Monday, September 26, 2016

Colleges not preparing teachers for teaching multiple subjects and grades in rural areas

Colleges are not preparing teachers for jobs in remote rural areas where they might be asked to teach multiple subjects or grades, Matt Hoffman reports for The Missoulian. While nationally most elementary school teachers teach one grade and high school teachers one subject for several classes, "in Montana’s smallest elementary schools, teachers are asked to juggle multiple grades in the same classroom, sometimes with only one student per grade. In small high schools, teachers might teach every class within a subject, or even multiple subjects."

While having instructors teach multiple subjects helps the school it can be tough for teachers, Hoffman writes. "Teachers need to prepare more lesson plans for different classes or grade levels. There are often no colleagues within a department to seek advice from. It’s simply not what most teachers envision when they’re in college."

Being overworked or in over their heads can lead to teachers not sticking around long, Hoffman writes. Jilyn Oliveira, a Helena administrator who studied recruitment and retention at Montana's smallest schools in 2015, said "she found that a major indicator of teachers staying in a rural school was feeling that their own education prepared them for the job. But only about a third of teachers she surveyed said their own education prepared them for a rural school."

Teachers in small towns like Circle
might be asked to teach multiple
subjects and grades (Best Places map)
One problem is that Montana's colleges have seen drops in bachelor's degree graduates in almost every program since 2010-11, Hoffman writes. John Demming, a science teacher in rural Circle, Mont., said "the quick answer for whether teachers are prepared for a rural setting coming out of college is 'no.' Teacher prep programs are designed to teach best practices to students for an environment that they’re likely to teach in. Nationally, teachers are much more likely to end up in a school district like Missoula, Bozeman or Billings than one like Circle." (Read more)

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