Staffing Crisis

Amid Shortage, Mississippi Initiative Offers Free Praxis Prep Resources for Aspiring Teachers

Education policy nonprofit Mississippi First on Monday announced it has partnered with to launch’s Keys to the Classroom initiative statewide, providing cost-free resources to help aspiring teachers pass their Praxis exams and earn teaching certificates, according to a news release.

Mississippi is facing a worsening teacher shortage crisis, state education officials have said, and nearly two out of three public schools across the state are classified as “critical shortage areas,” according to a recent report by Mississippi First.

That report, entitled Voices of the Shortage, was based on a Mississippi First survey of 6,496 teachers across the state; more than half of respondents reported they are likely to leave their Mississippi teaching job within the next year, with a majority citing low compensation as a primary reason.

Recruiting new teachers has become more urgent since the start of the pandemic, and Mississippi First noted that the staffing shortages are not likely to improve on their own.

The Praxis exam required to obtain a teaching certificate averages a pass rate of just 50% for first-time test takers, according to a 2019 report from the National Council on Teacher Quality, and a quarter of test takers never pass. “In contrast, 92% who used's test prep resources reported passing their test on the first try,” Mississippi First said.

Through the initiative, will donate Praxis preparation materials and resources to aspiring Mississippi teachers, according to the announcement. “Mississippi districts that have diverse student bodies, as well as those that have low socioeconomic conditions, will be prioritized for the licenses in an effort to address the rising teacher shortage crisis and ensure the demographics of Mississippi students are being represented in the classroom and across the state's teacher pipeline,” Mississippi First said.

The nonprofit noted that Mississippi is also dealing with a decreasing number of teachers of color; Mississippi Department of Education statistics show that while 57% of Mississippi preK–12 students identified as non-White, 70% of Mississippi teachers are White.

“Creating a more diverse and representative teacher pipeline is necessary to ensure students feel represented and encouraged. As Mississippi statistics show, this isn't being reflected in the classroom but is statistically proven and needed,” said Senior Vice President Dana Bryson. “Our goal with bringing Keys to the Classroom to Mississippi is to diversify the teacher pipeline and help reduce the teacher shortage by removing the barriers to becoming a teacher.”

The Keys to the Classroom initiative was first launched last winter in Nevada, which was experiencing a shortage of teachers by about 3,000 at the time, according to news reports. Since then, about 600 teacher test prep licenses have been donated to aspiring teachers in Nevada, said. The Keys to the Classroom initiative also launched in South Carolina this spring.

Learn more about the initiative at the Keys to the Classroom website.

About the Author

Kristal Kuykendall is editor, 1105 Media Education Group. She can be reached at [email protected].