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Community and Sustainability Considerations for Responding to Teacher Vacancies in the Mississippi Delta

Posted By: Olivia Ifill Lynch on July 20, 2019
Teacher shortages are of major concern since they impact the learning and achievement of students and negatively effect school climate and culture. Solutions, especially in rural areas, should consider community needs. Teach for America (TFA) may be lauded for responding to a very real and urgent crisis in many Mississippi rural communities. However in a number of cases, the teacher shortages were caused by the disenfranchisement of existing teachers. These teachers while teaching with a preliminary teacher license, were unable to pass the teacher examination and earn their permanent teaching license.In many cases these teachers represented the 'middle-class' of their communities and were deeply tied to the traditions, celebrations and spiritual life of the community.

TFA stepped in as the teacher of record in a number of these vacancies. A more thoughtful approach could have been a two-pronged effort that placed TFA teachers temporarily in schools, and included a program to increase content and pedagogical knowledge as well as test 'genre' awareness in former teachers in preparation for another try at passing the teacher exam and becoming fully licensed. Such a program would better serve the long-term political, social and economic health of rural districts and towns.

In my work in Mississippi, I have personally witnessed the pain of the loss of a teacher due to his/her inability to pass the state teacher exam and know that replacing these teachers with TFA teachers no matter how well-meaning is not a long-term strategy or ultimately a sustainable solution for the students, schools and communities.

Dr. Olivia Lynch
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 Community and Sustainability Considerations for Responding to Teacher Vacancies in the Mississippi Delta by Olivia Ifill Lynch on July 20, 2019
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