$600K Grant: WCU pilots new ‘teacher residency’ program


William Carey University has received a three-year, $600,000 grant from the Mississippi Department of Education to administer the Teacher Residency Program. It seeks to make new elementary school teachers “effective on day one” by providing them with more classroom experience and access to mentor teachers while they’re still in college. WCU’s Tradition campus will partner with the Ocean Springs and Gulfport school districts on the project.

This fall, the Mississippi Department of Education will launch a pilot program aimed at changing the way new teachers are prepared for a career in the classroom.

Dr. Ben Burnett of William Carey University’s School of Education said the goal of the three-year Mississippi Teacher Residency Program is to make new classroom teachers “effective on day one.”

“People don’t go into teaching because it’s easy, he said. “Think about your favorite teachers. They knew how to explain new concepts in a way that made you want to know more. They knew how to maintain order and create a learning environment free of distraction.

“New teachers sharpen their skills by spending more time working with students. As they begin their careers, they reach out to older, more experienced teachers for feedback and guidance. Becoming a seasoned and effective teacher takes time.

“But what if brand-new teachers could start out with more classroom experience? What if they had already worked extensively with mentor teachers?”

The Teacher Residency Program seeks to answer both needs.


How it works

The teacher residency program is a partnership among a university, one or more school systems and a select group of education majors entering their junior year of college.

The future teachers are assigned to an elementary school. There they complete the requirements for a bachelor’s degree – dividing their time between working in classrooms with elementary students and taking required courses from the university partner. The university also provides experienced mentor teachers to answer questions, demonstrate techniques and give teachers a head start.

In June, the MDE announced $600,000 grants to three universities to administer teacher residency programs:

• William Carey University, working with Ocean Springs and Gulfport public school districts;

· Mississippi State University, working with Jackson Public School District; and

· Delta State University, working with the Sunflower County Consolidated School District.

The funding comes from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in response to a grant request written by Cortez Moss, the Mississippi Department of Education’s director of educator talent acquisition and effectiveness. The foundation also awarded a grant to the National Center for Teacher Residencies, which has helped launch 35 teacher residency programs in 18 states since its founding in 2007.

“We have teacher shortage, retention and diversity issues across the state. I had been speaking with the National Center for Teacher Residencies before we ever applied to the Kellogg Foundation because we knew we needed a research-driven approach to addressing these challenges,” Moss said.

“As a learning model, a teacher residency is much like a medical school residency. The student is learning while also practicing in a real-world environment.”

The college students taking part in the teacher residency program were chosen in the spring. Participating universities will welcome 12 new students each year of the three-year grant. Students chosen for the program will receive full tuition scholarships. And at the end of the process, 108 brand-new teachers will receive job offers from the public school districts where they practiced.