Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Teachers in Rural Schools

One major problem with rural schools is the lack of quality teachers. Two essential variables with teachers and rural schools are distance from a college with a teaching program, and distance from an urban area. Many teachers do not want to stay in rural areas because of isolation, whether it is social, professional, or cultural. In addition, teachers in rural areas face many challenges such as low salaries, lack of access to professional opportunities, and the responsibility to take on multiple duties (Castle, 1995). 

Due to the small size of rural schools and communities, there is a smaller pool of applicants and teachers in rural areas, and rural schools have a high teacher turnover rate (DeYoung, 1991). Most teachers and administrators in rural schools are typically younger, less well education, and get lower pay and benefits than non rural employees (UNESCO, 1990). 

The problem with rural teachers can be broken down further into recruiting and retaining these teachers. In regards to recruitment of rural school teachers, the "ideal" rural teacher can teach multiple grades or subjects, organize extracurricular activities, and adjust well to the environment and the community (Brown, 2003). It is extremely difficult to find teachers who fit in with the rural community and will stay for a long period of time because of this. Usually the teachers who end up staying are either from a rural background or have previous experience with rural communities. 

Small rural schools have struggled to find an adequate supply of teachers, but now their struggle is to find quality teachers which are difficult because rural teachers are supposed to show excellence, but what they really need first is equality (DeYoung, 1991).      
Two strategies that may help rural schools retain teachers for longer are to involve teachers with the community more, and to start developing more programs about rural schools and teachers for college students (ERIC Digest). Also, increasing people's awareness of the problems of rural schools may also be promising. 

The Association of State Boards of Education say that the number of teachers trained per year is adequate, but the problem lies in teacher distribution (ERIC Digest). Furthermore, Gibbs (1998) discusses the Higher Education Amendments which were put into place to improve teacher recruitment, grants given to improve the quality and reduce the shortage of teachers. It is necessary for each state to implement programs for recruiting and retaining teachers. In order to find long lasting teachers, rural schools must recruit on a year long basis, make sure that everyone in the community and school helps with the process and is committed to academic excellence.      

Starting salaries for urban school teachers is 21% higher than rural teachers, and 35% higher for teachers with masters and 20 or more years of experience. Lastly, 1/3 of rural teachers have a graduate degree, while 1/2 of urban teachers have a graduate degree (Brown, 2003). 

It is obvious that the location, salary, and experience that rural teachers experience are secondary to those of urban and suburban teachers. Based on the current research, I found the main issue with the teachers in rural schools to be recruitment. Although ERIC Digest suggests that this problem can be mitigated by involving teachers with the community, I do not think this will be an effective strategy. If people do not have an interest or a special connection with rural areas they will not be persuaded to work in a rural school by becoming involved with a community. 

I believe the best way to solve this program is to teach college and graduate school students about the problems that exist in rural schools in order to help them develop an interest in rural schools early on, so they will want to help solve this problem once they get out of school. Like we learned in class, teachers are extremely important in their students learning process. They need to be able to meet students' individual needs, be effective teachers, and motivate students intrinsically in order for the students to learn. Without quality teachers, schools in rural areas have a hard time educating their students.