The Challenge
South Carolina school districts, especially those in rural and historically underserved areas, face chronic teacher shortages and can have difficulty attracting qualified teachers. The University of South Carolina’s (USC’s) College of Education connected with Mira Education to design an innovative “grow your own” pathway for those districts that would increase and diversify the well-qualified teachers in their classrooms.

The Response
Carolina Collaborative for Alternative Preparation (CarolinaCAP) was designed to provide an alternative pathway into the teaching profession for candidates who may have previously experienced hurdles to full professional licensure.

Candidates – three quarters of whom previously worked in non-certified positions – can fill empty teaching roles and earn certification while they complete qualifications. This pathway accelerates entry into the profession for teacher candidates who might otherwise struggle to find time away from paid work to complete an additional degree.

Candidates complete graduate coursework, engage with competency-based assessments through micro-credentials, and receive tailored coaching support while moving immediately into service as teachers of record. Mira Education worked with the USC team to design and implement the pathway, including the development of micro-credentials that are aligned with the state teaching rubric and literacy instruction goals.

Mira Education has been involved from the development of CarolinaCAP’s initial seed idea, to securing funding, through the design and implementation of this pathway. Mira collaborated with USC and districts to secure approval and funding that made the program sustainable for districts. As the program and staff size grew, Mira supported the team to develop processes and structures to ensure effective operations. Mira also supported the CarolinaCAP team in responding to emerging needs during scale-up, including enhancements to the coaching model, development of an additional residency option, and new options for Praxis support for candidates.

Mira Education also coordinated and contributed to a range of impact assessment activities and storytelling retreats that support the production of educator first-person narratives that convey the impact of CarolinaCAP.

“In CarolinaCAP, while we focus on recruitment and quality preparation, we have the added critical emphasis on coaching and retention. CarolinaCAP understands that we cannot recruit our way out of this teacher shortage; teachers need coaching and support in order to be confident teachers and advocates for the profession.”

Cindy Van Buren, Assistant Dean for Professional Partnerships at USC

The Impact
Since program inception in 2019 to the start of the 2022-23 school year, CarolinaCAP has grown candidate placements by 83%, with candidates serving about 4,500 students in 78 schools.

The pathway offers opportunities for instructional assistants and other classified employees to move into teaching positions, leveraging what they already know about the students, schools, and communities in new ways.

Because the program is accessible to candidates within local communities, the pathway has a diverse candidate pool that reflects the life experiences and identities of the students they teach. Seventy-four % identify as people of color and almost one in five is male.