USM, WCU awarded millions to fight teacher shortage
The Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) has awarded almost $10 million in grants to fight the state’s teacher shortage. MDE will provide over $2 million to The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) and nearly $1.9 million to William Carey University (WCU) over a two-year period to support Mississippi Teacher Residency in critical shortage areas. Delta State University, Jackson State University and Mississippi State University will also receive grants of nearly $2 million each.
An MDE survey of public school districts in the state from August to October of last year showed there were 3,036 certified teacher vacancies in Mississippi.
USM has been awarded the largest grant in the $9.8 million program that will cover tuition and expenses for up to 240 individuals seeking a graduate degree in elementary and secondary education at one of the five universities.
“By extending the success of our existing undergraduate residency program to reach graduate students as well, this substantial funding will supplement our ongoing work to address the national and state teacher shortages,” said Dr. Trent Gould, dean of USM’s College of Education and Human Sciences. “We are excited to use this grant to take a fundamentally different approach to the preparation of high-quality, job-ready teacher residents that will make a difference in Mississippi.”
“As the teacher shortage worsened, William Carey has been a leader in developing initiatives to recruit, train and retain quality classroom teachers for our children. We are delighted to receive this major grant to help alleviate the problem,” said WCU President Dr. Tommy King. “This is an honor for William Carey University and an investment in the future of our state.”
The grants are part of Mississippi Teacher Residency, and they support graduate degree programs. Student teachers will work in critical shortage areas serving low-income children, racial/ethnic minorities and children with disabilities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.
The grant period begins in July 2022.
A key component of the teacher residency experience is being fully immersed in the school culture, which includes opportunities like opening and closing the school year, conducting parent-teacher conferences, and getting involved in professional learning communities that are focused on supporting residents as they transition to in-service teachers.
In partnership with the National Center for Teacher Residencies, USM has been engaged in training teacher residents at the undergraduate level in several local school districts, including Petal School District. The upcoming expansion of USM’s residency program will allow thirty new teacher candidates to become educated and trained at no personal expense to them. To ensure their success, residency students will be mentored by professional teachers and receive full-tuition scholarships, stipends, textbooks and testing fees.
William Carey University’s teacher residency students, who will also receive full scholarships, as well as stipends for testing fees and books, will begin working with elementary students in Hattiesburg, Forrest County, Covington County and Greenville.
The grants also cover the cost of stipends for mentor teachers.
“The ability for a senior education major to spend 187 teacher days at a school and see every component of a school year is priceless! The combination of pedagogy through college work along with the practitioner component is definitely a win-win for the University, the students and our school district,” said Dr. Matt Dillon, superintendent of Petal School District. “We are thankful that USM partnered with us for their undergraduate residency program three years ago, and I am happy to report that we have many residency students who are now employed and thriving in our district.”
“The Mississippi Department of Education is implementing teacher residency programs that primarily focus on giving teacher candidates an authentic classroom experience with a teacher mentor,” said WCU’s School of Education Dean Dr. Theresa Poole. “In 2019, William Carey was one of three universities that received $600,000 grants to pilot a residency program for undergraduates. We partnered with the Ocean Springs and Gulfport school districts, and the results have been very positive. But this challenge is different. It results in students earning a master’s degree, and we are eager to enhance our support of K-12 education.”
The new teacher residency grants are supported by American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds.
“At the Mississippi Department of Education, we are committed to developing more effective teachers, particularly for critical areas in Mississippi,” said Dr. Carey Wright, state superintendent of education.
“We are delighted to collaborate with these five universities to not only eliminate students’ financial costs for a graduate degree, but also equip potential educators with necessary tools inside and outside of the classroom.”
Applications will be available by April 2022 on MDE’s website at www.mdek12.org.