COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) — In 2021, school districts in South Carolina reported fewer early career teacher departures compared to 2020.

This is according to the latest educator supply and demand report from the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention, and Advancement (CERRA).

The CERRA report shows 35% of all teachers who left their jobs this year had five or fewer years of classroom experience. Their data shows 12% had only one year or less of experience. According to CERRA, these percentages are down from 2020.

One teacher retention program in South Carolina is focused on keeping new teachers in the classroom. It’s shown some success.

The University of South Carolina’s College of Education established the Carolina Teacher Induction Program, also known as CarolinaTIP, in 2017.

University Induction Coordinator Nicole Skeen said the program now supports nearly 200 teachers in South Carolina across 9 school districts. They started off with 15 teachers in their first cohort. Most of these teachers are based in the Midlands and graduate from UofSC.

She said, “We are able to provide a comprehensive holistic support for new teachers to help them make the transition from learning how to teach and leading a classroom of their own.”

The three-year program gives new teachers an extra layer of support. According to Skeen, in year-one CarolinaTIP is focused on helping teachers get through the first year with responsive support.”The key word here is survive,” she said.

The second year of the program CarolinaTIP focuses on goal based coaching. Skeen said the third year is focused around leadership development. Skeen said teachers in the program get individual coaching, access to teacher sessions, and a sense of community.

There are many challenges for new teachers according to Skeen. “There is no one answer I could say. Teaching is a very demanding and challenging job. There are high expectations for teachers,” she said.

Skeen said the average yearly retention rate for teachers in CarolinaTIP is at 97.8% – this is over the course of the four years of the program. A much higher rate than the state and national rates for teachers in their first five years of the profession.

CarolinaTIP is now open to new teachers who aren’t UofSC graduates. Skeen says, “We have moved beyond serving our graduates only. To serving teachers from other universities and other alternative certification pathways. This goes to serving our ultimate goal of not only serving UofSC grads but every new teacher across South Carolina.

Skeen says right now the program is sustainable as is but if they were to expand statewide, they would need significant financial backing to make that happen.