Rural administrators who want to better prepare and support a culturally diverse teaching force need to vary recruitment strategies, seek partnerships, and promote a culture of collaboration, according to a new study.
Those are among a list of suggestions in “Teacher Identity in a Multicultural Rural School: Lessons Learned at Vista Charter,” published in the Journal of Research in Rural Education. The study involved over two years of research at a high-poverty, bilingual, elementary charter school in rural eastern Oregon. Seven of the 12 teachers at the school (called “Vista Charter” in the report, though not the real name) are bilingual.
The report focuses heavily on the teachers’ backgrounds and exploring the five core beliefs they shared: all teachers were valued and valuable, all teachers expected to learn from the diverse student body and teaching staff, all expected to collaborate for professional development, that “we teach who we are,” and that the school was a safe place to grow as a teacher. In addition to these, the researchers also culled tips for both rural school administrators and teacher educators. Some of these tips include:
- Vary recruitment strategies—try to “homegrow” diverse teachers, including targeting good second-career candidates from the local community, rather than pursuing more traditional routes for teacher recruitment.
- Support teachers in the multiple roles they serve.
- Evaluate the school mission so that it incorporates students’ multicultural competencies.
- Provide teacher-selected professional development.
- Know the community, the families, and get them involved. This includes tapping the vast knowledge of the paraeducator network established—many paraeducators have intimate knowledge of both the community and the students they serve.
To read the full study, please visit http://www.jrre.psu.edu/articles/27-5.pdf
The annual turnover rate in rural Alaskan schools can be as high as 35%, compared with urban rates as low as 5%. A new program in rural Alaska seeks to halt this trend through a new program that pairs rural schools with big-city counterparts. Funded by a federal grant of nearly $2 million to launch cultural immersion camps for incoming teachers, the three-year program is an offshoot of the Rose Urban Rural Exchange program (RUREP).
The camps are intended to introduce urban educators to rural and Native Alaskan life and to prepare teachers to enter communities that may have a historical distrust of outsiders. Many Native Alaskan villages have collective memories of boarding schools that sought to dismantle indigenous cultures. Teachers will also be paired with a master-teacher to apply what they have learned into classroom activities and lesson plans.
Besides geographic isolation, other factors contributing to the high turnover rate is the soaring cost of living and the lower standardized test scores often found in rural areas. This makes the pressure on teachers to improve student performance even more pronounced, and with students’ economic and cultural factors affecting attendance, the stress can simply be too much.
The cultural immersion program may have a positive impact on teacher attrition. “It’ll introduce new teachers to cultures and values, getting folks to understand that different values aren’t wrong,” says Mike Dunleavy, director of Alaska Teacher Placement. “Once they understand, they can relate to the folks they’re trying to teach.”
The first camps will be held next summer for 30 teachers. As of now, organizers are unsure of where the camps will be held, but say that there will be at least one camp in each of the two pilot districts. Though funding is only guaranteed for the next three years, it is hoped that the camps could become a permanent fixture in Alaska’s teacher preparation/professional development offerings.
To read the full story, please visit http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2011/12/01/474612klaskaretainingteachers_ap.html?tkn=MYUFnAQ9aKvo85P81H2kMX%2FG5HDkOztIjWbr&cmp=ENL-TU-NEWS2