Friday, November 14, 2014

Some rural schools lack resources to keep up with urban schools in teaching STEM skills

A shortage of qualified teachers and updated equipment has some rural schools lagging behind urban ones when it comes to teaching science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills, Alexandra Ossola reports for The Atlantic. Science has been a particular problem, with many rural districts having a shortage of funds, teachers and necessary classroom space.

"With fewer students per school and limited funding to match, rural school districts have been behind in STEM education," Ossola writes. Denise Harshbarger, the supervisor for special projects at the North East Florida Education Consortium, an organization that represents the shared issues of 15 rural districts, told Ossola, “Rural districts are particularly concerned because as we’re getting into 21st century learning, they’re having a hard time keeping up, largely due to money as well as [teacher] recruitment and retention issues."

One of the biggest problems is finding qualified teachers willing to re-locate to rural areas, Ossola writes. Harshbarger told Ossola, “I think our biggest challenge has been finding teachers who are willing to work in a rural community, which traditionally means their salary will be slightly lower than in nearby larger districts. And if you don’t have the teachers who are really able to know STEM subjects and be able to transfer that to students, then you’re not going to be able catch students up with the curve.”

Another problem is a lack of labs, denying rural students hands-on experience to understand science, Ossola writes. Diane Ward, vice president for student learning and chief academic officer for Roane State Community College in Harriman, Tenn., told Ossola, “In very rural areas, for middle schools in particular, there simply are no labs.” Another problem is updated digital technology, which can be costly, especially in rural areas that lack broadband. (Read more)

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