State Board of Education clears way for Teach for America

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) – South Carolina's State Board of Education has 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 board called upon the Education Department to create the alternative certification path to help enable Teach For America to expand to South Carolina. Teach For America named South Carolina a finalist region in its 2011-12 new site exploration process.

Teach For America is a national corps of recent college graduates who commit to teach for two years in urban and rural public schools. More than 8,200 TFA members are teaching in 39 regions across the country.

Following Wednesday'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 next 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 the 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," said State Superintendent Jim Rex. "Teach For America has a strong reputation for helping districts meet those challenges effectively."

Teach For America executive Christina Grant 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.

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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