NIET Receives $2.5 Million Federal Grant to Support Principals and School Leaders in South Carolina

October 1, 2020

NIET Receives $2.5 Million Federal Grant to Support Principals and School Leaders in South Carolina

NIET, University of South Carolina, BranchED will partner to support principals in building equity and providing students with access to high-quality STEM education and social-emotional learning

The U.S. Department of Education awarded the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET) $2.5 million today, in partnership with the University of South Carolina and the Branch Alliance for Educator Diversity (BranchED), to build the capacity of South Carolina's principals and school leaders in supporting science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education and social-emotional learning for students.

This 3-year grant from the Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED) program will support principal coaching and training, with a focus on advancing equity for all students, in the following six districts, reaching 150 administrators in 95 schools who serve a total of 58,000 students:

  • Orangeburg County School District
  • School District of Pickens County
  • Laurens County School District 55
  • Spartanburg County School District One
  • South Carolina Public Charter School District
  • Schools affiliated with the Charter Institute at Erskine

The partnership will create the South Carolina Principal Leadership Network, a two-year cohort-based program that will administer high-quality virtual professional development in STEM and social-emotional learning (SEL), coupled with quarterly on-site coaching and networking opportunities through virtual communities of practice. The training will be rooted in evidence-based practices that accelerate student achievement growth and will be tailored to the needs of the participating school leaders, teachers, and students. In addition, the inclusion of BranchED, which supports effective educator preparation at minority-serving institutions, will allow the partnership to put a particular focus on serving leaders from diverse backgrounds.

"Equipping students with the skills and knowledge to be successful and helping them to become informed and thoughtful citizens goes hand in hand," said NIET CEO Dr. Candice McQueen. "This partnership will equip school leaders across South Carolina to better support their teachers and advance STEM and SEL efforts in their schools that better prepare all students to be able to choose their path in life. We are particularly glad to have the University of South Carolina and BranchED as partners to advance equity, build the capacity of a diverse group of teachers, and increase opportunities for students."

NIET will provide on-site coaching and networking opportunities, and NIET specialists will deliver professional development that focuses on creating and communicating a culture of equity, shared instructional leadership, and creating a culture of reflective practice and continuous improvement. Additionally, through this grant, University of South Carolina faculty will provide principals and leaders with training designed to encourage equity of access to high-quality STEM education for all students. BranchED will focus their support on leading culturally relevant pedagogy to foster inclusion and integration of social-emotional learning and work with NIET on connecting principals to learn from each other through the virtual communities of practice.

This innovative project will align principals' needs with evidence-based practices for excellence in leadership. The support provided in the partnership will provide a powerful tool for advancing school leaders' leadership capacity and improving educator retention, school culture, and student outcomes − and it has the potential to become a model for school leader support and development nationwide.

About NIET
For two decades, NIET has partnered with schools, districts, states, and universities to build educator excellence and give all students the opportunity for success. NIET's initiatives, including the TAP System for Teacher and Student Advancement, teacher and leader development, school improvement, rubric and observation systems, and educator preparation, have impacted more than 275,000 educators and 2.75 million students across the U.S. Learn more at

About the University of South Carolina
The primary mission of the University of South Carolina Columbia is the education of the state's citizens through teaching, research, creative activity, and community engagement. Among America's oldest and most comprehensive public universities, the University of South Carolina Columbia is the major research institution of the university system and its largest campus. At the heart of its mission lies the university's responsibility to state and society to promote the dissemination of knowledge, cultural enrichment, and an enhanced quality of life. Learn more at

About BranchED
BranchED is the only non-profit organization in the country dedicated to strengthening, growing, and amplifying the impact of educator preparation at Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs), with the longer-range goals of both diversifying the teaching profession and intentionally addressing critical issues of educational equity for all students. Its vision is for all students to have access to diverse, highly effective educators. Learn more at