State university looks at new ways to recruit teachers in rural areas
- For the second year in a row, Montana State University held a gathering to connect rural educators with students to help them see the benefits of teaching in rural schools, the Billings Gazette reports.
- Montana has the lowest pay in the nation for beginning teachers and small school districts generally pay less than large ones; moreover, the geographic and professional isolation in rural school districts often discourage recruits.
- However, advocates for rural school districts stress the positive small school culture which allows for greater personal involvement with students, smaller class sizes and greater involvement in decision making.
Most states are facing a growing teacher shortage and that problem is magnified in rural school districts that face special challenges in recruiting teachers. The issue is broader than many people realize. According to a report in 2015, nearly 25% of students in America live in rural areas. Yet, in most of these areas, teacher recruitment is a challenge because of isolationism, lower pay, housing issues, and fewer opportunities for spousal employment.
There are ways in which school districts can rebrand the notion of rural teaching, such as focusing on the positives and by improving collaboration with other schools and school districts in order to lessen the feeling of professional isolationism. Rural education also offers a host of advantages to teachers, particularly beginning teachers who can benefit from smaller class sizes and greater community support. These advantages also the chance to provide more individualized instruction, greater workplace autonomy and influence on school decisions, fewer disciplinary issues to deal with and often, less red tape.
Some states are trying to deal with the issue of increasing teacher recruitment to these areas through the use of scholarships. Another way to increase recruitment is to increase teacher pay in rural areas. In “Indicators of Successful Teacher Recruitment and Retention in Oklahoma Rural School Districts," an October 2017 report by the U.S. Department of Education, the authors noted “For teachers in rural school districts, higher total compensation and increased responsibilities in job assignment are positively associated with successful recruitment and retention.”