Friday, October 14, 2016

Colorado using outreach programs, recruiting trips to address rural teacher shortages

Like many states, Colorado is suffering from a teacher shortage in rural areas. In response to the crisis a series of outreach programs have been launched to introduce future teachers, or ones looking for a change, to rural areas in the hope that those teachers will fall in love with not only the areas, but the freedom and flexibility of teaching in a rural environment, Ann Schimke reports for Chalkbeat.

What makes a Colorado
school district rural?
Colorado State University Pueblo conducts a series of all-expenses paid trips for teachers to rural areas, Schimke writes. "The immersion trips, launched last spring with a trip to the 548-student Huerfano district, and wrapping up later this month with one to the 133-student Manzanola district, are among a raft of recent initiatives aimed at beefing up rural teacher recruitment and retention in Colorado."

"Other efforts include day-long bus trips to rural districts for students in teacher preparation programs, stipends for student teachers in rural districts and for rural teachers who want additional training and 'teacher cadet' programs to get rural high school students interested in teaching careers," Schimke writes.

Colorado also last year hired the state’s first rural education outreach coordinator, Schimke writes. "She serves as a connector of sorts between Colorado’s 147 rural districts and teacher preparation programs across the state." The position and the rural teacher immersion trips are paid for with federal grant money.

Robert Mitchell, academic policy officer for teacher preparation at the Colorado Department of Higher Education, said one problem is that the state "has seen a 30 percent decline in the number of college students attending teacher preparation programs in Colorado over the last six years," Schimke writes. Another problem is that rural teaching jobs tend to pay less than urban ones. Mitchell told her, “Any given year when people are looking for elementary teachers, there’s a good chance our rural districts will get zero applications for those jobs."

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