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Finding and Keeping Teachers a Challenge in Rural Alaska

Annual teacher turnover rates in rural Alaska school districts are significantly higher than those in urban districts, and teachers prepared in Alaska are more likely to work in urban districts rather than rural ones.

Those are some of the preliminary findings in a forthcoming report, 2013 Alaska Educator Supply, Demand, and Turnover, which is being done by the Center for Alaska Education Policy Research at the University of Alaska in Anchorage. Rural districts have a wide range in teacher turnover rates—from 7 to 52 percent—while the rate in urban districts is lower and more consistent—from 8 to 10 percent.

I've reported before on the unique nature of some of Alaska's remote schools; some are in communities that aren't accessible by road or don't have hotels. Almost two-thirds of Alaska's schools are located in rural areas.

The center is looking at how to keep teachers in the state's rural and remote village schools. Diane Hirshberg, the center's director, said in a KTUU-TV story that when schools don't have the same teachers year after year, the community doesn't invest in them, and that makes it harder to retain teachers.

"The students and the parents don't have faith that those teachers are coming back again, the year after, you have a disconnect," Hirshberg said in the story. "You got teachers who are going to be frustrated, because then they see parents and students as not being concerned about school."

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