As South Carolina’s flagship institution, the University of South Carolina’s College of Education is committed to meeting the needs of communities across the state. With 20% of schools classified as rural and 40% of public school students in South Carolina attending rural schools (Irvin, Kunz, Starrett, & Harrist, 2020), addressing the educator workforce needs in rural communities is a key component of the College’s commitment.

Few higher education institutions across the U.S. have a rural focus, and even fewer include practices known to be effective in rural communities:

  1. Recruiting prospective teachers from residents in the rural community
  2. Providing opportunities for distance learning and locally delivered coursework
  3. Offering a variety of certification areas (Barley & Brigham, 2008)

The Carolina Collaborative for Alternative Preparation (CarolinaCAP) is designed specifically for and alongside rural schools in South Carolina. Through a unique partnership among the University, the Center for Teaching Quality, and rural school districts across the state, CarolinaCAP represents a cutting-edge, individually-responsive approach to teacher preparation in rural communities. The state’s first comprehensive, university-based alternative preparation program leverages the power of micro-credentials to promote job-embedded professional learning, provides localized coaching inspired by the Carolina Coaching model developed through the Carolina Teacher Induction Program, and includes graduate credit that can be used toward an advanced degree.

Similar to successful grow your own programs, CarolinaCAP is designed to recruit individuals from local rural communities who are most likely to remain in those communities throughout their teaching careers. By identifying and preparing teachers within rural communities, without the need to travel to a university, teacher candidates are able to live, learn, and work within their communities. This classroom-based structure to teacher preparation is built upon the expertise College of Education faculty developed over the past several decades in the delivery of site-based coursework within existing teacher preparation programs (e.g. Thompson et al, 2019; Hodges & Mills, 2014; Hodges et al, 2017).

In addition to its status as the state’s flagship, the University of South Carolina is also a Carnegie designated “R1: Doctoral Universities – Highest research activity” institution. As such and as specifically recommended by Irvin et al, 2020, CarolinaCAP includes a robust emphasis on program research and evaluation to study, identify, and disseminate promising approaches to supporting the teacher pipeline in rural communities.

As the state’s largest preparer of teachers and in concert with cutting-edge approaches to teacher preparation and retention, the College of Education at the University of South Carolina continues to lead the way in addressing the acute teacher workforce needs of our state. Situated with this innovative spirit, CarolinaCAP represents the next step in the evolution of teacher preparation for rural South Carolina.


Barley, Z. A., & Brigham, N. (2008). Preparing teachers to teach in rural schools (Issues & answers report, REL 2008–No. 045). Washington, DC: US Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences. National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Regional Educational Laboratory Central. Retrieved from

Hodges, T.E. & Mills, H. (2014). Embedded field experiences as professional apprenticeships. In K. Karp (Ed.) Annual Perspectives in Mathematics Education (pp. 249 – 260). Reston, VA: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

Hodges, T.E., Mills, H.A., Blackwell, B., Scott, J. & Somerall, S. (2017). Learning to theorize from practice: The power of embedded field experiences. In D. Polly & C. Martin (Eds.) Handbook of Research on Teacher Education and Professional Development (pp. 34 – 47). Hershey, PA: IGI Global.

Irvin, M.J., Kunz, G.M., Starrett, A.D., & Harrist, J.N. (2020). Recruitment and retention of teachers in rural South Carolina. Columbia, SC: South Carolina Teacher Education Advancement Consortium through Higher Education Research. Retrieved from

Thompson, S.L., Harbour, K.E., White, E. (2019). Clinical practices for elementary teacher preparation across South Carolina. Columbia, SC: South Carolina Teacher Education Advancement Consortium through Higher Education Research. Retrieved from