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Rural Minnesota Districts See Drop in Teacher Applicants

School districts in rural Minnesota are experiencing a sharp decline in applications for vacant teaching jobs, according to a recent story by Minnesota Public Radio. 

This year, one rural district received only eight applications for an open position, compared to an average of more than 80 applicants 10 years ago. Another rural district has seen its average of 150 applicants for every open position drop to only 20.

"We don't really have any concrete evidence about why, there's some speculation, hypothesis about what's going on. But it is a growing trend and I think it'll continue," Fred Nolan, executive director of the Minnesota Rural Education Association, told MPR. According to the story, some educators believe the state's licensure exam is too difficult and is weeding out potential teachers. There are also fewer students graduating from teacher preparation programs than in previous years. Between 2009 and 2011, the number of new teachers graduating from programs in the state dropped by 16 percent.

Nationwide, rural school districts often struggle to lure teachers away from big cities and bigger paychecks. In states like South Dakota, where nearly 80 percent of districts are small and rural, some schools have hired college students who are still in school, and are using long term substitutes until those aspiring teachers graduate.  Some states have started to offer incentives to combat teacher shortages. In rural West Virginia, a private-public partnership is building housing for teachers, while other rural districts nationwide have offered signing bonuses or compensation for additional work hours

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