COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) — Education leaders in South Carolina said one of their top priorities is keeping new teachers in the classroom.

Data show more than 3,000 teachers with five or fewer years of experience left their jobs before the start of the school year. This accounted for 36% of the more than 8,000 departures reported by school districts.

To help, the South Carolina Teacher Recruitment and Retention Task Force is taking a closer look at a retention program that is showing success.

About five years ago, the College of Education at the University of South Carolina started the Carolina Teacher Induction Program, also known as CarolinaTIP.

Director Nicole Skeen said, “What we do and how we do it was built for, by and with teachers.”

She spoke to the task force about the program. She said the three-year program is currently supporting more than 200 teachers. It has also recently expanded to non-USC graduates.

“We can recruit, recruit and recruit but if we cannot retain teachers it’s all for naught,” Skeen said.

After five years of reviewing data, Skeen said the program is working. Their retention rate every year has been north of 90%.

“Carolina-TIP retention rate remains 30 to 40% state and national averages,” said Skeen.

In addition to keeping quality teachers in the classroom, CarolinaTIP is helping school districts save money.

According to Skeen, it costs on average about $20,000 to replace a teacher.

Currently, CarolinaTIP helps teachers in 184 schools.