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Voorhees, USC partner to address teacher shortage in rural areas
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Voorhees, USC partner to address teacher shortage in rural areas

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DENMARK -- Voorhees College recently signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the University of South Carolina to offer educators in rural South Carolina new pathways to the classroom and provide enhanced opportunities for recruitment, retention and teacher preparation in some of the state’s most underserved districts.

The University of South Carolina College of Education, the Voorhees College Center of Excellence for Educator Preparation and Innovation, and the Center for Teaching Quality have partnered to address a teacher shortage in rural regions of South Carolina through the Carolina Collaborative for Alternative Preparation (CAP).

CarolinaCAP paves the way for bachelor’s degree-holding teacher candidates to immediately begin a career as a classroom teacher while participating in the necessary training to become certified.

Dr. Damara Hightower-Mitchell, Voorhees interim provost and vice president for academic affairs and executive director of the Center of Excellence for Educator Preparation and Innovation, said the partnership with CarolinaCAP is a natural fit for the mission of Voorhees’ Center of Excellence.

“We believe meaningfully impacting K-12 education cannot be done in isolation. Through federal funding for teacher effectiveness secured by the interim president Dr. Ronnie Hopkins, Voorhees College is committed to supporting K-12 education through innovative professional learning opportunities, supplemental services and resources for prospective educators.”

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Tommy Hodges, executive associate dean for faculty and academic affairs, said the College of Education prides itself on its array of partnerships throughout the state.

“A significant goal for the college is to support the diversification of the teacher workforce, with a keen awareness of the challenges rural communities face in recruiting education professionals.”

He added, “This partnership with Voorhees further solidifies our college’s commitment to these issues and leverages the expertise of both institutions in the recruitment and preparation of a more diverse workforce that benefits all of South Carolina’s children.”

The partnership is one of many efforts between South Carolina’s institutions of higher learning to address the increasing teacher shortage in South Carolina. The partnership also targets underrepresentation among minority groups in classroom leadership by connecting Voorhees College, a historically Black college and university, with the statewide network of UofSC educational partnerships.

Ann Byrd, president and partner of the national nonprofit, said as CarolinaCAP moves into year two, this is an opportune time for Voorhees College to partner with us to expand the reach and impact of the program.

“The Center for Teaching Quality looks forward to the new learning that will benefit us all in this unique partnership.”

In addition to developing and refining recruitment strategies for CarolinaCAP districts, the partnership will focus on identifying candidates in hard-to-staff geographic regions of the state and understaffed content areas such as Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics; developing strategies to boost representation for people of color in the classroom; addressing barriers to the teaching profession through innovative career pathways; and integrating diversity, equity and inclusion practices into the CarolinaCAP experience.

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Additional goals include exploring how micro-credentials increase professional knowledge by enhancing competency in specific skills and directing attention to South Carolina Opportunity Zones, a federal community development program to encourage economic development and job creation in low-income communities. Research and data sharing will guide implementation and future direction for the partnership’s work.

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