The second annual Mississippi Elevate Teachers Conference took place July 8–9, 2019, in Jackson. The goal was, in the words of Dr. Akil Ross—“to empower the heart of education”—through professional learning designed to extend the reach and positive impact of educators while elevating perceptions of the teaching profession.
Conference keynoters included Monica Genta, National Speaker and Teacher, Mattoon Middle School (Illinois); Dr. Akil Ross, Chapin High School Principal and National Association of Secondary School Principals’ (NASSP) 2018 National Principal of the Year; Hanna Gadd-Ardrey, 2019–20 Mississippi Teacher of the Year; and the esteemed Professor Emerita Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings, who coined the term culturally relevant pedagogy. Conference topics included classroom management, supporting English learners, engaging parents in the student learning process, effective strategies for addressing student behaviors, co-teaching, making learning fun, data tools on the web, building a positive school culture, culturally responsive teaching (CRT) practices, and more.
Panelists Tammie Causey-Konaté, Ph.D., SECC Deputy Director, Dr. Ladson-Billings, and four other professional educators who lead work on CRT practices led discussions that engaged over 800 public-school educators. Following the panel discussion, Dr. Causey-Konaté conducted a post-conference learning session on data-informed instruction with 68 of Mississippi’s first cohort of candidates for the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) Performance-Based Licensure (PBL) program. Mississippi is piloting this program as one strategy to address its critical teacher shortage.
During the post-conference session, MDE’s Crystal Cormack offered the PBL cohort insights into a new interactive resource that ETS and Khan Academy have launched to support teacher candidates with Praxis Core preparation. Praxis tests assess academic skills and subject-specific content knowledge, and passing the Praxis is often required for teacher certification.
SECC’s work in Mississippi during Years 1 and 2 of the Talent for Turnaround Leadership Academy (T4TLA) inspired the conceptualization of the Elevate Conference. The first convening took place in 2018 with 395 participants. This collaborative work also spurred conversations around options such as PBL that were meant to recognize and support teachers who, while struggling to pass the Praxis, have demonstrated success via their capacity to move the needle on student growth and success on standardized tests. More than 60 PBL candidates, who were nominated by education leaders in their schools and districts, will have 3 years to build essential skills and demonstrate competence as educators. This will result in their eligibility for a standard license and directly respond to the need to expand Mississippi’s pool of effective and credentialed educators.
Over the past few years, SECC’s work with Mississippi on the T4TLA and the Diverse Learner-Ready Teacher initiative also has been influential in the state’s development of a strategic, multi-pronged response to its teacher shortage and the need to diversify the educator workforce and implement CRT practices statewide. To learn more, visit the Mississippi Talent Management project on the SECC website.