Leadership from the Clemson University College of Education, Tri-County Technical College and multiple Upstate school districts have formed a collaborative partnership that will open a seamless pathway from high school to a degree in education from Clemson University. The schools involved are in Anderson One, Anderson Two, Anderson Three, Anderson Four, Anderson Five, Oconee County and Pickens County school districts.
Like a similar partnership struck between Clemson, Greenville Technical College and Greenville County Schools in April 2019, this partnership is also called “Expressway to Tiger Town.” Clemson, Tri-County Technical College and the participating school districts will work together to identify, support and prepare students for a career as an educator.
The purpose of the teacher pipeline partnership is to provide curriculum pathways for high school students from participating districts to begin taking dual credit courses as early as the 10th grade. Students will then go on to Tri-County Technical College, where they could potentially earn an associate degree by completing the first half of their education program, before ultimately entering into an education bachelor’s degree program at Clemson University.
Students will spend one year at Tri-County Technical College and the remainder of the program at Clemson, allowing them to receive a bachelor’s degree in just three years after high school graduation. Students can choose to spend an additional year at Clemson to earn a master’s degree through its teacher residency program and benefit from the additional knowledge, training and pay that come with it.
According to George Petersen, founding dean of Clemson’s College of Education, the partnership benefits students and participating districts while improving the immediate and long-term outlook for the teaching profession in South Carolina.
“When all of the institutions on this ‘expressway’ collaborate on innovative curriculum and instruction, our educators-in-training receive the best possible preparation in less time without sacrificing quality in their programs,” Petersen said. “What districts and our state end up with are best-in-class teachers and more of them, which will go far in addressing teacher shortages and retention issues.”
The partnership begins within participating districts’ high schools, which have committed to identify and advise student candidates as they complete required dual credit courses, and it will also assist them with applications to Tri-County Technical College. Cohorts in the program will consist of at least 10 students across all districts, and all must have a minimum 2.75 GPA in post-secondary coursework to transfer to Clemson University.
Robbie Binnicker, superintendent of Anderson School District One, said the program allows districts to essentially improve the chances of “growing their own educators.” Binnicker said the partnership allows districts to identify and recruit South Carolina students who are motivated to give back to South Carolina schools, especially those in their home district.
Binnicker said the partnership also provides an especially attractive, cost-saving option for students who are interested in the field of education. He said the detailed coursework plan clearly spells out what students can expect across the various degree program tracks, which include early childhood, elementary, middle level, secondary and special education.
“The teacher shortages in areas related to science, technology and math have been particularly felt, so these clear tracks show students exactly what they’ll be studying and where, which is a big selling point for students and their parents,” Binnicker said. “Although it’s a ‘shorter trip’ in the end, students still enjoy the college experience; they just get there in a more focused, efficient way and get started a little sooner.”
Jenni Creamer, assistant vice president of college transitions for Tri-County Technical College, said that the College plays an integral role in this pathway by ensuring students receive quality courses as dual enrollment students and during their first year out of high school. The College also provides the preparation they need to continue as successful Clemson students during the following semesters.
“Tri-County Technical College is proud to partner with all levels of education in the state to provide this caliber of program, which is laser-focused on recruiting and preparing fantastic educators,” Creamer said. “This is a win-win for everyone from the participating schools and institutions to our students and the generations of students they will go on to educate.”
Upon arrival to Clemson, cohort students will be folded into Clemson coursework alongside existing junior education majors. After completing their degree requirements at Clemson, students will earn one of the seven bachelor’s degrees offered by the University.
Students will also be eligible for Clemson’s teacher residency program, which replaces student teaching in a student’s final undergraduate semester with graduate education classes. The following year is comprised of a year-round teacher residency with an experienced master teacher who continuously gathers data about a resident’s progress to provide targeted support and feedback. Students then earn a master’s degree in education upon completion of the year-long residency and graduate education courses.
All students in the “Expressway to Tiger Town” cohort will be placed in their home district for student teaching. The program is designed so that students are encouraged to apply for and attain teaching positions in their home districts upon graduation.
For more information on the program’s curriculum and degree requirements, click here.
About Tri-County Technical College
Tri-County Technical College, a public two-year community and technical college serving Anderson, Oconee and Pickens Counties in South Carolina, enrolls more than 9,000 students annually and offers more than 70 major fields of study, including computer technology, industrial electronics, mechatronics, nursing, and university transfer programs. Tri-County boasts the highest student success rate among two-year colleges in the state and ranks in the top one percent nationally for successful student transfers to four-year colleges and universities. To learn more, visit tctc.edu.
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