Spartanburg First Steps/Quality Counts

Quality Counts is an evidenced-based quality enhancement program that is designed to create high quality learning environments and promote best practices for teachers with the ultimate goal that children will be ready for success in school and life. Targeted professional development, mentor/ coaching and nationally recognized assessments (CLASS and ERS) lay the foundation for continuous quality improvement.

Counties Served


Annual Cost


Partner Organizations

  • Mary Black Foundation
  • Sherman College of Chiropractic
  • Spartanburg County First Steps
  • Spartanburg School District 1
  • Spartanburg School District 2
  • Spartanburg School District 3
  • Spartanburg School District 6
  • Spartanburg School District 7
  • Spartanburg Academic Movement

Funding Sources


State Funding – $ 200,524




Quality Counts, locally developed through a partnership between the Mary Black Foundation and Spartanburg County First Steps, implements a Continuous Quality Improvement loop using nationally recognized standards of high-quality learning environments. Quality Counts uses two evidenced-based assessments, CLASS (Classroom Assessment Scoring System) and ECERS-3 (Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale, 3rd Edition). These assessments look at classroom environments and teacher- child interactions both of which include factors that have a significant impact on school readiness. Another component of quality addressed by Quality Counts is professional development, including authentic learning, emergent literacy practices, and behavior management. The Quality Counts coaching model is relationship-based and uses a strengths-based approach to build trusting relationships with teachers and administrators.

Due to the success of the program’s early years in private programs, Spartanburg School District 7 partnered with Quality Counts to create and sustain high quality learning environments in three 4K classrooms in the Cleveland Academy of Leadership in 2016. This first year set a baseline for evaluation, and in the 2nd year (2017-18), pre- and post- Early Childhood Environmental Rating Scale Assessments (ECERS-3) and Phonological Awareness Literacy Screenings (PALS) demonstrated a considerable improvement in classrooms with Quality Counts compared to those without. For example, at the Cleveland Academy of Leadership, ECERS-3 assessments demonstrated increases in all six categories (Space, Personal Care Routines, Language and Literacy, Learning Activities, Interactions, and Program Structure). In some cases, teachers were improving at a rate of 200%-400%. In addition, students in classrooms with Quality Counts increased PALS scores from 29.6 in the Fall to 94.9 in the Spring, a +65.3 growth, compared to those classrooms without posting a 47.4 and 92.7 in the Fall and Spring, a growth of +45.3. In the same year, students that participated in Quality Counts classrooms demonstrated greater kindergarten readiness upon entering kindergarten compared to those who attended other programs – 45.2% of students “demonstrating readiness” to 35.9%, respectively. The data from the following years (2017-2018 and 2018-2019) at the Cleveland Academy of Leadership demonstrate consistency. In 2017-18, students in Quality Counts classrooms increased PALS scores from 46.3 in the Fall to 101.3 (+55 growth) which was a similar to students in classrooms without Quality Counts. That same year, 44% of students in Quality Counts classrooms “demonstrated readiness” in for kindergarten, identical to those not. In 2018-19, students in Quality Counts classrooms increased PALS scores from 26.9 to 89 (+62.1 growth) compared to a 42 to 90.4 (+48.4 growth) increase for students not in Quality Counts classes. Findings were similar in all other settings with all demonstrating improvement.

Quality Counts also saw improvements in all three domains using the CLASS assessment. Overall, the 4K classrooms in all participating school districts have continued to improve classroom interactions, including classroom quality and teacher-child interactions. Research shows that both teacher-child interactions and classroom quality set the foundation for a child’s success in school and life.

Spartanburg Academic Movement provided the analysis of the data for all four years of the project. Quality Counts methods and outcomes have been evaluated by researchers at the University of South Carolina on behalf of the South Carolina Education Oversight Committee.

Evaluation and Outcomes

The Research, Evaluation, and Measurement (REM) Center at UofSC conducts ongoing research and evaluation to examine the effectiveness of CarolinaTIP, and to inform continuous program improvement. The REM Center team is focused on collecting data on several key predictors of teachers leaving the profession, including teacher attendance, teacher self-efficacy, job satisfaction, and job stress. These measures, combined with additional forms of formal and informal feedback from participating teachers and core CarolinaTIP team members, are used to measure the program’s progress toward meeting its stated goals. Importantly, the indicators chosen, particularly self-efficacy, have been closely related not only to teacher retention but also to positive outcomes for students, with teacher efficacy serving as a major predictor of students’ overall achievement and motivation for students at all levels (Zee, 2016).

Early data emerging from the CarolinaTIP evaluation demonstrates that the program shows great promise. The initial teacher retention rate of 100% in the program’s exploratory cohort is reinforced by additional data which show an increase in job satisfaction and teacher-efficacy with a corresponding decrease in job stress. This data is promising, as more than 40 years of research has shown that low teacher self-efficacy, resulting in increased and emotional exhaustion, are predictors of teachers leaving the profession (Zee, 2016). More specifically, the percentage of participating teachers who felt that had considerable influence over controlling disruptive behavior in the classroom increased by 52% over three time points from Fall 2017 to Fall 2018 while those teachers citing managing classroom behavior as a major source of stress decreased by 25% over the same time period, due to the additional support. This is among the most promising findings, as low self-efficacy for classroom management is perhaps the most important trigger for abandoning teaching altogether (Zee, 2016). External, non-evaluative support received from CarolinaTIP was cited as one of the strongest influences on novice teachers’ overall job satisfaction due to the one-on-one emotional and instructional support provided by the Carolina Coach.

This preliminary outcome data is evidence of the program’s initial success, with positive feedback from participants providing further evidence of impact on teacher retention. One teacher’s comment is particularly representative the feedback collected by REM during teacher focus groups. The teacher stated, “CarolinaTIP has changed my heart about teaching. I was at my breaking point and was almost ready to give up, but now I know I have support from someone who isn’t looking at me in an administrative way. It has made me more confident in my teaching. It honestly made me a better teacher with more support than I ever expected to have.”

Evaluation Report and Evaluation Summary can be provided.


The program is operated under the organizational umbrella of Spartanburg County First Steps, which provides backbone and administrative support. Funding is a mixture of state funding and private funding, most of which is sourced from local foundations.

Broadening support is the primary vehicle for sustainability. Due to the successes with the Spartanburg County School Districts, the rapid growth of Quality Counts to include a diverse group of organizational stakeholders, the formation of the Spartanburg Academic Movement, and the community’s focus on early childhood, Quality Counts is positioned to grow and develop a secure funding base.

Grades Served

  • Early Childhood (Pre-K – 2)

Related Subjects

  • Career Education
  • English Language Arts
  • Math
  • Science
  • Social Studies

Contact Information 

Bryan Boroughs,