HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WHLT) – The Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) has awarded five universities nearly $10-million total in teacher residency grants.

MDE estimates there are 3,000 teacher vacancies across the state. The grants will be used to assist more than 240 individuals seeking a graduate degree in education.

The universities that received a grant include:

  • The University of Southern Mississippi
  • Delta State University
  • Jackson State University
  • Mississippi State University
  • William Carey University

“It’s a start in the right way because it’s allowing us to innovate new models of how we teach and train these individuals who go out into the classrooms. That’s the important piece here because we know part of the teacher shortage problem comes down to a retention issue. Part of the retention problem is really how we train traditionally-trained teachers,” said William Carey University Department of Education Dean Teresa Poole.

Schools traditionally train teachers by allowing them to 10-12 weeks in classrooms during their last semester. This new program will allow future teachers to spend the entire year with students to get the full scope of what it means to be an educator.

According to MDE, high school vacancies are at 881, 958 for elementary schools and 1,200 for middle schools.

Another contributing factor to the shortage is teacher pay. Mississippi ranks lowest in the nation for teacher pay. Lawmakers said they plan to address the issue when they return to the Capitol in January 2022.