There has been an apparent “teacher shortage” in the state of Mississippi (particularly the Delta Region) for more than three decades. Research show the major reason for this shortage is because people are having a difficult time passing the National Teachers Exam, (currently called the Praxis Exam). Then, there an even larger percentage of people who are simply not motivated or interested in selecting the teaching profession as a career because of the minimal pay and extreme behavioral problems among the students in comparison to other geographical regions of the United States such as Midwest, east coast and west coast.
With budget shortfalls across the state, all departments are tightening their belts and Education is no exception. “As of yesterday (6/29/2016), there were approximately 98 vacancies to teach either middle school or high school mathematics, and there were 70 vacancies to teach either middle school or high school science.” Franz, Dana, http://wjtv.com/2016/06/09/why-mississippi-has-a-teacher-shortage/
In Mississippi, attracting top-performing teachers to the neediest schools is an ongoing challenge. Nearly one- third of all districts in the state have been identified as critical needs districts, meaning they have extensive teacher shortages. These shortages are often exacerbated in rural settings that lack housing, restaurants, and other amenities that would make them attractive places for individuals without family connections. http://hechingerreport.org/somemississippi- districts-have-critical-teacher-needs/
These teacher shortages create a domino-affect because a percentage of the classes in low performing school districts are taught by unqualified (not certified), teachers who lack classroom management skills, techniques, and/or methods that are deemed to be effective practices. If students are not given and/or exposed to the appropriate practices, their knowledge will be limited, which eventually means their performance will be limited, lacking the necessary skills to be productive learners.
Many of the state’s 48 critical needs districts are also among the lowest performing. Only one, South Delta School District in Rolling Fork, Mississippi, received an accountability rating of B, while 32 school districts received accountability ratings of D and F. Perhaps, the most appropriate and effective way to address the teacher shortage in the Mississippi Delta, is by providing workshops that focus on:
a. Praxis I & Praxis II training
b. Leadership Training Sessions
c. Classroom Management Training Sessions
d. Leadership Development Sessions
e. Curriculum & Instruction Sessions
These workshops/sessions will be primarily designed for staff personnel who are employed by public school districts, teacher assistants, substitute teachers, teachers who are currently in the classroom, but are not certified and individuals who desire to become teachers. Many people have a true desire and passion to become a certified teacher, however, they lack the required certification in part, due their inability to pass the Praxis Exam. Some of these same individuals have all but completed an entire curriculum (elementary education), with the of two courses: Classroom Management & Field Internship. A large percentage of these individuals end up changing their majors from elementary education because of not being able to pass the Praxis Exam.
Research shows that approximately 48 school districts in the state of Mississippi have teacher shortages. More than half of these school districts are geographically located in the Mississippi Delta. In addition, there are also shortages in teachers being certified to teach certain subject areas such as: Special Education, Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, French, German, and Spanish.
Educational workshops are not new to public school districts in the Mississippi Delta. Research shows that consistent patterns of these types of workshops offered or provided for participants, positively impact their performance on the actual Praxis Exams that could eventually lead to an increase in certified teachers. Maybe if more teachers became certified throughout the state of Mississippi who could positively impact students’ overall performance, more school districts would improve their overall accountability rating from failing to successful.
Research shows that private schools have been successful with increasing students’ performance on the ACT Examinations. One primary reasons for this increase is because the ACT Review Prep Course has become a part of the curriculum. Why can’t Low Performing School Districts use a similar approach? Public School District can seek funding and require their non-certified teachers to enroll in Praxis Review courses as ca part of their Professional Development. Equipping the state of Mississippi with excellent, dedicated and certified teachers, can help the state maintain and sustain many of our college graduates and many of our productive college professors. The future of Education will primarily depend on both certified teachers and administrators. This reality may well start with Praxis workshops and Review Sessions.