- The plight of Colorado's Rangely School District, where Parkview Elementary School loses 15-20% of its teachers annually, highlights the staffing struggles faced by schools and districts in "no-stoplight" towns, Education Week reports.
- Part of the problem involves policy discussions that describe a variety of communities as "rural," with about 18% of districts educating about 2% of all U.S. students defined as "remote and rural," or being located 25 miles from a city with a population of 50,000 and 10 miles from a town with 2,500.
- Compounding the problem is the fact that rural teachers must often take on more roles than their urban or suburban counterparts, with Kendra Anderson, superintendent of the Otis (CO) School District, telling Education Week, "It really can change kids' trajectories; sometimes, you can't find someone who will continue to challenge students. It's a panic when someone says they're resigning."
Though teacher shortages have been ongoing in a variety of locales nationwide for some time, rural districts face a particularly uphill battle when it comes to recruitment and retention. Chief among their challenges: How do you convince talented young teaching professionals, especially, to choose a position in a remote location over one closer to a hipper, more vibrant locale? Equally challenging is the issue of attracting educators with specific skill sets in fields like computer science, as they're more likely to be more readily available in a suburban or urban area.
Some districts have worked to make themselves more attractive by touting unique benefits. As Longview Independent School District Director of Secondary Curriculum Melanie Pondant told us recently, her district's experimentation with scheduling has created a scenario where new teaching graduates, who would likely earn more money in Dallas or another large district, can have a full day each week without students and don't have to take papers home to grade at night. Touting benefits like that can help, but rural, remote schools and districts may also still have to rely on new technology, such as video conferences for students with skilled educators in fields like computer science. when experts aren't available, or retrain existing educators and staff willing to take on those additional roles in the meantime.