CLEVELAND, Miss.—Delta State University is among five universities in the state to receive a portion of $9,886,468 in grants awarded by the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE), through its Mississippi Teacher Residency (MTR) program, to cover tuition and expenses for up to 240 individuals seeking a graduate degree in elementary and secondary education.
According to MDE, funds from the American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief are being used to cover the grants. Delta State is set to receive a total of $1,902,926.40 over two years.
“Delta State’s excellent teacher education and graduate studies programs are well-positioned to administer this important initiative that will have a direct impact on elementary and secondary education throughout the state,” said Delta State President William N. LaForge. “I am very pleased that Delta State will be able to contribute in this significant way to improving education in Mississippi.”
The MTR will provide grants to the universities’ educator preparation programs to enroll diverse participants to work toward their graduate degree and Mississippi teacher certification.
MTR will include training alongside a mentor teacher, testing support, professional development, ongoing assessment and a commitment to teach in a geographical critical shortage school or district serving low-income children, racial/ethnic minorities and children with disabilities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.
“At MDE 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.”
Individuals accepted into the MTR program will receive full scholarships, testing fees, books and mentor stipends. Applications will be available on MDE’s website by April 2022.
MTR is one of the state’s strategies to address the national teacher shortage. An MDE survey to all public-school districts in the state from Aug. 21 to Oct. 11, 2021, to assess educator shortage showed there are 3,036 certified teacher vacancies in Mississippi.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and closure of testing sites for licensure examinations, in March 2020, Mississippi’s State Board of Education (SBE) temporarily waived many of the licensure exam requirements for new teachers and test score requirements for students entering teacher preparation programs.
Data indicate that waivers for program entry contributed to an overall 143% increase in the total number of students entering teacher preparation programs. The waiver period from March 2020 through the summer of 2020 was a major factor in more than doubling the number of admitted candidates from 1,427 in 2018-19 to 3,468 in 2019-20.
MDE’s Office of Teaching and Leading has operated MTR since 2018 to increase the number of qualified teachers entering and remaining in the profession. The project is funded by a $4.1 million grant from the Kellogg Foundation. MTR is part of a statewide strategy to expand and diversify the teacher pipeline, so all students have teachers who are well-prepared, appropriately licensed and can serve as role models.
In previous years, MTR was available to undergraduate and graduate students, resulting in 85 participants so far, 17 of whom have graduated and received their teaching license. The program has also assisted up to seven educators who had provisional licenses to become fully licensed. When surveyed recently, 87% of MTR mentor respondents indicated that their assigned residents would be prepared to assume lead teaching responsibilities upon graduation.
To learn more about the MDE’s MTR program, visit www.mdek12.org/OTL/MTR.