Each fall, Furman University’s Riley Institute presents the Dick and Tunky Riley WhatWorksSC® Award to an outstanding evidence-based program that is positively impacting public education in South Carolina. This award is designed to call attention to exceptional public education programming in the state.

A winner and two finalists are selected from a pool of entries based on effectiveness as evidenced by research, local evaluation data, resource allocation and partnerships, and sustainability. The winner and finalists are selected by a national committee of corporate leaders and education experts. Honorees receive cash awards and become members of the WhatWorksSC Clearinghouse, an online resource that collects and shares key strategies for improving South Carolina’s public schools.

The award is named after former U.S. Secretary of Education and two-term SC governor Dick Riley and his late wife, Tunky Riley. Together, they have worked tirelessly to increase funding and support for public education, improve academic standards, make high-quality education more accessible for lower-income families, and expand college grant and loan programs.

Creation of WhatWorksSC was driven by our groundbreaking South Carolina statewide education study, funded by the Hewlett Foundation. Completed in 2006, the study detailed key strategies for creating world-class schools in South Carolina.

Application process

Applications are now closed for the 2023 WhatWorksSC Award. Applications for 2024 will open in May 2024.

Criteria for submissions

Programs must meet the following criteria to be considered for the WhatWorksSC Award:

  • Submissions must contain locally collected data demonstrating effectiveness in improving outcomes for students of South Carolina public schools. The foundation of the program must be grounded in evidence-based best practices. Local data must be shared in a concise manner with the committee.
  • Program must be in existence for at least one year upon application submission.
  • Program may be a local implementation of a larger or national program, but it must have collected robust local data proving effectiveness.
  • Program must not currently be under evaluation by the Riley Institute’s research team.
  • Previous award winners are not eligible for consideration until ten years have passed since receiving the award.
  • Previous finalists are not eligible for consideration until five years have passed since placing for an award.
  • A comprehensive evaluation must have been conducted of the program that shows convincing evidence of success and validates its relevance and effectiveness.

Selection process

Staff members of the Riley Institute’s Center for Education Policy Leadership review all applications and select 8-10 programs for consideration by the larger WhatWorksSC Awards Selection Committee.

The confidential committee comprising five highly-regarded state and national education experts closely evaluates semifinalists, scoring them against a rubric with the above criteria. A winner and two finalists are selected.

The winner and two finalists will be admitted into the WhatWorksSC Clearinghouse and be featured on South Carolina ETV’s knowitall.org, which compiles thousands of media resources for teachers and students from pre-K through 12th grade.