State Board Approves ‘Teach For America’ Alternative Certification Guidelines

South Carolina’s State Board of Education approved a new alternative teacher certification path for Teach For America corps members, marking a key step toward Teach For America’s possible expansion into South Carolina. 
In October, the State Board called upon the Education Department to create the alternative certification path to help enable Teach For America to expand to South Carolina. In conjunction with that action, Teach For America named South Carolina a finalist region in its 2011-12 new site exploration process. 
Teach For America is the national corps of outstanding recent college graduates who commit to teach for two years in urban and rural public schools and become lifelong leaders in expanding educational opportunity. This fall, more than 8,200 corps members are teaching in 39 regions across the country, while more than 20,000 Teach For America alumni continue working from inside and outside the field of education, including more than 6,000 as classroom teachers this school year.
Following today’s vote, Teach For America will move forward to establish partnerships with school districts across the rural Pee Dee, with a goal of bringing 30 corps members to the region in the coming school year. A total of $3.6 million in private funding will be sought to offset the costs of recruiting, training, and supporting corps members in South Carolina, along with a partnership with a local university where corps members would obtain full state certification during their two-year teaching commitment. If these requirements are fulfilled, and Teach For America selects South Carolina as a new region, the organization could bring teachers to the state as early as next fall.
“High-poverty rural districts face big challenges in recruiting young teachers,” Rex said, “and Teach For America has a strong reputation for helping districts meet those challenges effectively.”
Christina Grant, managing director for new site development at Teach For America, said the organization’s mission is to build upon efforts already under way in South Carolina to eliminate educational inequity by recruiting the nation’s most promising future leaders as teachers for local public schools. Expansion decisions are based on local support and the extent to which the presence of Teach For America corps members could help close achievement gaps.
“We believe there is significant opportunity in South Carolina for Teach For America to work alongside efforts under way across the state to ensure that every child receives an excellent education,” Grant said. “Today’s State Board vote brings us one step closer toward an expansion to the rural Pee Dee region, and we’re working earnestly toward that goal.”
A growing body of research indicates that Teach For America corps members are effective classroom teachers.  For example, data released last week from the Tennessee State Board of Education indicated that Teach For America teachers in Tennessee had a statistically significant positive difference on student achievement in every evaluated subject. Tennessee is the third state to evaluate teacher preparation programs; similar studies in North Carolina and Louisiana found that Teach For America corps members have a greater impact on student achievement than other new teachers.
Beyond their impact as corps members, Teach For America alumni are a growing force of leaders working in education and every other professional sector to address the root causes of educational inequity.  Among Teach For America’s more than 20,000 alumni, two-thirds continue to work full-time in education, when only one in six intended to enter the field prior to joining Teach For America.
The new certification pathway for Teach For America corps members is the latest option for people who wish to become South Carolina classroom teachers without completing traditional college teacher education programs. The others are PACE (Program of Alternative Certification for Educators), operated by the South Carolina Department of Education, and ABCTE, operated by the nonprofit American Board for Certification of Teaching Excellence.
Rex said Teach for America would complement South Carolina’s other alternative certification programs. “Along with our colleges of education,” he said, “we’re developing a package that provides multiple pathways for capable teachers to enter the classroom.”
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