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Voorhees EPI Center Receives $26.7 Million U.S. Department of Education Grant to Improve Student Achievement through Teacher Effectiveness

The U.S. Department of Education has awarded the Voorhees Center of Excellence for Educator Preparation and Innovation (EPI Center) a new Teacher and School Leader (TSL) Incentive Program grant to improve student achievement in two South Carolina counties. The REAP: Rewarding Educator Achievement and Performance grant aims to improve the quality of education, elevate educator effectiveness, raise student achievement, and increase equity in learning in Fairfield County School District and Georgetown County School District. 

Dr. Damara Hightower Mitchell, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs and Executive Director of the EPI Center says the $26.7 million grant will serve more than 850 teachers and nearly 11,000 students enrolled in 26 schools across both districts. 

“Through our collaboration with Fairfield and Georgetown, we will implement two service tiers. The first tier will utilize a comprehensive, data-driven, Human Capital Management System to attract, retain, and reward educator effectiveness. The second tier will provide resources and support the continued professional growth of teachers and leaders in our partner school districts,” said Dr. Hightower Mitchell. 

The two tiers of service address talent management, modeling a high-quality evaluation plan, performance-based compensation, professional growth tracks, development of a principal network, instructional coaches for new teachers, and career ladders.

According to Dr. Tondaleya Green-Jackson, Voorhees University Professor and Director of the EPI Center, REAP will bring resources to Fairfield and Georgetown to help expand upon existing student improvement efforts. “We believe by providing the necessary support and utilizing validated tools to assess educator effectiveness, we can increase student attainment of state academic performance standards, help close the achievement gap, and improve equity,” said Dr. Green-Jackson.

Dr. Ronnie Hopkins, President and CEO of Voorhees University, commissioned the establishment of the EPI Center out of his commitment to addressing issues of educational equity and access in rural areas. The Center of Excellence for Educator Preparation and Innovation is a national nonprofit founded specifically to address teacher shortages and diversify the teacher workforce. It provides innovative pathways and professional learning opportunities for currently certified teachers and those seeking certification. Voorhees University is the only Historically Black College or University in South Carolina doing this concentration of work in teacher preparation. 

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