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Students Taught by USM English Licensure Program Graduates Excel on State Exams

Mon, 03/29/2021 - 11:43am | By: David Tisdale

Based on data from the State of Mississippi Education Preparation Provider (EPP) Impact Report, students in eighth and 10th grade classrooms across the Magnolia State taught by University of Southern Mississippi (USM) graduateswho completed either an English licensure program or a 7-12 English licensure endorsement in academic year 2018-2019performed better (higher percent Proficient or Advanced) on required state subject area examinations than the average of their statewide EPP counterparts. Fourteen of the 15 public and private institutions of higher education in Mississippi submitted data to establish these statewide benchmarks.

The USM Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in English with licensure prepares students with both the critical tools of an English degree, and a theoretical frame and practice for teaching.  It boasts a superlative placement rate for its graduates, with recent placement rates at 100 percent. Students completing the program gain invaluable experience in area schools with practicing teachers, while being mentored by English program faculty, preparing them for successful careers at both middle schools and high schools. 

Associate Professor Dr. Rebecca Powell, Instructor and Student Teacher Coordinator Sherry Kinkopf, and Dr. Kate Cochran, faculty members in the USM School of Humanities, manage the English with licensure B.A. program.

“We’re so pleased to learn that our program’s graduates continue to guide students in our state toward high academic achievement,” said Dr. Powell. “I attribute this to our program's dual focus on English content and pedagogy, and the excellence of our students.”

Kinkopf said that the program’s strength and training are highly regarded across the state, and valued among area school teachers and administrators.

“USM has been a leader in the state’s preparation of teachers, and our English Education program has been at the forefront of this well-earned reputation,” Kinkopf continued.

Among the program’s other success stories, it has maintained its national recognition from the National Council of Teachers of English; since first awarded in 2012, the Mississippi Association of Colleges of Teacher Education Best Student Teacher of the Year Award has been earned five times by an English licensure student; and two of the program’s student teachers have won the Mississippi Professional Educator’s Scholarship Award.

And, in addition to the program’s 100 percent placement rate, it also enjoys a similar outcome for its students who take the Praxis II examination.

Heather Serpas said she was well-prepared through the English Licensure program to begin her journey as a first-year state tested teacher. The 2018 USM graduate is in her third year teaching English I and II at West Harrison High School in Gulfport, Mississippi.  

“My time at USM in the English Licensure Program helped me gain the confidence I needed to go into a state tested classroom and to teach the students, not just teach the test,” Serpas said. “I learned the Mississippi College and Career Readiness Standards, as well as student-centered learning, classroom management, active learning, and culturally diverse teaching. Researching best teaching practices and applying them within my curriculum in the program also allowed me to understand and recognize ‘good teaching’ in my practicum and student teaching placements.

“Along with the research, I was educated in the content area materials and literature as well, and I felt prepared to lead discussions and foster student learning, while making connections to their lives.”

Lucy Hunt, another graduate of the program, teaches English I, II and Dual Credit Composition at Purvis High School. She said her knowledge of and love of teaching grew because the program’s professors “challenged us as students to excel and dig deeper.”

“As a result of that learning environment and the reputation of the USM program, my skills were sharpened and my confidence enhanced, and I was offered a position teaching before I graduated.”

USM School of Humanities Director Dr. Matthew Casey said the program is “carrying on one of the core principles upon which USM was built: education of future teachers.”

"We're incredibly proud of our English licensure program, and these recent successes are a testament to the excellent training students receive--not just in English content--but in pedagogy as well,” Dr. Casey said. “Our students receive rigorous preparation, hands-on classroom experience, and mentoring from USM professors and local teachers alike.”

For more information about the USM Bachelor of Arts (BA) in English with licensure program, visit