Journal Issue: Excellence in the Classroom Volume 17 Number 1 Spring 2007
In examining recruitment and retention of teachers in rural areas, David Monk begins by noting the numerous possible characteristics of rural communities—small size, sparse settlement, distance from population concentrations, and an economic reliance on agricultural industries that are increasingly using seasonal and immigrant workers to minimize labor costs. Many, though not all, rural areas, he says, are seriously impoverished.
Classes in rural schools are relatively small, and teachers tend to report satisfaction with their work environments and relatively few problems with discipline. But teacher turnover is often high, and hiring can be difficult. Monk observes that rural schools have a below-average share of highly trained teachers. Compensation in rural schools tends to be low, perhaps because of a lower fiscal capacity in rural areas, thus complicating efforts to attract and retain teachers.
Several student characteristics, including relatively large shares of students with special needs and with limited English skills and lower shares of students attending college, can also make it difficult to recruit and retain high-quality teachers. Other challenges include meeting the needs of highly mobile children of low-income migrant farm workers.
With respect to public policy, Monk asserts a need to focus on a subcategory of what might be called hard-to-staff rural schools rather than to develop a blanket set of policies for all rural schools. In particular, he recommends a focus on such indicators as low teacher qualifications, teaching in fields far removed from the area of training, difficulty in hiring, high turnover, a lack of diversity among teachers in the school, and the presence of migrant farm workers’ children. Successful efforts to stimulate economic growth in these areas would be highly beneficial. He also calls attention to the potential for modern telecommunication and computing technologies to offset some of the drawbacks associated with teaching in rural areas.