For several years now, we have recognized that implementing our policy work is dependent on the quality of the educator in the classroom.

Everyone on our staff has been a Mississippi public school teacher. Those experiences made a deep impression on each of us about what Mississippi can do to better support teachers. In 2015, we worked with teachers and other instructional staff across district types to provide them professional development on the new Mississippi College and Career Ready Standards. Through this experience, we learned even more about the lack of training that many educators receive in educator preparation programs (EPPs) and once they begin teaching. These weaknesses exist even in “good” school districts and make implementing the more rigorous standards even more difficult.

Preparation and professional development is just one part of the challenge: Mississippi also struggles with recruitment, retention, support, and evaluation. Pre-K, too, has its share of teacher pipeline issues that make filling new pre-K classrooms with qualified individuals hard, especially in rural or low-income districts. Mississippi First is ready to take on this dilemma and develop solutions.

To do this work, we will use the same successful process we used to bring state-funded pre-K to Mississippi. The first step is to deeply immerse ourselves in the current state of educator pipeline issues in Mississippi as well as possible solutions from relevant national research. Using this information, we will then write a seminal policy report that explains the challenges and possible solutions and proposes actionable recommendations.