CREATE of SC: Helping to Develop South Carolina’s Special Education Workforce

 

Special education teacher with student

In 2003, South Carolina schools were facing a personnel crisis. The recently enacted No Child Left Behind legislation (replaced in 2015 by the Every Student Succeeds Act), required that states comply with a mandate to employ appropriately licensed and highly qualified teachers, yet – at that time – approximately 40% of South Carolina special education teachers held provisional licenses and lacked appropriate credentials. With school districts struggling to comply with these new accreditation standards before the 2006 deadline, the South Carolina Office for Exceptional Children developed and funded Project CREATE: a program designed to improve the credentials of special education teachers employed in South Carolina public schools.

Beginning with three South Carolina colleges in 2003, Project CREATE initially offered coursework for out-of-field special education teachers, in an effort to encourage completion of add-on licensures. The program’s mission has since shifted to developing a highly qualified special education workforce within the state, and the project has now expanded to 13 participating SC colleges and universities as a continuously funded program by the SC Department of Education’s (SCDE) Department of Special Education Services. The name officially changed to CREATE of SC with this commitment from the department.

CREATE currently assists full-time SC public and charter school employees in obtaining:

  • add-on, alternative, or initial licensure in special education
  • advanced certification in speech-language pathology
  • national certification as a board certified behavior analyst

Program participants receive scholarship funds covering tuition and textbooks, in full, for one or two (3-credit) courses per semester, assuming the following criteria are met:

  • must be employed by a SC public school, charter school, or other SCDE agencies (instructional, non-instructional, or staff);
  • must retain full-time employment within the SCDE until completion of the program; and
  • upon completion of the program, must secure a position within the SCDE requiring the newly-obtained certification, and must remain in this position for a minimum of three years.

The College of Charleston is among the institutions included in the SC-CREATE consortium, and the Master of Arts in Teaching Special Education – offered both on-campus and at the Lowcountry Graduate Center – leads to initial licensure in three areas of special education (contingent on successfully passing the Praxis II exam).  Dr. Kristen Ashworth, who currently serves as Director for the College of Charleston CREATE Center, notes that the program has wide-ranging benefits for SCDE stakeholders. “Grow-your-own programs like CREATE not only help to enhance the qualifications of our current workforce, but provide an opportunity to transition to the special education field. A considerable segment of our participant population is comprised of general education teachers and teaching assistants.”

Since its inception in 2003, SC-CREATE has funded 1,113 participants, with 773 – or 69% – completing their respective licensure or certification programs. The program has also been cited by the National Association of State Directors of Special Education as a model for state-level special education teacher certification initiatives. Despite the success of the SC-CREATE program, special education remains a critical subject area both in South Carolina and nationwide, with teacher shortages across all levels. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted (2007) that such shortages would continue to increase nationally, based on teacher attrition and growth in the student population.

Current SC public and charter school employees who are interested in pursuing licensure in special education may visit the SC-CREATE website to see if they may qualify for scholarship funds.

CREATE funds are limited, and scholarships are issued on a first-come, first-served basis. Qualified individuals are encouraged to apply as soon as possible. The current application for the SC-CREATE program may be accessed at the following link: https://ssl30.chi.us.securedata.net/edtesting.com/apply.htm