SC State Receives $1.4 Million Grant for Teacher Education Initiative

Administrators and faculty from SC State University, Claflin University and Senator Matthews (fourth from left)

SC State University’s Department of Education has been awarded $1.4 million by the South Carolina legislature to fund its Minority Access To Teacher Education (MATTE) Program with Claflin University. SC State has given Claflin $400,000 of the awarded funds, as both colleges partner to improve minority access to the teacher education profession.South Carolina Senator John W. Matthews Jr., on behalf of the state legislature, presented the award on Thursday, Dec. 5. The implementation of the program will begin in January of 2020.

The MATTE Program will recruit minority high school students along the Interstate 95 corridor and provide them with the skills required to enter and graduate from teacher education programs. A major component of the project is to provide counseling, mentoring, on-campus summer enrichment activities and opportunities for dual-enrollment credits at SC State University and its partner institution, Claflin University. The initiative will address teacher shortages and diversity in South Carolina schools.

During the first phase of the project, SC State and Claflin will prepare approximately 200 students from schools along the I-95 corridor for successful careers in the teaching profession. The program will serve 11th and 12th-grade high school students located in Orangeburg, Clarendon and Calhoun Counties. The goal is to begin working with these students early to prepare them for the teacher education entrance examination, called PRAXIS Core, and ultimately, for the certification examinations, Principles of Learning and Teaching (PLT) and PRAXIS II Content.

Various students from rural schools along the I-95 corridor of South Carolina enter college with hopes of completing a degree in teacher education, but lack the basic skills in reading, writing and mathematics needed to pass the state’s required teacher education entrance examination.

Some SC State University and Claflin University students who major in education come from rural school environments where much of what is required to pass the education entrance examination is not emphasized. These education majors, or potential majors, are capable individuals who have difficulty with standardized tests, but with the right preparation, they can go on to succeed in teacher education. With the help of the South Carolina legislature, Dr. Janice Owens and other faculty members have worked to make that preparation possible. Owens is the acting dean of SC State’s College of Education, Humanities and Social Science and the principal investigator of the project.

“The College of Education, Humanities and Social Sciences is indeed grateful to receive this award from the S.C. legislature, through the efforts of Senator Matthews, to offer minority high school students from along the I-95 Corridor access to teacher education programs,” Owens said.

“The primary focus of SC State University’s Teacher Preparation Program at this time, like many other universities, is the declining number of students choosing education as a career goal. The MATTE Bridge Program will recruit minority teacher education candidates and intentionally provide these students with academic support for post-secondary education. A proactive approach will help students in some of the most economically and educationally distressed regions of South Carolina, with opportunities to reach their career goals of becoming teachers. This [program] will help address the problems of teacher shortages and diversity in South Carolina,” she continued.

Through research and teaching experience, SC State’s Department of Education faculty has discovered that the majority of the schools along the I-95 corridor are in low-income, minority communities with a low percentage of bachelor’s degree holders. The disparities have also gained exposure beyond the state of South Carolina.

The 2006 documentary, “The Corridor of Shame,” produced and directed by Bud Ferillo, refers to the public schools along the I-95 corridor as “being among the worst in the nation.” The documentary drew nationwide attention to the schools along the I-95 corridor for historically inequitable school funding and poor student achievement. The MATTE Program is a crucial step in addressing these enduring issues.

“In the General Assembly, you have to put your wishes on the table. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, but you have to keep at it until you get something done,” state Sen. Matthews said. “Education is critical to the development of this state. We cannot develop a highly-skilled economy without a skilled workforce. We can’t develop a skilled workforce without teachers.”

Matthews said that there will be more ventures forthcoming to improve the outlook for teacher education in South Carolina.

The unity of next-door neighbors SC State and Claflin was a recurring theme during Thursday’s event, highlighting the impact that the MATTE Program will have on future educators, regardless of which university is printed on their degrees.

Claflin University Provost Dr. Karl S. Wright spoke on Claflin’s dedication to the prosperity of the MATTE Program. He expressed that teacher education is “near and dear” to Claflin and is a significant part of the university’s legacy.

“We’re all committed to making this [program] very successful. This opportunity is so momentous. It’s so transformative. Over the next few years, we really plan to do something about the teacher shortage in South Carolina,” Wright said.

The MATTE Program is also a part of SC State’s mission to restore its reputation as a top producer of educators in South Carolina, and empower teachers to deliver an exceptional learning experience. The project will continue to expand and address the academic needs of classrooms throughout the state.

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