South Carolina’s TIF 4 grant brings the System for Teacher and Student Advancement (TAP) to 32 high- poverty, high-need schools, with a focus on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) educators. The program awards performance bonuses to teachers and administrators based on TAP’s educator evaluation system, which includes student growth. South Carolina offers substantial recruitment bonuses to Effective teachers and principals who agree to teach in high-poverty, high-need schools, as well as retention bonuses for those who prove their continued effectiveness in those positions. Career ladder positions for mentor and master teachers support South Carolina’s evidence-based professional development reforms. Special professional development and curricular supports, as well as STEM’s status as a high-need subject, add a focus on STEM to the grant. The seven South Carolina local education agencies (LEAs) partnering in the STEM and TAP: Effective Practices (STEP) initiative serve high-poverty and high-minority populations in a total of 68 schools, 32 of which participate in the STEP initiative. The participating schools have an average poverty index of 82.5 percent (above the state average of 45 percent) and a combined turnover rate of 21.4 percent.
The South Carolina Department of Education (SCDE) aims to expand the work and capitalize on lessons learned from previous TIF-funded projects. The STEP project brings TAP to an additional 32 schools, with a focus on STEM educators. The program's ultimate goal is to boost student performance, and South Carolina aims to accomplish that through a focus on teacher efficacy and strategic professional development.
STEP contracts with an external evaluator to examine its progress toward these goals. Baseline data collected in Year 1 of the project along with the use of a comparison group of non-TIF schools allow for the effective evaluation of progress.
During the first year of TIF implementation, SC TAP Systems and the State of South Carolina worked with 4 districts, including 12 total schools, to begin implementing a human capital management system (HCMS) in order to fully implement the following year. SC TAP and SC gave these districts intense professional development and guidance to embed the new evaluation system and supporting structures to allow TIF to begin implementation. Significant training occurred in the spring and summer of 2013 at both the school and district levels to ensure successful and proper future implementation. Colleges of education, the State Department of Education, and nonprofit organizations held trainings with the local STEM community to begin the professional development for the STEM leaders to ensure successful STEM implementation during Year 1.
Year 2 featured full HCMS implementation in the first cohort of 4 districts and 12 schools. These schools hired effective individuals based on teacher efficacy and immediately began the professional development structure. The teacher and principal evaluation system was implemented districtwide. All teachers and principals received over 50 hours of professional development on solid pedagogy and STEM practices. Participating schools received performance compensation at the conclusion of Year 2. In addition, SCDE trained all staff in the second cohort of districts and schools.
Year 3 saw full implementation of the HCMS the grant defined in all districts and all schools. Year 3 saw the first implementation of classroom-based use of STEM strategies. Additionally, all teachers received weekly embedded professional development around student data monitoring and effective strategies to combat needs identified in the classroom. Ultimately, the TIF schools implementing the grant showed 78 percent of schools achieving a year's growth or more compared to all state schools that achieved at a rate of 60 percent.
Year 4 continued implementation of the HCMS defined in the grant in all districts and all schools. Year 4 saw the first implementation of project-based learning models focusing on STEM strategies schools are using. Additionally, all teachers continue to receive weekly embedded professional development around student data, assessment, and implementation of individualized instruction to best support student learning. While the grantee has not yet received the value-added data, the primary indications from other formative and summative assessment show significant progress with both student achievement and teacher efficacy.
Year 5 will continue to implement the SC TAP model with a central focus on individualizing student learning in a problem-based approach to enhance differentiation in support of student achievement. The STEM concept will move from the individual approach to a more cross-curricular learning design. Summer academies as well as embedded professional growth will continue to be a mainstay of the program, with significant achievement as the central focus.
SC TAP gave performance compensation to all cohort 1 teachers and principals in December 2015. SC TAP distributed $2,159,672 worth of performance compensation to 1,046 eligible teachers and principals. Additionally, 62 master teachers and 144 mentor teachers received career ladder stipends for the additional duties and responsibilities that they were involved in during Year 3. The expected level of performance-based compensation increased during Year 3 due to the additional schools implementing the STEP model.