Attracting and retaining quality staff is an important aspect of human resource management. It involves the ability of the organization to attract new employees to fill vacancies in the organization and to keep its employees happy and satisfied so they never want to leave their current positions. This requires a great deal of effort from the management who are looking for ways to keep employee turnover low. A low employee turnover rate refers to the rate at which an employer loses employees. The reason why the management wants to keep employee turnover low is because when employees leave, there are certain costs which are involved, such as training and recruitment costs, loss of talent as well as loss of organizational knowledge. Thus, it is important for an organization, especially a school, to be able to attract and retain quality staff.
Attracting and retaining teachers in rural areas
In a research that was published, it was found that rural areas usually experience shortages in the number of teachers in the area especially for science, math and special education teachers. The objective of the study was to find out which legislative and policy issues were causing such a huge problem in attracting and maintaining quality teachers Collins, 1999()
The problem with retention and recruitment of rural teachers varies widely across the U.S. Some rural states have surpluses in teachers while others have huge shortages. Data from the National Association of State Boards of Education show that there are an adequate number of teachers who are trained each year. However, the problem comes in the distribution of teachers Bradley, 1998.
The legislation in each state deals with retention and recruitment of teachers and deals with the circumstances and what needs to be done in case of shortages Collins, 1999()
In order to try and alleviate these shortages in rural areas, President Bill Clinton signed into law and amendment to the Higher Education law in the month of October of 1998. The bill created teacher recruitment grants which would improve quality of teachers and reduce shortages in the number of qualified teachers in the districts which need huge numbers of teachers Collins, 1999()
Reasons for the low retention rates
The study found that social, professional and cultural isolation is the major reason why teachers leave these rural areas. Research that has been conducted recently has also shown that retention and recruitment rates for teachers for rural areas remain quite low. A survey of mobility of teachers conducted in a rural school district in British Columbia also found that teachers usually leave communities because of weather, geographical isolation, inadequate amenities such as shopping, entertainment, etc. And distance from larger communities and their families Collins, 1999()
Therefore, the problem facing administrators of rural schools is that they are unable to find teachers who are qualified and who fit into the school community and who are willing to stay in their jobs. The ideal rural teacher is one who is certified in teaching more than one grade or subject. It is also the teacher who can teach their students with a wide range of abilities in the same classroom environment. The ideal teacher also needs to be able to carry out supervisory activities especially in extracurricular activities and to adjust to the rural community Stone, 1990()
The study conducted in the rural area in British Columbia found that there were three major reasons that led to retention of teachers. The first is the principal amount paid out to the teacher. Second is if their spouse is also employed in the same school or same rural community and last is satisfaction with the lifestyle in the rural area Murphy & Angelski, 1996()
Recruitment of teachers in the rural areas
Recruitment of rural teachers is an intricate process and the administrators need to target those candidates who are from rural backgrounds. They can also target those who have personal or educational experiences and characteristics that make them predisposed to living in rural areas. There is an emphasis of the target teachers having this experience and background in order to have school communities that are distinct in their racial or cultural ways Collins, 1999()
There is a need to have a unique selling point (USP) for the recruitment which is the benefit of teaching in these remote schools. These include the fact that there is reduced problem of indiscipline, increased personal contact between the children and the teacher, less red tape, greater changes of leadership, individualized instruction, and classes of small sizes, greater participation of children and parents and lastly the teachers are able to make a huge impact on the decisions made in the school. This USP will help the teachers to prefer teaching in these rural schools than in other schools Collins, 1999()
Most of the teachers in rural areas are those who were raised in the same areas that they are currently teaching. This shows that it is quite important to find teachers who have rural backgrounds. There are certain initiatives referred to as “grow-your-own” initiatives which serve to incentivize the residents of rural areas who have the potential of becoming teachers to grow and to assist in obtaining the necessary education, skills and training in order to become educated. A good example is the FTA (Future Teachers of America) club which encourages students to consider the return to their home communities once they are through with their current education Collins, 1999()
Retention of rural teachers
Retention of rural teachers is also important in ensuring the staffing needs of the community schools are met. Colleges play a huge role in the recruitment of students who demonstrate good characteristics to become successful as teachers in the rural areas. The department of education in the U.S. suggests that colleges need to recruit in an aggressive manner in high and middle schools thus exposing students to counseling, mentorship, tutoring, modeling, and classes in education theories in order to provide them with ample opportunities to prefer the rural experience. This can also be done through having a kind of rural focus in the course work at the colleges Collins, 1999()
The degree to which a teacher in the rural area becomes involved in the educational, cultural programs in the community will directly and indirectly influence their decision to remain in the rural area. Therefore, the retention of teachers in the rural area requires efforts that are coordinated between the school and the community. An orientation of the rural teachers to the school and the community at large leads to the teachers being able to overcome any feelings of isolation and loneliness that they may have. They also acquire a sense of security in the rural community and they are thus encouraged to develop their professional competence Collins, 1999()
It is also important for school principals to undertake the task of selecting the first assignment for the new teachers with extreme care. They need to set clear goals, deadlines and milestones and to be open and welcome to feedback from the new teachers. They also need to establish an environment that is encouraging and non-threatening for the teachers and which creates opportunities for them to interact with other colleagues who are experienced in teaching as well as the parents of these children. The school also needs to make sure that its paperwork is streamlined in order to have provide a well-planned program for the in-service teachers as well as to arrange release time to allow for visits to the classrooms of other teachers Collins, 1999()
The community also needs to recognize and appreciate these new teachers and their accomplishments. They also need to be invited to participate in community activities so that they can feel that they are valued members of the community. Universities and colleges also play a huge role in offering distance-learning courses for the teachers which are cost-effective and to keep rural teachers up-to-date and to allow them to further their studies Collins, 1999()
State programs to handle the problem of attraction and retention of staff
Different states are handling the issue with staffing of teachers in different ways. However, there are some trends in the state programs that are almost similar. There have been issues with disparities in the pay of rural and urban teachers within the states. These salary differentials have been seen to cause problems when trying to retain teachers especially in the rural areas. Kentucky and Connecticut have solved this problem through having salaries for teachers that are equalized across the state in order to diminish these inequalities in the regions Collins, 1999()
Several other states have developed analysis frameworks for checking the supply and demand for teachers to track their availability in each of the subject areas and across the various communities in the states. For example, in Alaska, the state provides an annual supply-and-demand report which takes note of any shortages in the teachers which may be made to be worse by the early-retirement incentive in the state as well as the low salary levels which have placed the state at a low competitive advantage. Other situations which makes the supply and demand situation in Alaska is the increased amount of time which is needed to certify the teachers as well as other difficulties in the certification procedures of the state. The state has a teacher placement program which is a not-for-profit clearinghouse for placing teachers across the whole state. This was setup by the University of Alaska, Fairbanks in the year 1997. This clearinghouse conducts the activity of recruitment of teachers as well as maintaining a job bank which is accessible on the internet LaBerge, 1999()
The state of Oklahoma, on the other hand, found that the rural districts need more early childhood development and elementary teachers. They also found that the rural districts have the greatest need for teachers. These rural districts account for two-thirds of the school districts in Oklahoma as well as about one-fifth of all the educators in the state. The study in Oklahoma also showed that there is more need for understanding why there are more Oklahoma students who are trained to become teachers than those who are actually hired by schools in Oklahoma Collins, 1999()
Mississippi as a state gives their teachers scholarships, college course, high-school to college programs and other loans to incentivize them to serve in the rural areas which are experiencing shortages in the number of teachers required. Other incentives include home loans and rental housing schemes. Mississippi also boasts of a professional who is a department of education staff member and who is involved in the recruitment of new teachers both in the state and out of the state Collins, 1999()
Florida conducted changes in their legislation and especially in their department of education which set up a teacher recruitment and retention services office whose task was to advertise the position in the targeted areas of state and to provide information that relates to the certification and sponsorship of the Future Educator Program of the state. For those areas which are experiencing critical shortages, the legislature of the state created a program which forgives those loans that the teachers owe in exchange for them providing teaching services to the rural districts. This helped to rectify the situation with the shortages greatly. The state of Pennsylvania also has a similar setup with their legislature Collins, 1999()
The state of South Carolina established a center for recruitment of teachers in the year 1986 which provides support to the various programs and activities in the education sector in the state. This includes the ProTeam Program which is a course and a club which introduces seventh and eighth grade students to take up teaching as their future career. There is also the teacher cadet program which serves as an “introduction-to-teaching” class for twelfth grade students who can take it for a college credit. Thirdly, there is the program for teaching assistants which serves to complement the teacher cadet program and allows students to work with the teachers especially in areas which are experiencing critical shortages. Fourth is the teacher job bank. Next is the EXPO that is held to recruit teachers. Lastly, there are two scholarship programs which are conducted for prospective teachers. As a result of these state programs, there are many organizations which participate in the recruitment efforts in South Carolina. For example, the MATE (Minority Access to Teacher Education) program which is run by Benedict’s College encourages students from rural school districts and those which are underdeveloped who are bound for college to teach in these rural communities and in those subject areas that have dire shortages in the number of teachers. The program also provides scholarships, counseling, financial assistance and tutoring for the members of the program Collins, 1999()
Attracting and retaining teachers in small schools in Idaho
In a study conducted on the schools in Idaho, it was found that the attractiveness of the school’s learning and teaching environment is the most important factor in making sure retention rates for teachers are high. This is also reflected in the local culture of the school, the community and the needs of the individual as well as the competencies of other stakeholders in the education sector. It is important to recognize that there is no teacher who will be willing to serve in a school district where the teaching and learning environment is not positive. Therefore, local school administrators must create a meaningful and purposeful environment for the teachers. This also helps to reduce the issues of isolation that were identified in the first study described above Lowe, 2006()
Other attributes that are required to ensure a high teacher retention rate include making the school environment safe and conducive for fostering learning and teaching. Secondly is to identify a school mission that incorporate the views, values and ideologies of the staff members and which the staff members can share in and which amplifies the set goals for the school. Third is the improvement of the school’s assessment measures for both staff members and students as well as to improve the accountability of all staff members. There is also setting high expectations for the learning of each student to make sure the students get the highest quality of education achievable Lowe, 2006()
There should also be frequent monitoring of progress of the students to check whether they are achieving the set goals and milestones. The program should be well developed to involve the parents and the community at large. Lastly is the realization that when teachers are happy with their jobs, they are better motivated and they put in more effort to make sure they perform better. They are also more likely to endure the hardships of the rural district thus improving the employee retention rate of this area Lowe, 2006()
The state also managed to attract and retain their teaching staff by introducing the use of better forms of technology in the teaching and learning environment. This included the replacement of chalkboards with whiteboards and the introduction of projectors. These made the staff feel challenged and feel that there was more they needed to do for the community thus the state was able to improve their employee retention and attraction rates Lowe, 2006()
Other activities that have been essential in improving the retention and attraction rates in rural school districts in Idaho include provision of quality housing for the teachers, proper budgeting for teacher recruitment programs as well as trainings and forums for teachers to express themselves in order to address their issues, and lastly, focusing on planning at the school level to ensure there are no shortages in the number of staff available Lowe, 2006()
There have been several efforts used in the different states, as evidenced in the literature referenced above, which have proved to be successful in improving the retention and attraction rates for teaching staff. These include incentives for the teachers in the rural areas as well as having recruitment programs for these rural districts. If the same programs are applied in this school district, they are also bound to bring about a huge improvement in the retention and attraction of teaching staff. Most of the efforts to improve the teacher retention and attraction rates in the various states have been successful. However, they are hindered by one major thing which is the shortage of funding. Therefore, it is essential that these efforts be coupled with availing the necessary funding for these programs. This calls for partnership with other stakeholders in the education sector such as non-profit organizations, investors, government leaders, etc. The community also needs to be involved. By making the rural school districts attractive in a cultural way as well as having the incentive programs for the new teachers, it will lead them to prefer these rural school districts to the urban school districts.
Bradley, a. (1998). Uneven distribution contributes to teacher shortages, study warns, Education Week.
Collins, T. (1999). Attracting and retaining teachers in rural areas. Charleston, WV: Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC).
LaBerge, M.E. (1999). 1998 statewide educator supply & demand report: State of Alaska. Fairbanks: University of Alaska Fairbanks, Alaska Teacher Placement.
Lowe, J.M. (2006). Rural Education: Attracting and Retaining Teachers in Small Schools. The Rural Educator, Winter (2006), 28-32.
Murphy, P.J., & Angelski, K. (1996). Rural teacher mobility: A report from British Columbia. Rural Educator, 18(2), 5-11.
Stone, D. (1990). Recruiting and retaining teachers in rural schools. Far West Laboratory Knowledge Brief No. 4. San Francisco: Far West Laboratory for Educational Research and Development.
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