College of Education Dean Jon Pedersen shares his thoughts on SC's teacher shortage

I appreciate that many in our state are concerned about our teachers and are attempting to come up with initiatives to solve South Carolina’s teacher shortage.

Much of the focus has been on recruitment, with the feeling being that we need to do more to encourage individuals to enter the teaching profession and even go as far to make it “easier” to become a teacher. Although I cannot support making it easier to be a teacher, I do agree that we need to do more.

Many educators say higher salaries is a key solution. I concur, but salary alone is not the answer. Teachers have also shared their frustration about not being treated as professionals or receiving adequate support in their schools. For some, this is as important as higher salaries, and we all need to support pre-K-12 education and those teachers who enrich the lives of our state’s children on a daily basis.

However, making headway on the shortage of teachers in the state through recruitment only is a mere Band-Aid. We need to do significantly more to support, encourage and help teachers address the complex challenges that they and their students face. We are asking more and more of our teachers without providing the support necessary for them to accomplish that which we are asking.

While USC’s College of Education provides innovative programs grounded in the realities of classroom life, we need to do more. We and other colleges of education need to go beyond providing sustained and ample support for teachers in their undergraduate degrees and provide that support into new teachers’ induction into the profession. 

I can think of no other profession that allows graduates to be placed in the workforce without continuing long-term support and mentoring. Public schools assign mentors and mentor programs for their new teachers, but while they are doing a good job, this is another responsibility for an already overwhelmed system.

Last year, we launched a retention effort called Carolina Teacher Induction Program (CarolinaTIP) to support our new education alumni for the first three years after they graduate. Knowing that as many as 30 percent of teachers quit within the first five years, we are proud to say that 100 percent of the teachers who participated in the inaugural program stayed in the classroom. This fall, we are expanding the program to include about 70 teachers. Our goal is to one day serve all Gamecock alumni who choose to teach in South Carolina.

We believe that providing support, uplifting them professionally and encouraging their professional development will increase the likelihood of new teachers staying in the profession and becoming more successful in the classroom with their students. If we could retain just 25 percent of those teachers who leave, we would reduce the shortage by 1,000 teachers. Since it costs between $3,000 and $25,000 to replace a teacher, this means we could save as much as $12 million.

Our goal at USC is to create a scalable model for induction and to work collaboratively with our school partners across the state in supporting new teachers.  We could not have launched this program without the support of Colonial Life, which has generously provided start-up funds.

South Carolina’s greatest resource is its people. Without a high-quality education, we squander that resource. By supporting new teachers, we can help guarantee all children in the state will have a high-quality teacher in their classroom and a teacher who will stay.

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