For two decades now, Mississippi has struggled to keep certified teachers in the classroom – especially in the Mississippi Delta. That’s essentially an entire generation of Mississippians who likely didn’t receive an adequate education. Mississippi Today Delta reporters Kelsey Davis and Aallyah Wright were awarded the Hechinger Report’s 2018 Educating Children in Mississippi and New Orleans Fellowship to report on what a critical teacher shortage actually looks like and what it means for students and communities. The series consists of three stories: one delving into the teacher side of the issue, one looking at how students are affected and one that explores community-based solutions.

The first story contextualizes information that illustrates how we got here, such as data on chronic underfunding of the school system. We’ll also hear first-hand from teachers about the challenges they’ve faced to obtain certification.     

Student and parent narratives in the second story speak to why this issue matters, and how a lack of teachers impacts both individual students as well as the overall learning environment.

The third story explores different organizations that are working to ease the teacher shortage crisis by helping teachers achieve certification. It also details recent initiatives the state Department of Education has taken to help teachers in critical shortage areas receive additional support to obtain licensure.

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Aallyah Wright is a native of Clarksdale, and was a Mississippi Delta reporter covering education and local government. She was also a weekly news co-host on WROX Radio (97.5 FM) and collaborator with StoryWorks/Reveal Labs from the Center for Investigative Reporting. Aallyah has a bachelor’s in journalism with minors in communications and theater from Delta State University. She is a 2018 Educating Children in Mississippi Fellow at the Hechinger Report, and co-founder of the Mississippi Delta Public Newsroom.

Kelsey Davis Betz is from Mobile, Ala., and currently lives in Cleveland, where she worked as a Mississippi Delta-based reporter covering education and intersecting issues. Kelsey has a dual degree in journalism and Spanish from Auburn University and worked as an editorial intern at Texas Monthly and a courts reporter at the Montgomery Advertiser. She is a 2018 Educating Children in Mississippi Fellow at the Hechinger Report and is a co-founder of the Mississippi Delta Public Newsroom.