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Dick and Tunky Riley WhatWorksSC Award

Make Summer Count, 2017 WhatWorksSC Award Winner
Row 1 (l-r): Caroline Mauldin, Andrea Rizzo, Ansel Sanders, Secretary Riley,
Grier Mullins, Angel Williams, Neha Parthasarathy and Kelly Brown
Row 2 (l-r): Craig Stine, Lee Yarborough, Pat Robertson, Ed Good, Jonathan Dunagin,
Neil Grayson and John Kaup

Honoring highly effective education initiatives in South Carolina

The Riley Institute at Furman and South Carolina Future Minds are pleased to present the annual Dick and Tunky Riley WhatWorksSC Award for Excellence to an outstanding education initiative in South Carolina. 

About WhatWorksSCTMAward

The Dick and Tunky Riley WhatWorksSC Award is dedicated to the memory of Ann “Tunky” Riley, a devoted teacher and passionate advocate for quality public education for all children. In South Carolina, Tunky Riley worked tirelessly alongside then-Governor Dick Riley to increase funding and support for public education, playing an instrumental role in the passage of South Carolina’s Education Improvement Act, as she garnered grassroots support throughout the state. While first lady, she also created a South Carolina Partnership for Parent Involvement in Education. During Dick Riley’s eight years as United States Secretary of Education, she traveled extensively in support of his initiatives to improve academic standards, to make high-quality education more accessible for lower-income families, and to expand college grant and loan programs.

Selection Process

Phase One: Entry into Clearinghouse Application

The award-winning initiative is selected from the Riley Institute’s WhatWorksSCTM clearinghouse. WhatWorksSC is a web-based resource for educators, students, the community and policy makers that ties strategies for world-class schools in South Carolina to promising in-state initiatives. Read more . . .

Programs/initiatives are identified for inclusion in the clearinghouse based on their promise and/or proven effectiveness; applications from the education community and others around the state are strongly encouraged. As applications are received, Institute staff review the program to determine eligibility for the clearinghouse, based on minimum requirements, including:

  • Program design grounded in sound national research
  • The inclusion of a plan for local evaluation if one is not already underway

Each initiative is reviewed and updated by Center for Education Policy & Leadership (CEPL) staff one year after addition to the Clearinghouse to determine if the evaluation plan is underway and/or if evaluation data demonstrate success and relevance.

Phase Two: Narrowing the Pool

The Riley Institute’s CEPL staff closely analyzes all clearinghouse entries and based on the following criteria selects 8-10 programs/initiatives for consideration by the larger WhatWorksSC Awards Selection Committee:

  • As noted above, the development of the program/initiative must have been grounded in sound national research.
  • The program/initiative must have been in existence for at least one year.
  • A comprehensive evaluation must have been conducted and show convincing evidence of success and must illustrate the relevance and effectiveness of the program/initiative.
  • Program/initiative staff should provide additional information, including the maximization of scarce resources, partnerships with businesses and community, the leveraging of additional resources for support, sustainability, and/or the potential to replicate statewide.

Phase Three: Identifying the Winner

A confidential, non-partisan selection committee consists of representatives from the South Carolina State Board of Education, a major South Carolina-based corporation, a South Carolina institution of higher education, and a representative from each of two highly-regarded national education foundations. This committee closely evaluates the 8-10 programs/initiatives identified and collectively decides upon a winning program/initiative. The committee’s selection process involves scoring of applications based on a rubric designed to evaluate the above criteria.

See videos of the winning program as well as the finalists, and photos from 2011, 20122013, 201420152016, 2017 and 2018!

"Sometimes in early childhood we work so hard on program quality and delivery so we can “prove” through data that our programs are effective and worth the investment, that we don’t have the time (or funding) to get the information about them out to all those who may not understand the importance of reaching families and children early.  Your WWSC website development is a wonderful way to get this information out and to get the necessary coverage about good solid programs that do work and can make a difference."

                                                                     Mary Anne Mathews (2013 finalist)
Director of Parenting Programs
PAT State Leader, South Carolina First Steps


WhatWorksSC ties strategies for world-class schools in South Carolina to promising in-state initiatives, and includes policy papers written by state leaders, case studies and an evolving clearinghouse of initiatives that explore and exemplify key strategies for improving South Carolina’s public schools. WWSC is continually seeking information about exemplary education initiatives and welcomes ongoing nominations for consideration for succeeding year’s awards.

Creation of WWSC was driven by “In Their Own Words:
A Public Vision for Educational Excellence in South Carolina.”

This study, the largest ever done in South Carolina and unique nationally,
details key strategies for creating world-class schools in South Carolina,
derived from 3000 focus group hours with more than 800 stakeholders.

It was conducted by the Riley Institute in 2005 and 2006 with funding
from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.