Academic journal article Rural Educator

How Do We Get Them on the Farm? Efforts to Improve Rural Teacher Recruitment and Retention in Arkansas

Academic journal article Rural Educator

How Do We Get Them on the Farm? Efforts to Improve Rural Teacher Recruitment and Retention in Arkansas

Article excerpt

Rural schools, particularly high poverty rural schools, often have difficulty hiring and retaining qualified teachers. Here, we discuss three programs the Arkansas Department of Education has used to attract teachers to teacher Geographic Shortage Districts (GSDs) through material incentives. Unfortunately, none of the programs have had much success, perhaps in part since the funding offered was inadequate to attract new teachers to isolated communities. Additionally, we analyze the use of materialistic and non-materialistic incentives on the websites of all school districts designated as GSDs by the Arkansas Department of Education. Few GSDs display nonmaterialistic appeals that might entice individuals to seek out employment in the district, with the notable exception of KIPP Delta, the only charter school on the list, which has much more success recruiting teachers. We end with suggestions for policymakers and school district officials seeking to attract teachers to geographic shortage areas.

Key Words: Teacher shortages, teacher recruitment, teacher bonuses, rural schools, charter schools

As Ingersoll (2003) points out, there is no overall teacher shortage, but shortages do exist for some geographic and subject areas. Math, science, and special education are among the highest need subject areas. Rural and inner city urban districts typically suffer from geographic shortages (McClure & Reeves, 2004). A highly effective teacher can significantly improve student achievement (Chetty, Friedman, & Rockoff, 201 1; Hanushek, Kain, O'Brien, & Rivkin, 2005; Rivkin, Hanushek, & Kain, 2005). In some schools, however, principals worry about simply filling vacancies, not hiring the best teachers. The inability of some rural and urban schools to attract applicants leaves principals in the precarious position of having to hire whoever walks through the door, or failing to offer some courses.

As the baby boom generation prepares to retire, particular market shortages for educators may get worse. Fearing dramatic teacher shortages, both national and state policy-makers have developed programs to increase the number of teachers (Ingersoll, 2002). Further, the numbers of nontraditional paths to teaching, for example, Troops to Teachers, have grown, and indeed nearly a third of new teachers nationally come from outside traditional four-year education programs within colleges and universities (Maranto & McShane, 2012). Accordingly, states have provided easier pathways for those who seek to change career to receive alternative teacher certification. In addition, state governments often offer incentives to teach in shortage areas. Various states have offered loan forgiveness, bonuses, housing allotments and various other incentives for teaching in a high needs subject area, geographic area, or low-income school (McClure & Reeves, 2004).

In this article, we summarize the literature on teacher retention and provide analysis of state and local district efforts to recruit teachers to high needs areas. We provide a descriptive overview of three programs initiated with the intent to entice individuals to high needs areas with materialistic incentives. Next, we analyze the websites of the Arkansas Geographic Shortage Districts (GSD) to ascertain their use of materialistic and nonmaterialistic recruitment incentives in the recruitment of teachers. We conclude with suggestions for policy makers and school officials that might attract more and better teachers to these hard to staff areas.

Monetary Incentives for Teacher Retention

Although widespread, monetary incentives have not proved their ability to attract teachers. For instance, the Massachusetts Signing Bonus Program, which offered a signing bonus of $20,000 to attract teachers had little impact in attracting new teachers (Liu, Johnson, & Peske, 2004). Although it was marketed as an upfront bonus for becoming a teacher, in actuality the payout came in four installments. …

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