’s an awesome commitment.”

Proven successful, with 100 percent of the participating teachers returning to the classroom next year, the program is growing quickly as it expands to more schools and one new district. This fall, approximately 50 additional teachers will enter the program for a total of 65 education alumni served. Last year, Colonial Life donated $25,000 to support the start of the program. As a company invested in the support of education, Colonial Life is actively pursuing opportunities to expand its role as a business partner in this vital work.

In addition, CarolinaTIP added a full-time CarolinaTIP Lead Coach, Angela Adams, to join Skeen and Lead Coach Morgan Lee in the development and implementation of teacher support. Together, the three have more than 65 years of teaching, coaching and educational administration experience.

“We are still building and refining this program as it grows,” says Skeen. “Our goal is to create a model that can be replicated across the state so we can serve all College of Education graduates teaching in South Carolina. Perhaps, with proven success and funding, we can expand this mission to include all new teachers in our state, no matter where they earned their degree. Our state is facing a dire teacher shortage, and retaining teachers is key to tackling this issue. We are dedicated to helping teachers enjoy rewarding and lifelong careers serving children.”

Next steps

The College of Education recently received a $600,000 grant from the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education to study the issues surrounding teacher turnover, assess the effectiveness of teacher recruitment and retention programs across the state, and develop a longitudinal data system so this information can be shared statewide. The grant will fund the creation of a new center at USC called the South Carolina Teacher Education Advancement Consortium through Higher Education Research (SC-TEACHER).

“South Carolina lacks a detailed account of the efforts to recruit, prepare and retain our teaching workforce,” says Thomas Hodges, associate dean for academic affairs. “SC-TEACHER will bring together these efforts in a way that will highlight promising approaches and in turn, provide policy-makers rich data from which decisions can be made.”

In addition to studying the various causes of the state’s teacher shortage, researchers within SC-TEACHER will explore teacher preparation programs and practices — including extended student-teaching, residency programs and ongoing professional development — to see what is the most effect way to prepare new teachers, support current teachers and improve the profession.

“CarolinaTIP is just the first step toward supporting new teachers and keeping devoted teachers in the profession,” Hodges says. “We are committed to improving our process for recruiting and retaining teachers, and we will continue to advocate on behalf of the profession. This grant will allow us to share critical suggestions for improvement with policy makers so that we can all work together to improve education in our state.”

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