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Study Highlights Challenges in Recruiting, Retaining Good Teachers in Rural Districts

Rural school districts need human resources strategies to help them recruit high-quality teachers because some are employing teachers with low qualifications, according to a new study.

"Public Employee Quality in a Geographic Context: A Study of Rural Teachers" was published in the American Review of Public Administration and looks at 20 years worth of data in rural Appalachian regions in Kentucky. The study's goal was to look at teacher-hiring patterns in predominantly rural, poor, and isolated districts. The abstract is available for free, but the full study requires a subscription.

The study's authors point out the need for high-quality employees, particularly in education, to effectively deliver public services.

They looked at demographic and educational attainment data among more than 20,000 teachers, as well as their scores and pass rates on the National Teacher's Examination, according to Harvard University's Journalist's Resource, which summarized the study.

The study found Appalachian teachers tended to have weak credentials, and that meant "organizational outcomes associated with these districts may differ in systematic ways that reinforce longstanding gaps in quality."

The Journalist's Resource highlighted other findings, such as Appalachian teachers were more likely to have failed part of their certification exam; and the highest-scoring teachers from Appalachia tended to find jobs elsewhere, although their low-scoring peers stayed there.

Because of the limited mobility among teachers, as well as the segmented teacher labor markets that exist in states, the study "raises profound questions about how isolated school districts can ever improve the learning experience for students," according to the Journalist's Resource.

The study suggested that rural schools need different policies to recruit effective teachers than districts in urban areas.

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