Education

Mississippi program diversifying teacher workforce

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Mississippi ranked No. 1 nationally last year for gains on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), with 4th grade students making the largest strides over the past two-year period in reading and mathematics. To continue that success, the Mississippi Teacher Residency (MTR), with support from WKKF, is working to build a strong teacher pipeline – one that mirrors the community’s demographics. A diverse teacher workforce is a critical factor in student achievement. Post-COVID-19, it will be even more vital as schools retool to address all of their students’ needs.

MTR is a two-year program that combines course work and on-the-job trainings to prepare prospective educators for the teaching profession. The program enrolls about 35 candidates for each school year. Participants work toward their undergraduate degrees and Mississippi teacher certification. The MTR program is part of the state Department of Education’s 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. 

A partner in this effort is the National Center for Teacher Residencies (NCTR), a WKKF grantee working to help Mississippi close educational disparities. NCTR recently captured data showing promising results from the MTR program. For the previous program year (2019-2020), 382 candidates completed applications. While only 36 were admitted and enrolled (a 9% acceptance rate), 78% identified as people of color – 72% identifying as African American and 6% as Latinx. Additionally, of the 36 mentors recruited and trained to support incoming residents, half are African American and half are white.

78% of the candidates in the Mississippi Teacher Residency program were people of color. Nationally, only about 20% of teachers are people of color.

Research shows that teachers of color help close achievement gaps for students of color and are highly rated by students of all races. According to the Learning Policy Institute, teachers of color boost the academic performance of students of color, including improved reading and math test scores, improved graduation rates and increases in aspirations to attend college.

MTR’s cohorts are significantly more diverse than the teaching field nationally, where only 20% of all teachers are people of color. In Mississippi, that number is 28%, far less than state’s population of 40%.

Mississippi’s Department of Education steadily continues efforts to improve child outcomes and ensure all children have the opportunity to thrive. Building a strong, diverse teacher pipeline – one that mirrors the community’s demographics – is a crucial piece of that equation. To keep last year’s achievements on track, leaders consider the teacher pipeline even more critical.

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