Strategies for Recruitment and Retention of Secondary Teachers in Central U.S. Rural Schools

By Beesley, Andrea D.; Atwill, Kim et al. | Rural Educator, Winter 2010 | Go to article overview

Strategies for Recruitment and Retention of Secondary Teachers in Central U.S. Rural Schools


Beesley, Andrea D., Atwill, Kim, Blair, Pamela, Barley, Zoe A., Rural Educator


This study sought to identify differences in strategies used for teacher recruitment and retention by successful and nonsuccessful rural high schools. According to data from the 2003-2004 Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS), small towns and rural areas in the central U.S. states did have relatively more difficulty in recruiting teachers than did larger communities. However, when the successful and unsuccessful school districts were compared on the strategies and benefits included in the SASS, the only difference was with signing bonuses, which were offered significantly more often in the unsuccessful group than the successful group. The researchers also interviewed seven principals identified as successful by their state agencies. Their responses also revealed minimal reliance on the strategies addressed in the SASS. However, there was some alignment between many of the strategies they did use and the three approaches investigated in previous research: grow-your-own, using federal funding opportunities, and using targeted incentives.

One of the underlying tenets of No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB, 2002) is that students learn more effectively and efficiently in classrooms taught by highly qualified teachers. This increased focus on teacher quality has emphasized the need for effective teacher recruitment and retention, both nationally and regionally. In successful recruitment, certified teachers accept teaching positions; in successful retention, teachers not only stay in the profession but remain at one location for an extended period of time. Teacher recruiting and retention seem to be related; analyses of the Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS) have consistently shown a high correlation between difficulties with recruiting and with retention, meaning that schools reporting recruiting difficulties are nearly twice as likely to have above-average turnover rates as well (Ingersoll, 2001; Luekens, Lyter, & Fox, 2004; Strizek, Pittsonberger, Riordan, Lyter, & Orlofsky, 2006).

Recruiting and Retaining Faculty Present Challenges to Rural High Schools

While many schools have been struggling to meet the highly qualified teacher component of NCLB, the need to attract and retain teachers presents unique challenges to rural districts in particular (Elfers & Plecki, 2006). Although national-level data revealed that rural schools had a lower teacher turnover rate (14.0%) than urban (15.2%) and suburban (15.6%) schools (Ingersoll, 2001; Luekens et al., 2004) and a lower percentage of teaching vacancies (66.6% compared to 71.9% for all public schools), these vacancies may negatively impact a small or rural school more than a larger school. According to the SASS data, rural high schools average nearly half as many full-time teachers per school as compared to schools in larger, less isolated communities (27.6 teachers, as compared to 47.7 for urban fringe and 53.8 for large/mid-size city). If a math teacher leaves, for example, there may be no math department until another teacher is hired.

Rural schools experience many of the same challenges as urban schools, such as high concentrations of children in poverty, but often face additional obstacles to teacher recruitment and retention. These include lower salaries, small school population, and remote locations, which can serve to further hinder the recruitment and retention of highly qualified teachers (Boe, Bobbi«, Cook, Whitener, & Weber, 1997; Ingersoll & Rossi, 1995). In fact, in acknowledgement that the standard teacher-quality reforms enacted by NCLB were not easily achieved in rural schools, a 2004 amendment to NCLB gave rural teachers who are highly qualified in at least one subject area three additional years to become highly qualified in the other subjects they teach (U.S. Department of Education, 2004).

Although teacher recruitment and retention have always been a challenge, NCLB's highly qualified teacher mandate has increased qualification requirements so that multisubject teaching positions common to small rural schools demand more teacher training than typical single-subject positions, effectively creating disincentives to teach in small rural schools. …

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