Carolina Collaborative for Alternative Preparation (CarolinaCAP) is a non-degree program created with the goal of bringing quality teachers to rural communities throughout the state.
CarolinaCAP is an up to three-year program that includes two graduate courses where candidates can learn about the fundamentals of being a teacher. Candidates receive co-teaching and co-planning support in the program from their assigned CarolinaCAP coach and also work within a cohort of fellow teachers.
“We’re meeting a need, and this need is not exclusive to South Carolina," Tria Grant, the CarolinaCAP director, said. "There is a recruitment and retention problem — or challenge — across our nation. And to offer a program that is structured in a way to support teachers the way that we know teachers in many areas need to be supported, and to model that support, I think is important.”
In the program, candidates complete a summer "launch" where they work with course instructors who help candidates develop a curriculum before they enter the classroom. These courses, centered around the methods and instructions of teaching, continue after candidates have started in their classrooms.
“We have to get into the mind of the people who are going to be the candidates for this program, and by that I mean they have never taught,” Beth White, who serves on the CarolinaCAP leadership team and develops and teaches the masters level coursework for the program, said. “And so, when I say get into their minds, we’re having to think, ‘What are the essential things they need right from the very beginning to make a community in a classroom work and to be effective with learning?'”
The first group of CarolinaCAP teachers started in July of this year. This group included Brittany Caniglia, who is currently teaching sixth grade at Williston-Elko Middle School.
Caniglia said she has wanted to be a teacher for as long as she can remember, having grown up around educators, and she began pursuing her degree at USC Aiken right after high school.
When her husband joined the military, however, frequent moves made it so Caniglia was able to get her degree in early childhood development, but not her state teaching license. Caniglia tried entering other alternative certification programs for her licensure while teaching preschool but was told she had “too much experience” to be eligible.
“Being a wife and having a child, it’s not really an option for me to stop working, to go back to college as an undergraduate again when I already have a degree. So that was kind of a frustrating situation to be in,” Caniglia said.
Caniglia then found the CarolinaCAP program and is now on track to get her teaching certification.
“A lot of the participants in the program have very similar backgrounds to me, where they have a lot of experience in teaching pre-K and they have child development degrees or background working in special education, but they were just lacking one small piece to get their teacher certification,” Caniglia said. “So it’s really a fantastic program for people who are kind of already in the field somewhat, but just need that path to licensure.”
The CarolinaCAP Program has several other components that make it unique to other alternative certification programs, one of these being micro-credentials. Micro-credentials allow candidates to demonstrate their competency in a smaller, specific skill.
Thomas Hodges, the executive associate dean for faculty and academic affairs, said the CarolinaCAP program is meant to partially address the teacher shortage in South Carolina, especially outside of the Midlands region.
In the 2018-19 school year, South Carolina saw 621 teacher vacancies. In March of 2019, the state legislature gave approval for colleges and universities in South Carolina to offer alternative pathways to becoming a teacher. USC was the first school to apply to be an alternative pathway provider.
“We got to work internally about, OK, ‘How can we really begin to serve the rural communities across the state, continue to diversify the teaching profession — which is something that we all know we need to support and do — and then how can we build this in a way that is very different from other alternative preparation providers that already exist in the state, and do so in a very robust way?'” Hodges said.
While the program fees are set at $7,500 per participant, USC has been awarded funds that cover $3,000 of this cost per candidate in qualifying rural districts via Proviso 1A.85. Partner districts will be in charge of the remaining fees.
The program is a partnership between USC’s College of Education, the Center for Teaching Quality and 12 South Carolina school districts.
According to Grant, the program has put 42 teachers in classrooms, but Grant said she would love to partner with more districts across South Carolina. Currently, the program has over 200 applicants — many of whom are ready to teach — but not enough districts to place them in.
“I became a teacher because I want people to have choices, and having a good education allows you to have choices in your life,” Grant said.