On April 12, 2023, Cynthia Pryor Hardy, founder of OnPoint Media, LLC, moderated the Fostering Collaboration for Systemic Change in Teaching and Learning Symposium. Featured topics included solutions for teacher shortages, impact of Covid –19 on teaching practices and student learning, best practices to optimizing connectivity amongst stakeholders, use of school funding to address school safety, emotional well-being of students and educators, and the importance of administrators’ values and faith to transform school culture and promote students’ academic success, especially in formerly struggling schools and districts.
Mr. Keith Price, Georgetown County School District Superintendent, and Dr. Marcella Shaw, Barnwell County Consolidated School District Superintendent, highlighted the Educator Preparation and Innovation (EPI) Center’s alternative teacher certification learning pathways and year-long teaching residency programs. Both superintendents believe the programs have empowered teaching professionals to become educators and taught expert teachers to use assessment tools and data about student needs and performance across subject areas to innovate instructional practices to overcome literacy and other learning gaps across diverse student populations and across different schools and districts Both Superintendents underscored real-world examples about how application of the Improvement Science Framework (Bryk et al, 2017) has empowered educators, students, and administrators.
Dr. Shaw underscored how the EPI Center and its support of the Improvement Science Framework ensures educators and administrators “invest in people, build collaborative teams in schools and communities, and attain high-census and buy-in for competency-based improvements.” Dr. Shaw shared success stories about CSI and Priority schools in her district and others that have become high-performance schools where students successfully attain desired learning outcomes and have developed confidence and eagerly take ownership of their goals and learning outcomes. Mr. Price highlighted that “the EPI Center’s year- long teaching residency placements empowered former teaching paraprofessionals, in the Georgetown County School District, like Aliska Brown. Brown is a former school secretary who will become a synergistic educator. Mr. Price attributed Aliska Brown’s success at the EPI Center with EPI’s tiers of support, which helped Mrs. Brown to hone her authentic social and garner the instructional acumen necessary to transform teaching and learning practices. Equally important, both Superintendents underscored the key to teaching efficacy is educators’ ability to connect with students because “children cannot learn from teachers that they do not like.”
In conclusion, Dr. Damara Hightower-Mitchell, Vice-President and Provost of Voorhees University and Dr. Tondaleya Jackson underscored three guiding principles that have contributed to the EPI Center’s successful role in eliminating teacher shortages and matriculating innovative, culturally competent P-12 educators and leaders who support competency-based development of school improvement and innovation strategies in South Carolina. One is the ability to build meaningful and lasting connections with students, parents, and between educators and administrators.Another is the ability to apply best teaching and learning practices across diverse student populations understanding that what has worked traditionally and what works in contemporary contexts to ensure teaching efficacy; and a third is the humility to accept the reality that teaching has not occurred if students are not learning and being empowered in their classrooms by research and data.