USC initiative recruiting professionals to rural classrooms.

By Christina Lee Knauss

South Carolina has a serious problem when it comes to keeping teachers in the classroom.

In recent years, alarming numbers of public school teachers have left their jobs, causing shortages of instructors in many disciplines and forcing school officials to frequently look elsewhere, even overseas, to fill positions.

The educator exodus has particularly hit the state's rural districts hard.

How many teachers leave their classrooms behind each year in the Palmetto State? Try thousands.

While retirees account for many departures, teachers cite other reasons for not coming back, ranging from low pay to on-the-job stress and discipline issues.

A report by the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention and Recruitment showed more than 6,600 teachers left the state's public schools at the end of the 2018-19 school year.

This was a slight improvement from the 2017-18 numbers, when more than 7,000 left the classroom behind because of a larger-than-normal number of retirements.

But those numbers are still far too high, according to school district officials, state officials and educators themselves.

In an effort to boost the state's teacher rosters, the University of South Carolina's College of Education has developed Transition to Teaching, a new one-year residency graduate program for professionals who have an undergraduate degree in an area other than teaching and are interested in bringing their skills into the classroom.

The program will focus on recruiting new teachers for the state's chronically underserved rural school districts.

Transition to Teaching is funded by a $5 million Teacher Quality Partnership Grant from the U.S. Department of Education and will start enrollment this spring. In its first year, the initiative will be rolled out in the Colleton County School District and the Orangeburg County School District.

"As the flagship university of the state of South Carolina, my colleagues and I in the College of Education are always looking for ways to serve the students in the state," said George Roy, an education professor who is leading the new initiative along with colleagues Melissa Baker, Rachelle Curcio and Stephen Thompson. "We partnered with both rural district partners because they were identified with facing the challenge of not only recruiting teachers but also retaining them."

Participants in Transition to Teaching will receive onsite instruction and be placed in classrooms in one of the two partner...

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