Throughout the summer numerous articles have detailed the teacher recruitment and retention challenges South Carolina continues to face, and as we usher in a new school year vacant teaching positions remain. Nevertheless, out of the teacher shortage challenge emerge opportunities for innovation. It is in this innovation space that Public Education Partners operates, the proof of which lies in the establishment and growth of the Greenville Alternative Teacher Education program (GATE).
A quick recap: GATE is a new pathway to a career in teaching. GATE is the first district-based, job-embedded alternative certification program in South Carolina designed to increase the number of exceptional math, science and world language teachers in Greenville County middle level and secondary schools.
Developed through a public-private partnership between Greenville County Schools and Public Education Partners, GATE provides rigorous preparation in best educational practices to select individuals having a strong commitment to teach, and a bachelor’s degree with a major or emphasis in the specific teaching field. Similar to a medical residency model, this three-year program has been developed for the explicit purpose of providing a high-quality, additional pathway into teaching, and is preparing outstanding teachers to meet the demands of today’s classrooms.
The GATE program continues to thrive and grow amidst the teacher shortage crisis. Entering its third year, applicants have more than doubled in number, growing from 45 applicants for GATE’s first cohort in 2016 to 113 applicants in 2018. Currently there are 38 GATE teachers – 15 math, 18 science, and 5 Spanish – serving approximately 5,000 students in 23 middle and high schools across Greenville County. Together the three cohorts are comprised of 24 middle school and 14 high school teachers, with Lakeview Middle, Greer High and Woodmont High School each having three GATE teachers. The third cohort also was able to experience a three-week GATE Summer Institute, which PEP helped design and implement, to develop skills and capacities to successfully enter their classrooms this fall.
Those investing in PEP to support GATE’s expansion have also grown, thanks in large part to two consecutive large gifts by the Duke Energy Foundation. O’Neal, John I. Smith Charities, Fluor, The Daniel-Mickel Foundation, GE and numerous individuals all see the value in increasing access to the teaching profession for motivated, passionate, high-capacity individuals as a way to bolster student success and a prosperous Greenville. Even others across South Carolina have caught on. The Charleston County School District launched TeachCharleston, a similar alternative certification program to GATE to target shortages in middle and high school math, science, and English.
The GATE program boasts a high retention rate, two GATE teachers were named teachers of the month last year, and GATE teachers and principals regularly report successes with their students. As one GATE teacher writes, “The GATE program has allowed me to pursue a passion I realized later in life. I have now found my purpose in life. As I continue to teach and see my impact on my students, I will always look back and remember how I entered teaching.” These are talented individuals, who without the GATE program, would probably not be teaching.
PEP’s “north star” is for Greenville to be Teacher Town, USA, a destination for top teacher talent, and a place that systemically elevates the teaching profession. PEP has launched innovations and engaged in efforts to position Greenville as such, including our #Teach864 campaign, advocacy for increased teacher compensation, and a series of grants to support teacher retention. GATE fits squarely into this effort and we look forward to continuing to partner with our school district and community to ensure that every student – all 77,000 of them – has access to a fantastic teacher.