About half of all South Carolina teachers who leave their jobs each year are in their first five years of working in the classroom. Their departures create a shortage in the near term and deplete the pipeline of experienced teachers for the future.
The Carolina Teacher Induction Program has reduced the number of new teachers leaving the profession by offering them coaching support from more experienced classroom leaders — most of whom are retired instructors who want to give back to the profession. CarolinaTIP focuses on teachers in their first three years as they transition from learning how to teach to leading their own classrooms.
Keeping new teachers in the classroom is essential, particularly in South Carolina, where the state is projected to be short 6,000 teachers by the 2027-28 school year. CarolinaTIP has a professional retention rate of over 90 percent — about a third better than national averages for early career teacher retention.
“We have known for some time that you cannot simply recruit your way out of a teacher shortage,” says Thomas Hodges, dean of the College of Education. “Only through a combination of innovative recruitment and a commitment to retaining educators can a more stable workforce be obtained.”
One of the College of Education’s key partners in funding CarolinaTIP is Colonial Life.
“Investing in education and educators is one way Colonial Life can help with the state’s priority need of attracting and retaining quality teachers,” says Marie McGehee, director of Corporate Social Responsibility at the Columbia-based insurance company.
Colonial Life’s initial investment served as the seed money for CarolinaTIP, with the company taking a risk on what was just an idea in 2017, says Cindy Van Buren, assistant dean for professional partnerships. The company’s support has evolved over the years to include five years of increased funding and support and a long-term relationship with the organization for both CarolinaTIP and the College of Education.
“We simply could not have developed this impactful program without foundation support from Colonial Life,” Van Buren says.
The cost to provide CarolinaTIP core sessions, coaching and support, and graduate classes is significantly less than the cost — about $20,000 — of replacing a teacher. The College of Education estimates that a 25 percent reduction in teacher attrition would save the state $11 million a year.
“The College of Education takes seriously its obligation as the flagship to address the pressing educational needs of our state,” Hodges says. “We know that the most influential school-related factor in student achievement is the teacher in the classroom, making a stable, supported teacher workforce a central element in improving educational outcomes.”
University researchers who are working with novice teachers are applying the lessons learned to future training and support efforts. That research shows teachers who complete the program are happier and better able to cope with job stressors. They also report less job stress.
“I might not still be teaching if it weren’t for this program and my coach just checking in, offering support, a listening ear and showing they care,” one program teacher told researchers.
One key measure of the program’s success is that 80 percent of participants after one year of CarolinaTIP experience said they would still choose teaching as a profession if they had the chance to decide again.
“Education and access to education changes lives,” says Tim Arnold, president of Colonial Life. “A program that benefits students and supports teachers is a win-win.”