Addressing the Teacher Recruitment and Retention Dilemma in Rural Settings: Preparing Teachers for Rural Poverty

Addressing the Teacher Recruitment and Retention Dilemma in Rural Settings: Preparing Teachers for Rural Poverty

Bryan S. Zugelder (James Madison University, USA) and Dawn M. Shelton (East Carolina University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2787-0.ch015
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This chapter addresses how an elementary education program at a large university prepares teacher candidates for success working with children and families in rural poverty through a structured, linked, K-2 language arts practicum experience that provides pedagogical training in planning, instruction, and assessment. This descriptive chapter includes a thorough account of program development and employed strategies with example tools and resources to provide the reader with contextual understanding of the methods the authors use to prepare teacher candidates for success. The described structure of the program is centered on the development and sustainable nature of the university and school partnerships, designed to provide teacher candidates with meaningful opportunities for intentional application of theory in real-world, rural settings to address the teacher recruitment and retention dilemma in the state's most economically disadvantaged rural communities, while improving the quality of life for citizens in this region of the country.
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Consistently, schools in rural settings, which often comprise children and families from poverty, are the hardest environments to recruit and retain high-quality professional educators (Malkus, Hoyer, & Sparks, 2015). This is typically due to geographic isolation, limited resources, and scarce or no teacher preparation with focus on rural settings (REL Central, 2008). Specifically, teacher candidates are less likely to engage in clinical practice in rural environments, given the nature of their university’s proximity to access ample placements with eligible and willing mentor teachers (Paulsen, DaFonte, & Barton-Arwood, 2015).

Teacher candidates in traditional university settings are often placed in nearby schools to fulfill the requirements of clinical practice and to demonstrate application of their learning in real world settings. University cities, however, are often populated with people from multiple backgrounds who have migrated to the area because of the university itself (Tippett, 2014). This type of city prototype is not always indicative of the actual state’s demographic make-up. Even universities located in rural areas can often depict an urban feel. North Carolina, although fast-growing, is considered largely rural. Teachers produced by the state’s universities will more than likely teach in a school system classified as rural. Therefore, it is critical that teacher candidates effectively practice in the settings where they are most likely to teach (McDonald et al., 2014; Ronfeldt, 2012; Torrez & Krebs, 2012). This has implications for education preparation and reform.

The NCATE Blue Ribbon Panel (2011) recommended teacher preparation programs structure curriculum so that courses are centered on clinical practice, setting the stage for teacher education standards today (CAEP, 2015). Quality field experiences in teacher preparation are more meaningful than quantity, providing teacher candidates with greater self-efficacy and readiness to teach (Ronfeldt & Reininger, 2012). Multiple experiences to practice teaching increases teacher candidate understanding of instruction (Hoffman, Mosley Wetzel, & DeJulio, 2018). While student teaching is the greatest high-leverage experience for teacher preparation (Ronfeldt, Reininger, & Kwok, 2013; Eller & Poe, 2016), early field experiences also yield greater self-efficacy and satisfaction of teaching (Van Schagen Johnson, LaParo, & Crosby, 2017).

Teacher candidates have long professed that in-classroom experiences are the most valued learning from their university-based teacher training (Ronfeldt, Reininger, & Kwok, 2013). As teacher preparation programs are charged with offering the most content for the least amount of credit hours, the challenge becomes what to keep and where to cut, while maximizing the in-field experiences. It is possible, however, for teacher education to sustain and include high-quality clinical practice at each stage of a teacher candidate’s progression (NCATE, 2010; Van Schagen Johnson et al., 2017).

The authors understand that children who live in poverty are often used to hearing words and phrases that stem from a deficit mindset, rather than hearing words of encouragement and hope (Dweck, 2007; Jensen, 2013). The authors also understand that children who live in poverty often face cyclical and chronic negative consequences (Jensen, 2009). Therefore, the approach to preparing teacher candidates in working with children in poverty is to provide high-quality and enriching experiences that result in affinity toward working in schools where they are needed the most and where the most distressed communities benefit from having the best education.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Teacher Candidate: A student enrolled in an educator preparation program to fulfill the requirements for licensure as a professional teacher.

Academic Language: The language of a discipline. When students use academic language effectively, they are likely to understand the content of the subject they are learning.

Co-Teaching: When two or more professional educators work together to plan, instruct, and assess learning.

Language Arts: The comprehensive subject of reading, writing, listening, viewing, and speaking.

Differentiation: Providing instruction in a different way to accommodate the individual and unique needs of learners. Students who receive differentiation are provided with modifications in the learning process or the product they create to demonstrate understanding.

Teacher Retention: A teacher who stays in the profession at the school, district, or state level for a given period of time.

Rural Poverty: A geographic setting where the annual household income is below $24,000 and in a remote location that is not densely populated.

Practicum: A supervised, experience-based university course where teacher candidates apply theory in real-world settings. Candidates receive meaningful and relevant feedback to help them reflect on professional and personal growth.

Reading: A key component of the English Language Arts subject that includes understanding of the essential foundations required to pronounce sounds, words, and make meaning in texts.

Instructor: Used interchangeably with the word faculty to indicate a university-based teacher who provides instruction using theory and application to facilitate professional growth.

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