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Inexperienced Teachers More Common in Missouri's Rural Schools, Report Says

Poor and rural schools in Missouri have more inexperienced teachers than wealthier, more urban schools in the state, and teachers in the state's rural schools are also paid less than their peers, according to a story by the Associated Press.

Missouri recently published a draft of a report that will be used to develop an "Educator Equity Plan" to address the lack of experienced teachers in rural and poor areas. The report found that only about 7 percent of teachers in wealthier schools were first-year teachers, compared to nearly 14 percent in rural schools and more than 15 percent in poor schools. Teachers in the state's wealthiest schools also earned an average salary of nearly $60,000, more than $10,000 higher than the average for the state's rural schools.

"We found in some instances that the very rural schools and the more poor schools shared the inequities of educational opportunity," said Paul Katnik, an assistant commissioner, to the Associated Press.

Teacher recruitment and retention is a common challenge in rural schools nationwide. Many of the country's most rural states have explored everything from offering incentives to lure teachers to rural schools, to building housing to encourage teachers to stay. While some teacher preparation programs have attempted to solve teacher shortage issues in rural areas, those efforts have largely focused on new teachers, not necessarily on recruiting more experienced teachers to rural schools.

In Missouri, more than 60 percent of school districts are small and rural, and nearly 30 percent of the state's students attend schools in those districts. More than 45 percent of rural students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, and the state's rural household income is one of the lowest in the nation.

The report lists several reasons for the high percentage of inexperienced teachers in Missouri's poor and rural areas, including community culture, lack of preparation, and working conditions. To improve, the report suggested establishing professional learning communities for teachers, decreasing class sizes, and providing incentives for teachers. 

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