Upstate education leaders announce accelerated higher education pathway to address critical teacher shortage
Leadership from Greenville County Schools, Greenville Technical College and the Clemson University College of Education announced a collaborative partnership that will open a seamless pathway from high school to a degree in education from Clemson University. The partnership, “Expressway to Tiger Town,” will identify, support and prepare students for a career as an educator.
The purpose of the teacher pipeline partnership is to provide curriculum pathways for high school students from Greenville County Schools to begin taking dual credit courses as early as the 10th grade. Students will then go on to earn an associate’s degree from Greenville Technical College and finally a teacher preparation bachelor’s degree from Clemson University.
Students will spend one year at Greenville Tech and two years at Clemson, allowing them to receive a bachelor’s degree in just three years. Students can choose to spend an additional year at Clemson to earn a master’s degree and the additional knowledge, training and pay that come with it.
According to Burke Royster, superintendent of Greenville County Schools, the district is committed to graduating students with college credits and/or industry certifications through its Graduation Plus initiative. Expressway to Tiger Town will give students a head start on a quality career in education and post-secondary education goals.
“There is a major teacher shortage nation-wide; South Carolina is not exempt, particularly in high need areas such as math, science and foreign language,” Royster says. “The Expressway to Tiger Town initiative supports our Graduation Plus focus and addresses our teacher shortage by growing our own teacher candidate pool.”
As part of the partnership, Greenville County Schools commits to identify and advise student candidates as they complete the required dual credit courses, and it will also assist students with applications to Greenville Technical College. Cohorts in the program will consist of 20 students, and all must have a minimum 2.75 GPA in post-secondary coursework to transfer to Clemson University.
Keith Miller, president of Greenville Technical College, said the college is pleased to join forces with all levels of education in the Upstate in an initiative that gives future teachers an affordable and accelerated path to success.
“By following this pathway, future teachers can save money on college tuition and reduce or even eliminate the student debt that weighs on many graduates,” Miller says.
Upon arrival to Clemson, cohort students will be folded into Clemson coursework alongside existing junior education majors. After two years at Clemson, students will earn one of the seven bachelor’s degrees offered by the college.
According to George J. Petersen, founding dean of the College of Education, the “Expressway to Tiger Town” partnership is evidence of a healthy relationship between South Carolina’s higher education institutions and the state’s schools. He says the partnership also clearly indicates a desire at all levels of education to actively address teacher retention issues across the state.
“The Clemson University College of Education has seen progress in the areas of teacher preparedness and retention—and most importantly, student achievement—when we have approached issues through the lens of cooperation and innovation,” Petersen says. “This partnership exemplifies both of these qualities, and we are excited to work together to identify and shape the next generation of teachers who will truly become best-in-class educators working across South Carolina.”
Students will also be eligible for Clemson’s teacher residency program, which replaces student teaching in a student’s final undergraduate semester with graduate education classes. The following year is comprised of a year-round teacher residency with an experienced master teacher who continuously gathers data about a resident’s progress to provide targeted support and feedback.
Students then earn a master’s degree in education upon completion of the year-long residency and graduation education courses. All students in “Expressway to Tiger Town” cohort who engage in the teacher residency program will be placed in Greenville County Schools for student teaching. Students will also be granted an interview for teaching positions in Greenville County Schools.