By COLLEEN MCCARTHY
The U.S. Department of Education awarded Mississippi State University’s College of Education with a multi-million dollar grant to help train and place teachers in struggling rural school districts around the state.
The five-year, $3.7 million Transition to Teaching grant for the Teacher Education for Rural Middle Schools (TERMS) aims to provide quality teachers for high-need middle schools.
“Our TERMS grant at Mississippi State focuses on new routes for teacher education for rural middle schools. Our thought is that we will identify smart, dedicated individuals who live in Mississippi’s rural communities but don’t have a teacher’s license, mid-career changers or people with bachelor’s degrees in fields other than education,” professor Devon Brenner, who is a co-principal investigator on the grant, said. “The TERMS grant will provide funds to develop the degree program this spring, and then, starting this summer, the grant will provide scholarships and incentives to help us recruit individuals into the degree program.”
While most teachers start with a bachelor’s degree in education, this program will target those who have degrees in other areas. MSU will assist participants in receiving a teaching license and a master’s degree through an entirely online program
The grant will also provide for incentives for these new teachers to go to the rural schools, including a $5,000 scholarship, two years of mentoring and $5,000 worth of equipment for their classroom. Scholarship recipients will be required to stay at the school for at least three years.
The university received a similar grant three years ago for high school teachers, which has proven to be successful. That program, along with the statewide need for teachers in rural areas, helped MSU secure the TERMS grant.
The program will encourage participants to work with schools within their own communities. MSU has identified 19 high-need school districts with which to partner throughout the state, including the Columbus and Louisville districts, but Brenner said they expect to add more over the years.
“The TERMS scholarships and incentives will be directed to partner schools that have high rates of poverty and that also have an identified shortage of qualified teachers,” she said.
TERMS and similar teacher training programs across the nation are expected to certify nearly 5,000 new teachers over the next five years.
“Many times, people who go into teaching programs are interested in teaching very young children at the elementary level or teaching high school because they love their content area. There is a shortage of teachers for the middle grades,” Brenner said. “However, it is so important that students have excellent teachers during the middle school years. These are the years when students either engage with school or head down the path to dropping out. If we can provide strong, flexible, creative teachers for middle school classrooms, we will do a lot to increase our state’s graduation rate.”